I came across this photo of my old studio up in the woods yesterday and remembered that I had used it in a post several years ago, back in December of 2008. [Wow, I've been doing this blog for that long?] It was a post about the role of solitude in my work. My new studio is much more comfortable and warm, with all the amenities , such as phone , cable TV and the internet , that keep me connected to the outer world. Reading this post made me realize how less alone I am today at times in the studio and how important that time of solitude was for my work’s growth at that time. I’m not sure that my work would have evolved in the same way in my current environment. I just thought it was an interesting post and wanted to share it again:
I’m showing the picture to the right to illustrate a bit of advice I often give when speaking with students or aspiring painters. This is my first studio which is located up a slight hill behind our home, nestled in among a mixed forest of hardwoods and white pine. This photo was from last February . It was a fine little space although it lacked certain amenities such as running water, bathrooms and truly sufficient heat. However, it served me very well for about a decade.
The advice that I give to aspiring artists is this: Learn to be alone.
The time spent in solitude may be the greatest challenge that many artists face. I have talked to many over the years and it is a common concern. Some never fully commit to their art for just this reason. To be alone with your own thoughts without the feedback or interaction of others can be scary especially for those used to being immersed in people and conversation.
I like to think that I have been prepared for this aspect of this career since I was a child. For much of my youth we lived in the country, in houses that were isolated from neighbors. I had a sister and brother, 7 and 8 years my senior, and they were often my companions at times but as they came into their middle teens I spent more and more time alone. This is not a complaint. Actually, it was kind of idyllic. I lived a fairly independent life as a kid, coming and going as I pleased. I explored the hills and woods around us, going down old trails to the railroad tracks and old cove that ran along side the Chemung River. I studied the headstones at an old cemetery tucked in the edge of the woods overlooking what was then a thick glen, filled with the family who resided at a late 1700’s homesite that had stood across the road from our home. All that remained was a stacked stone chimney which served as a great prop for playing cowboy.
In the woods there were immense downed trees that served as magnificent pirate ships. There were large hemlocks with thick horizontal branches that were practically ladders, easy to climb and sit above the forest floor to watch and dream.
My life would be very different without this time alone. Sure, maybe I’d be a bit more sociable and comfortable with groups of people, something which is sometimes a hindrance. But it prepared me for the time I spend alone and allowed me to create my own inner world that I occupied then and now. The same world that appears in my work. That is my work.
This is only a short post on a subject I could drone on about for pages and pages. But, to aspiring artists, I say learn to love your time alone and realize what a luxury and an asset it can be. Your work will grow from your time alone.