The studio, before and after
I’ve been in my studio for over a decade, and I’m aware of how lucky I am to have such a dedicated space, where I can work, largely undisturbed, in peace.
It is an old building, originally the forge for a local brewery, long since out of operation. They shod the dray horses there, and I assume, made the barrels from the amount of ironwork (and beer bottles!) we have dug out of the garden. In more recent times my studio was a motorbike work shop, but apart from adding electricity, I doubt much has been done in the way of modernisation since those hairy feet lined up to be shod.
Old buildings, however quaint, have their drawbacks. The door swung three inches from the floor, on old leather hinges, and mice (please lets not say rats) scampered merrily above my head, and I suspect, at night over the easel, with every corner webbed and netted by spiders. Every winter, I tended to fall prey to some lung or chest infection until I realised my old gas heaters might be the cause and installed an ancient woodburner. This certainly dried the damp in the studio out, but sadly took so long to actually heat the vaulted studio that by the time it was a working temperature, the school bus was honking at the end of the drive, the school and working day well and truly over.
I worked some winters inside, but I find this claustrophobic, the line between working and home life blurred, never leaving the house. There were objections to the smells, and to the mess. This has been the way for over twelve years, and I began to dread the winters, oil paint is sullenly uncooperative in cold damp conditions, refusing to flow or dry. The commissions began to stack up, and at the busiest time of the year I had to work at my slowest pace, layered in jumpers, constantly feeding my temperamental stove.
This year however I finally took the plunge and the studio has been completely gutted, then insulated, plastered, rewired and painted. We have opened the window up at the back to create french doors, creating a wonderful view of my long neglected garden. The ancient, wonky door, and shoddy, old, glass front have been replaced with a door that shuts and windows that open!
I have had a complete purge of all the rubbishy furniture that had crept into the studio for ‘storage’ to remain mouldering in corners. The old stove, though it has dried many a studio painting, dog, cat and the odd chicken, will be replaced with a modern one. I waved a relieved good bye to the manky, old, red chair, forever impregnated with the succession of dogs that slept in it.
The finished studio
The building work is finally finished, and I only need to rehang the work, and put back the furniture. The space is everything I have dreamed of; light, airy (spider free!) and I hope come winter, warm. I feel over awed by the studio, it seems enormous, and I suspect I have ‘blank canvas’ syndrome, fearful of making the first mark. The easel is in though, and I have always found that painting, whether good or bad, is the best cure for the hump of artist’s block.
I intend to have a relaunch party one evening this summer, with a private view of recent work and I hope some of you will join me for a cocktail or two! I’ll send out invites through my newsletter, so do please subscribe if you’d like an invitation.