If it feels to you like there’s no real rhyme or reason to the things I choose to write about, you’re right. Other than trying to keep it all under the roof of the subject of art, my motto might as well be “give me space”, which echoes my motto as a sculptor, “give me lots and lots of space.”
Left to my own devices, that tends to be my creative m.o. as well. Perhaps it’s on account of being raised in the American West, where Cole Porter’s 1934 song “Don’t Fence Me In” yet echoes down through time, whispering along with the wind through high mountain pines, bouncing off of canyon walls, and stretching out over vast stretches of plains and desert.
And it’s true for more than just my writing. In the studio, I’d prefer not to be fenced into a creative corner regarding what I choose to create. While it isn’t always possible, I enjoy the ability, times that it is, to turn on a dime and allow the work to go in a completely different direction than conceived.
The m.o. even encompasses the way my new studio is being designed. You’d think, after having worked in my 400 sf. garage-cum-studio for nearly three decades and allowed to start from scratch on the new 1100 sf. one, I would have a very clear look in mind, as well as a well thought through checklist for customized items I desire it to contain. To a degree, I’ve some ideas, but have I actually sat down and worked up a list of, say, the number of electrical outlets I desire, both for 110, 220, and 3-phase, and their locations inside and outside of the space? Nope. Just getting to that nowish.
Why, it happened again just yesterday. I’d gotten up early to make a run to Lowe’s, where I spent well over an hour picking through hundreds of heavy boards to end up with the forty-four 2 x 4 x 12’s and thirty-six 2 x 6 x 16’s that Joe Soulka, my lead framer, had requested of me.
I’d loaded it all onto my flatbed trailer, with the help of a nice Lowe’s employee who grew up in Napa Valley just a few miles from where my wife, Nan, and I were last weekend. I’d delivered it to the work site at around 9 am, and unloaded it all by myself.
Then, I sent Joe the following text:
Joe’s built hundreds of structures, but I bet if you asked him, he’d say he hasn’t worked for anyone quite like me before. I’m sure John would second that.
Be that as it may, as if on cue, Joe’s team began to show up, and, well before 10 am, were nearly ready to trim the ends of the studio’s neatly stacked 26 roof trusses.
It was only then, at the last possible moment, that I had the idea: what if we cut off the eaves? You know, the portion of the roof where the rain falls either to the ground or into the gutters (spilling over the sides of the gutters, as they’re clogged with leaves, to the ground)?
Here, I’ll show you:
I talked it over with John Hockman, the building’s primary designer as well as its structural engineer, and he didn’t have a problem with it, so long as I don’t mind rain coursing down the side of the structure (which will have standing seam roofing as well as siding; basically, the exterior is all roof, with a few reclaimed wood accents).
I don’t mind. At least, in theory.
We asked Joe, who was still working at his home office at the time, trying hard to secure a crane to lift the trusses into place. (B.t.w., no go, hence the roof will go on next Saturday, weather permitting.) He, too, gave me the green light. He asked me about the roof’s rakes over the gable ends – did I want to do the same there? I said I thought I did.
Then I went online and found a few examples of structures with a somewhat similar look. Here’s just about the closest one I can find to what my studio should look like:
Only, in coloration, mine will have weathered, rustic standing seam on the roof proper:
Also, the siding, while black, will look more like this:
Finally, unlike the pic with the lady and the dog that I found online, my studio’s garage doors, with the exception of the “man door”, will be hinged.
Also, my dog is black.
I asked John if he minded the 11th hour tweaks – this is by no means the first – and he said he didn’t. (He did check the building code to see if we were required to have eaves, and we are in the clear there.) Nan wasn’t as sure about the new look when I then informed her about it. Thankfully, I’d armed myself with the amount of money Joe said we’d be saving, as he and his crew would have had to spend a lot of time cutting and nailing on the reclaimed wood I’d previously requested for the underside of the eaves and rakes – around $3,000.
At that, Nan said she’d get used to it.
Prior to yesterday, I hadn’t articulated this to anyone, including myself – but I want the studio’s exterior to have a distinctive look. Something that, while it’ll be largely hidden from sight in the back yard of our next door rental property, won’t appear cookie-cutter or “period”.
But it took an awful long time to hone in on the look, and I’ve no doubt there’ll be additional tweaks before all is said and done.
I could continue this studio-centric post and talk about additional changes I’ve made to the studio’s interior, which will contrast heavily, in coloration, with the exterior, but I’ll wrap things up by saying that this all feels very familiar to me.
Because the preferred free-range creative m.o. that I’ve elaborated about this morning is pretty much the way I’ve lived my life from the get go.
I recall that in first grade, my classmates and I, asked to sit cross-legged in a circle on the floor, were then asked if we knew what we’d like to do for a living when we grew up. If memory serves, the kid to my left was the first one to answer, and he said he wanted to be a lawyer. The next kid wanted to be a doctor. Then another lawyer. Etc.
When at last it came time for me to answer, I said I didn’t know. I am pretty sure that, though I already knew I had artistic talent, I had no clue one could be an artist for a living.
And really, that’s the way it’s been. I tend to go with the flow. And, really, I think if I have an Achilles heel, creatively, it is in the concept arena.
For most of my life, there have been the additional constraints of finite time, finite resources, etc. Of course, there still are. But there’s been a perceptible relaxation on both leashes of late.
Late afternoon yesterday, after the framers had finished up and Nan and I began to unwind on our front porch from our busy days (while also gearing up for a birthday dinner for our daughter’s husband, Erik), I talked about this topic with Nan.
I then said, “I’m really having a lot of fun with all this.” The statement included so much more than I’ve written about. I’m managing a number of different projects these days, and assisting, as with the trip to Lowe’s, when I can.
She said she could tell.
I wrote about it a few posts ago:
“But within it all… there’s a “beauty” I’m after; for the work itself, the enjoyment of the creative life, the working with my hands, the a love of nearly all the “props” surrounding the studio enterprise, etc. I love discovering what it is I’m making as I’m making it – of the “call and response” relationship I have with the material. I love being able to remain, most of the time, in the bosom of my family, as it were, and able, most days, to set the brush or the chisel down to run an errand – we’re out of milk, or Nate needs to be driven to his swimming lessons. It’s a holistic beauty that, were the slavish necessity of reaching my overarching goals to begin to supplant or supersede or tarnish that beauty, I would hope I’d take a step back and reevaluate my priorities. (No doubt Nan, my wife, would also chime in.)
And just as I try to be flexible enough, even in more client-driven commissions, if at all possible, to make a course correction if that’s what the work seems to call for, I try to keep a similarly open hand when it comes to even the overarching career goals. I try not to hold on to them so tightly that they become an obsession. None of us, after all, have any guarantee that we’ll make it through the day.”
So yeah, both at the macro life level all the way down to this very post, while I do have some overarching ideas, or perhaps I should say categories, in which I desire to maneuver, what will actually spill out of my mind and manifest in the studio’s design or in my artwork or onto the blank screen before me at 4:25 am is anyone’s guess.
And I like it like that.