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Monday, December 5, 2016

Messy Energy

I am in the middle of a project. It's one of those many days, lots of steps, multi-procedural projects. My studio looks like an explosion in an at school.

Although I believe in going with flow, I also believe that a well rested mind functions best, so I reluctantly put my tools down to prepare for bed.

Brushes must be cleaned. My pallet must be tidied. Dirty water must be dumped, the bowls must be scrubbed. Soiled paper towels are placed in the rubbish, fresh ones are laid out.

I am preparing my work space for tomorrow's endeavors. When I enter the studio, I want all to be in readiness for my work. 

Yet, as I make my way to my bed, my mind is not so easily tidied away. Thoughts rush one on another. Images appear in my mind's eye.

I keep my notebook and colored pencils next to my bed. I make quick visual notes, in my own personal shorthand of imagery. 

“When you do something you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

This philosophy applies to both the creative act itself as well as to good studio practice.  Yet sometimes a bonfire burns for days, even weeks. 

When I work on a project that takes days, I find that I must establish a rhythm of working, and a routine. The routine makes it possible to return to the piece the next day with minimum fuss.

Decades of work have taught me to lay out my tools and materials just so, like a matter chef preparing a meal. The French concept for this in cookery is "mise en place"...everything put in its proper place. It's both a noun and a verb.

As artists, our mise en place is both the physical studio set-up and the mental preparation necessary to work. This allows the flow of creative energy to begin almost as soon as we enter the studio. The knowledge that all is in readiness allows us to contemplate the work even before we arrive at the studio. 

It's morning. I enter my studio. My tools and materials greet me, invite me in to continue my work. It's going to be another busy day.