Okay. . . It’s underway. But what does it all mean? Well, in my case, downsizing means going from an 800 sq ft studio which has an additional 600 sq ft of painting, drawing and framing storage space and a workshop - and all that being reduced to a 200 sq ft "everything". . . It means getting rid of 48 years of accumulated “whats-its” and making it all work in a space that cries out : “You’re doing what?!!!”
The studio library of 1000 + books is my starter. I sort and box them for donation. They are going to a college art department as student reference and research material. 600 of those books are eligible as they range from anatomy, to sociology in relation to the visual arts, to portraiture, to still life and landscape painting, to abstract expressionism to sculpting, drawing, business in the visual arts, etc. A truck is revving its motor as we speak for a soon to be announced pick up. The college is happy. The students can’t believe someone in the visual arts actually made enough money to buy all these books!
That done, there is a lot of studio equipment no longer being used on a regular basis. It has therefore been allocated to serve the needs of an art high school and its students who may not have the funds to arm themselves for the battle of survival in the visual arts. That equipment is comprised of easels of every kind, computer monitors, a jet printer, lighting equipment and a whole slew of lights and stands for exhibitions - both indoor and out. Then there is plein air paraphernalia and classical Greek and Roman casts used for anatomical studies or. . . for just plain looking at in the studio.
Then, (sob) there is my giant Italian hydraulic drafting table and cherished Italian easel (boohoo!!!). These are still used daily yet take up too much space. Gasp! I’m actually abandoning them to unknown hands!!! (But then, I’m getting the latest in wall easels for the new space and am designing a fold-away drafting table. So, I generally stop sniveling quickly enough).
My cherished Canadian Tire rolling tool chest - cum neutral grey tempered glass palette cabinet, designed to hold turps and mediums and brushes and paints and rags and scrapers and knives. . . . (Another sob). (Downsizing can get depressing!) Nonetheless, it has to go too. . . I’ve argued with myself about losing it. . . It’s bright cherry red for gawd sake!! How can I give it up? I’ve been hugging it everyday for eons now! It’s just so pretty. . . But, it has to go. Like me, it has a paunch and just takes up too much space in the studio. Only one of us can stay. . .
All that being thought out and undertaken, I begin cleaning out the lateral filing cabinets holding 4 + decades of reference material and business files. All the vintage (more than 20 year old) drawings and sketches are now sorted and reclassified. Then I stand and stare for a few hours. . . After a 5th coffee, I’m ready. . . There are 35,000 + reference slides to sort from exhibition trips to Paris, Nice, Venice, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Jerusalem, Bermuda, Ireland, London, Washington, Washington state, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, San Diego, Chicago and so many parts of Canada. Which of these individual 4 square inch images will I consider working with in the future? How many can I allow to bite the dust? And so I start. . . (hours, days pass. . . ). I’ve cut three 4 foot long file drawers down to 2. . . 6 more filing cabinets to go.
Anything else??? Well, there are the archives. All bona fide creatives with a lust for life after death have an archive. It’s just part of the scene. Have to have this info sorted and extraneous (read useless) material - once considered vital - neatly categorized - or dumped. Why? It all says we’ve been “here” and that (just maybe) our story is worthy of being remembered. And just maybe again, some young future researcher will discover our hidden artistic greatness among the perfectly organized university shelves which are generally dedicated to the protection of their dust mites rather than ours. :)
Now, back to downsizing reality. There is the management system of all the artworks ever created by “moi” over these past many years. It must be updated. It is the app which says who bought or didn’t buy? Who has or doesn’t have which artwork? Which of these artworks is memorable - or not? Which should have been destroyed the day they were signed?. . . Which were passed down by deceased clients to their kids who (wondering why their parents ever bought this “thing”) send it off to an auction house, antique store - or garbage bin? That’s called creating “provenance”. To this end, I use my Chaos Intellect email contact management software. It has a projects page that is so deliciously malleable that it is better than most studio administration software on the market - AND way cheaper! (By the way, no fees were paid this painter for this unsolicited product promotion. It’s just as good as I say it is.)
For all intents and purposes, all of these things which need doing in a downsizing process reflect what is required to embrace a new studio scene. . . It's like enjoying the sight of a blank white sheet of paper, a pristine white canvas, a suave head of white hair. . . :) You never know how you got there, but you're there.
And so the saga continues. . . Pull out, stare, wonder, open the box, sort in 3 piles - the keepers, the give-aways, the garbage piles. In the end, the idea is to keep only that which you need to function well in a small dimensioned space. Many years ago, in my The Compete Colored Pencil Book, I not only described that it was possible to have a studio space in a closet, I said it was more than acceptable for it to be there. I still believe that big (spaces) do not a “good visual artist” make. A friend proved that well enough recently. The only studio he has is a kitchen table. And despite the restrictions, he designed and made a wondrous sounding (and beautifully finished) acoustic (Spanish) guitar - all within that tiny space. The sound of it alone, as his fingers caressed the strings, speaks to the creative act more than the space it was born in. In essence, it’s what we do within the area we call our studio. And, for me, if and when there is a call to work yet another “BIG” commission, I’ll rent an industrial garage for a month or so. Voilà! Problem solved.
To summarize. How devastating is all of this “downsizing” thing (this creating more with less) for painters, sculptors and writers (ranters) such as we? In time it matters little. Creative people are a determined breed which goes on despite. . . Eventually, we settle into our new found intimate studio digs - wherever and however big these may be and. . . we paint, draw, sculpt, write and begin to smile bigger than even the space allows. That is what creatives do. They go on despite a smaller carbon footprint, a lesser din, a more intimate space. In the end, gems get polished and stories get told and ideas continue to “get born”. And this goes on until there is no “going on” left and the last created piece sits on an easel or drawing board - awaiting our final signature.
Happy downsizing, whomever!
I am a painter and writer who's whole life has been influenced by one precept : "thinking each our own thoughts makes us relevant and relevance makes us powerful."