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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Move Your Damned Easel! Artists Seeking Inspiration

About 5 year ago I was faced with a major decision regarding my studio. I'd been renting a large warehouse space for several years that I'd converted literally from the bare bones of an unheated space full of giant cockroaches transforming it into a working studio which I not only created my art out of but lived in as well. 

This was just one side of it, filled with junk when I arrived

It was my pride and joy and while it was nothing fancy, it served its purpose well. Then came the day when the landlord told me he was raising the rent from $1,700 a month to $2,400 and I knew my days in the space were numbered. I was already struggling to stay afloat. I knew the change would be enough to sink me. 

So began a frantic search to find a new home. When I eventually did find it, it was in the form of a small duplex. One side had been completed and was for rent. The other side was a completely raw space that still had unfinished walls, slats on the floor and no electricity. I told the owner of the property my dilemma and he offered to rent me the unfinished side for a few hundred more above the rental of the finished off side. There was nothing else on my radar and while I hated losing such a large space in exchange for such a small one, But it was a space. I would live on one side and work on the other. I took the offer with heavy heart. 

I remember standing in the doorway the day I moved in. frowning at the piles of boxes containing paints, brushes and materials that had been stacked in one corner thinking "this will never work". 

But you know it did. Looking back it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened because in the months after I moved in it renewed me. A new space became a challenge and that challenge in turn made my art better. 

I am often asked what works for me where it comes to my creativity? Why do ideas come to me, how do they occur? What spurs them to come to my mind. 

My creativity is due in large part to my working space. No matter if it was a huge warehouse space or this small room I work out of, I make it serve my creative purposes. 

I am often laughed at by my interns who will enter my space and find it completely changed from what it was a week before. This space evolves with my skills and my creativity in a way that is healthy for the work I do. 

I had a friend who wanted to be an artist. He was a computer tech by trade, but he desired badly to start to exercise his creativity. He bought all the right art supplies and moved around the stuff in his apartment and created a small space near a window where the light would be just right. 

Then he tried to be creative. In the first few weeks he had the zest that many new artists have and was constantly at work. Then that excitement began to ebb. After about 6 months he asked me to come visit him to talk about what he could do to find that hidden reservoir of creativity within himself. 

I'd only been in his studio area once right after he put it together but the first thing I noticed was that absolutely nothing had changed in the space. He was so analytical in everything that he did that everything had its place. The amounts of paint in the tubes may have changed but even the positions of them were identical to what I remembered. He had laid a white canvas drop cloth to protect the floors, so I went over to his easel without saying a word to him and knelt down next to it. I asked him to remove the canvas that sat unused upon it and then carefully lifted the front legs of the easel and moved them back a couple of inches. 

I looked up at him and said "What do you see?" 

Ever the extreme anal personality he looked down and frowned at the two identical marks on the drop cloth where dust had settled around the legs. "I should have vacuumed under it" he said, totally missing my point.

"No!" I snapped. "Your not getting it!". He looked at me puzzled. "You haven't moved this easel or anything else since you first put it up." I waved my hand around the room frantically. "How can you expect to be creative when the space you work in is so freaking uncreative???" 

The simple fact was that he'd let his creative space go so stagnant that there was not a lick of creativity within it. "Well what can I do then? This is how I live." 

I frantically searched around on my phone for a photo I'd taken awhile back.


This was a pile of dried paint chips laying on the surface of my battle scarred desk. "This is what you need!!" I practically shouted at him.

He needed disorder. He needed clutter. He needed old paint chips in a pile. He needed all of these things in order to find his creativity again. Most of all he needed to move his damned easel! 

I told him to stop being anal and start moving things around. I told him it was his goal to move his easel to a different place in the room at least once a week. Simply put the change in perspective was the first step towards finding that hidden creativity. 

About a week later he texted me a photo of a painting of a tree lined street with a 1950's convertible parked on it. He said he'd passed this car countless times parked out in front of his house, but it wasn't until he moved the easel so that it stood directly in front of the window that he'd noticed how beautiful the setting was and the beauty of the car dappled in the shade with the afternoon sun slanting down through the branches. 

While it would take him many more months to recovery, this client was on the road towards finding his creativity and his joy of painting. 

Stagnation can lead to all manner of evils for the creative person, especially if that person has an inclination towards being extremely anal. 

The process of creativity that we go through as artists can become so commonplace that it stops working for us. Its in changing our environment that we can often find the new fuel that spurs us to create new things. If our space never changes, how is our mind supposed to change? 

My space is rarely clean and almost always a cluttered mess. But I rarely find myself in a place where I have no new ideas. Entering my studio each day is a joy to me because like the seasons it changes constantly. So if you haven't moved your easel in some time, do it. You may be surprised what you see.


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