After about a year of waiting (sometimes patiently, sometimes not), my FOREVER art studio has finally been constructed out here on my desert land, and my new desert life is beginning to feel like home.
A year of building estimates, road work and concrete estimates, the realization that we needed to build a bridge in order to get any trucks onto our building site, the actual road work, the actual building of a bridge, the actual concrete work, and a LOT of waiting, finally, one day, these guys came up here with all the lumber and windows and everything they needed and built the thing. in ONE DAY. It was kind of incredible, and VOILA! Now I have my studio.
It was built in the "unfinished" state- basically a really beautifully designed shell, or a shed, that I get the honor of painting as I wish, and finishing the inside- that means installing floors, putting in insulation, electrical, drywall, and at some point, some actual furniture and all the cute shit that has always made my studio vibe-y... OH YEAH, and the art, of course.
Seeing as it's been a year, I'm pretty excited to get started. I'm very tempted to just start making art in my little shell, but I'm patient nowadays, so instead I'm working a little bit each day to prepare the thing for use this fall and winter.
Currently I'm still working on painting the outside, but I'm nearly finished.
It's about 200 square feet- with one wall entirely made of windows and a door, facing due south. Surrounded by Joshua trees, boulders, and a great big sky.
As I've been working on painting the outside of my building, I've been reflecting on studios past. And there have only been a few.
My college studio in the Art building was an unfortunate, under-used basement area, hidden away from everything and everyone, with florescent lights and some barred windows up the top of the wall- charming - I preferred to paint in my apartment instead. I had a one-bedroom to myself (yay, Idaho!) so according to the time of year, I'd move my painting area around the apartment to get either the best light, or the most warmth. It was on the second floor of an old Victorian style house that was converted into apartments. It was on the top of a hill, and I could look down from my window corner (or bring a bottle of wine onto the roof) and look down at the frat houses, observing their beer pong in the backyard or their bizarre hazing games on the University lawn. Good times.
I was lucky enough to share a studio in 1890 Bryant Street in San Francisco. After working with a couple of artists in one of the studios, I began creating artwork under "enlightenment barbie" and they were gracious enough to let me show my work on one of their walls for open studios. It was a great success, and soon after I had my first "real" art show at the Rollup Gallery at Public Works. A little after that, thanks to my connections within 1890, I became aware of a room with a space opening up, and I jumped in with high hopes.
I think I was there for a couple of years, sharing that studio. Every day, I went to work in there and created massive amounts of art. And some of my best, too.
Sometimes I'd spend 12, 13, 14 hour days in the studio, forgetting to eat, pushing myself to the point of exhaustion, but truly loving every minute of it.
With the Open Studios at 1890 I was blessed with great exposure, sold a lot of art, got a lot of opportunities to show more, and met so many wonderful fans along the way. It felt gratifying to be basically accepted by my fellow artists in the building, with the exception of maybe one person.
The person who I shared a space with.
It's not my fault my art was loud, flashy, sometimes literally lit up in circus lights. It was just the kind of art that I made, and this person knew that before they agreed to rent to me.
But I got the feeling they weren't so happy with absolutely anything I was doing. Not the art, not the personality, not the attention the art was getting. Not a fan of how I would refuse to take their bait and get into a fight with them, not amused by how I smiled and nodded when faced with their passive-aggressive gestures. Not really stoked on how well-liked I seemed to be, or how gracious I was to them no matter what they threw at me.
So after a couple of years they kicked me out.
They gave me a couple of months notice, which was ok, but space rarely comes available in that building, and I desperately wanted to stay in that building.
I made big art, so all the spaces that DID come up were too small for what I wanted to do.
I begged her to reconsider- she gave the excuse that she had received a grant for her nonprofit art group, and that the group needed more space to meet in the studio.
(the group already met in the huge communal space in the studio, none of which I occupied.) It WAS HER space, and I could tell after the first week that she didn't like me- but she was never there, and naive me never expected to be told to scram.
I tried to make some counter offers- Maybe I could commit to coming in fewer days per week, to allow the class to have free reign over the studio for as many times a week as they needed to schedule.
Maybe she'd be comfortable if I rented a much smaller portion of the large studio, AND came in less.
And in the end, it was her space, and though I was greatly upset by this change of plans, I figured it was better to embrace being out of a studio where I was getting terrible vibes, than to feel bad for myself. So I packed up and left. Though I re-painted my walls white, she told me I had painted it the wrong color of white, and needed to use my security deposit to re-paint the walls. When I offered to just come in and paint them the "right" color myself, she refused and said she'd be using my entire deposit.
And when I had booked a moving truck to move all my artwork, supplies, and giant panels I had yet to begin work on back to my garage at home, a freaking junk hauling truck showed up.
I was crushed. I tried to make light of it, tried to look on the bright side, but really,
this one stung a bit.
I continued to make work at home, after a series of studio options came and went, one of which fucked me over financially. The "home studio" thing wasn't the same. I didn't have the community anymore, I didn't have a vast place to display my work to collectors or galleries, and suddenly all my creative stuff was jammed into my apartment so thickly that it felt like the walls were closing in. At a certain point I gave up looking for another space anymore. I think that woman got what she wanted- she got me out of 1890 and it made me really freaking upset.
But NOW- I have this building. And the building is exactly the same size as the space I rented from that lady and her studio in 1890 Bryant. 12 ft x 20 ft. With a shit-ton of south facing windows, just like in 1890. And the best part (other than the fact that I paid for it ONCE and it's mine for the rest of my earthly existence), is that it is actually MINE. No landlords, no overlords. No rules, no tiptoeing, no finding a passive aggressive cup full of salt in the corner of my window to "ward off bad spirits", and unless I get some unruly spiders, nobody to send me running.
This place gives you a lot of space, physically and mentally, to reflect.
And one thing I've noticed, going back over various memories from the city life, was that some people seem to dislike you for being too shiny. That lady I rented from, for example. This one chick who I exchanged words with maybe three times ever, who I later found out absolutely hated me. "That's interesting," I thought. No need to know why, because I already know. There were a couple of stories like that. And hell, there may be more. That's fine. But the greatest lesson out of that, for me, is just keep on shining. Not everyone is going to like you, despite your best efforts to be friendly, well meaning, helpful, diligent, peaceful, accommodating, generous. Some people are just going to hate your guts. But what's great about that is, they're over there, stewing over some bullshit, while over here, I can be ME- anchored in my own energy, preserving it, strengthening it, and re-re-re-remembering that I so profoundly don't give a fuck.
My nana once told me, when I was little, "Gillian, don't ever let the bastards get you down." And you know what Nana? They could try, but I don't stay down. Because when there's a spark that is lit deep in there, at your core, the most blatant denial of your true nature is to shut that down just for the sake of being more palatable. Fuck being palatable! And after the last years in San Francisco, when it started to get me in a rut, I forgot that.
But moving to the desert helped me remember it.
Life throws you curve balls, don't worry. If you're dead-set on making these big dreams come into reality, bringing that inner spark to the outer realms, Just keep going. Sometimes things turn around a little bit. It might take a couple years.
But don't get lost.
Keep dreaming. Even if you think your idea is too big for little ol' you to accomplish... even if you feel out of your depth... even if sometimes you still feel like a phoney even though you keep on pushing... even if you wake up and find yourself inside a strange situation you never meant to get caught up in....
Don't get lost, don't let the bastards get you down.
Just keep on shining.