HELLA READY: THE ENVIRONMENT

HELLA READY:The Wheel of ENVIRONMENT

An artist needs a space to create. And an artist needs the right space to create. I am a believer in having a separate studio space outside of your home/where you sleep; but as of now, I am making do with a large bedroom that houses my bed, mini recording studio AND visual art space. My friends often make fun of me for not having a frame for my bed; but as of now, I only have a mattress on the floor so that I can easily move it out of the way if I need to transform my spot into a rehearsal space. When I first moved into this apartment, I knew that I needed to be very intentional with how I interior decorated so that I wouldn’t visually become overwhelmed and unable to rest in my spot. I picked a calm color palette of white, light grays, and natural wood.

Now that I’m planning on doing larger paintings, I know that I’m going to have to eventually find a separate studio space so that the fumes and clutter won’t get to me. I’ve been motivating myself to do so by daily Google image searching pictures of artist studios. The effect on me is similar to what happens to people when they obsess over those tiny houses. Total nerding out.

I don’t want to state the obvious when it comes to environment and being HELLA READY by merely just saying, “having a really cool studio space will make it more fun to make art!” DUH, of course it will. I want to dig deeper into what “environment” means to an artist. We artists are unique beings that are constantly caught in the maddening cycle of envisioning something and giving birth to it through our hands. Our art exists in two places— the space inside of our mind and the space outside of it. There are parallels between the two and whatever happens within one directly affects the other, which holds true for most people (i.e. “a cluttered home is a cluttered mind”). However, I want to explore how mental environment and spatial environment relate to art making.

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When Your Environment Grows Up…

As a growing artist as well as maturing adult (adulting is so hard), I have found that my relationship to my studio space has evolved over time in direct relation to my own maturity level and personal development. I used to have a chaotic, messy, colorful studio that never saw any glimpse of organization. I was comfortable in this mess, because it was familiar. With that said, I also struggled significantly with anxiety and low-key hoarding habits. In my eyes, everything had potential to be made into art. I’d keep every single scrap of paper, piece of wood, brightly colored thing and pocket it away for later. My creative process was a frenzy of swimming through all the stuff I had collected and anxiously attempting to create cohesive work, sometimes on a looming deadline. Art school helped simplify my space as it refined my style and narrowed down the types of materials with which I worked. However, I still wrestled with attachment to the most random collection of objects that would exist in piles around my messy studio room. Every time I went to create in that space, I’d look around at all the unused scraps of metal, yarn, fabric, etc. and become overwhelmed with guilt over not having used them, or just plain flustered because I didn’t have a clear space within which to work. I would occasionally minimize and throw things out, but the habit was impossible to break because it was directly related to a personal character flaw that permeated through other areas of life: an inability to let go.

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My breakthrough came the day after graduation from art school. I looked around at my space, fed up with being burnt out in every which way, and proceeded to throw out 20 garbage bags full of my belongings as my bewildered roommate looked on. By the end of my purge, I felt like No-Face from Spirited Away post-bath (For all my Miyazaki fans); i.e., a whole lot lighter mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. In the same spirit, I learned the value of letting go of dead-end friendships, past hurts, and unhealthy habits. Spending less time anxiety-ridden over things I had no control over freed me up to be more productive and focused on life’s more important areas of tension- like being fully present, building healthy relationships, healing, my relationship with God, etc. In clearing my physical and mental environment, I was able to build my studio space from the ground up, this time only including the most essential elements and knowing that if there was any messiness, it was comprised of materials I actually used.

Likewise, it made me more conscientious of the people with whom I collaborated. My collaborations happened (and still do) mostly through music and artist collectives. I started to realize that if there was significant negative tension in my creative relationships, I’d become unproductive and the quality of art would suffer. Resolving issues or stepping away from projects (if absolutely necessary) became a way of “de-cluttering” the creative process as well.

((I also want to make note of the connections between mental health & creativity (you can read a little bit more about it here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creativity_and_mental_illness) and advocate for those who live & create with some form of mental illness. Being completely “healed” of mental illness is NOT a precursor to being a “good” artist, but those of us who DO struggle with a mental health issue (in my case anxiety) know that there are things you can do to help yourself and things you can do to trigger downward spirals. In the case of creative environments, an unfocused and chaotic space will trigger my anxiety, in contrast to a more focused space helping me cope with it better.))

Because of all these factors, ENVIRONMENT is defined as far more than just physical space… it’s psychological, mental, spiritual, and relational. When all of these things are working as harmoniously as possible, that’s when your 2nd HELLA READY wheel is in place.

That said, let’s drool over these beautiful pictures of studio spaces. #GoogleDopeStudios

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  • Dominic Reggio

    Love the spirited away reference haha my sister is in her first year of art college. Hope she can learn a few things from these!