Friday, November 4, 2011

The Naked Studio

See the lengths to which we artists will go to make our art?

Ready to work in the Flatiron, Studio in the Prow
Photo courtesy of Cecilia De Boucort 

I am an active procrastinator. When my apartment is as neat as a pin, the cutlery drawers sorted, the filing cabinet in perfect order, that is usually when I have a pressing art deadline. When my painting studio was in my home, I became adept at Final Cut Pro video editing, Photoshop, Excel spreadsheets, and writing.

Eventually, I started renting a painting studio in the Garment District in Manhattan with no internet access and no computer on site. My children are in school all day, I had the time to paint seriously and so I did, regularly and productively.

But I grew lonely.

Cup of the Day #91
Twining Vines by Gwyneth Leech
Colored India ink pen on upcycled white paper coffee cup

It seemed like a few committees would balance things out. But my active procrastinator took over and before I knew it two schools, various art groups and a lengthy turn on the co-op board of my building were keeping me from my brushes and glued to my computer again.
Then came the cups. Sitting still and listening at meetings, my hands needed to move constantly and without really being aware of it, my paper coffee cups were covered with drawings. These drawing intrigued me and I followed the thread. The cup form is the same each time, so I gave myself complete permission to draw anything I liked. This way, with pens at the ready, and an inexhaustible supply of something to draw on, I have managed to stay in a highly generative place.

 Early morning, Flatiron
The Naked Studio before the artist arrives
September, 2011 

Now all that was needed was a way to put art-making firmly center stage, the inviolable fulcrum of my day. My current exhibition at the Flatiron Building, Hypergraphia: Studio in the Prow is the perfect answer. Here I am, in a naked, glass-walled studio right in the center of the city, in the middle of my best and most productive time of day and days of the week. Everyone passing by is making me keep my commitment to my art-form, and the flow of visitors who come inside to talk livens the solo work of making my art. 

Visitors to the Prow Artspace from 
Saint John's University, NY and from
England, Scotland and California

Several artist friends have said they couldn't do this, they couldn't draw in public, couldn't commit to all these weeks. But it doesn't feel like a burden to me. The prow is quiet, the faces - especially those of the children - full of delight. What a privileged position to be in, to see how viewers react to our artwork!

And when January comes and I have to leave the Prow Studio?  I am going to remember the lessons I have learned about pacing myself, about ring-fencing time for work, about being unplugged, about making art with others.

And my cutlery drawer is going to be very, very neat once again.


  1. Do I sense a little sadness here? Maybe I could send you to Mood, and other shops to do a little fabric shopping for me that I miss.

  2. Gwyneth - Having recently finished Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit" I find myself totally in sync with your post! In the end it is all about creating the right environment for art making, about clearing the decks of distraction, and making a ritual that will carry us into our creativity.

    But excuse me - I need to go finish putting my filing cabinet in order ;)

  3. Thank you reminding me about Tharp's book, Fran. She has a great section about embracing solitude.
    Come January I will reread!

  4. Your post, Gwyneth, resonates - and the transparency about solo art practice and lonliness Many of these ideas I get to stay in inquiry with my clients..each of us finding this so called right environment, which also changes at diffi times of our lives., don't you find? I too will take a look at Tharp's book too! I have loved solitude and now I like being out there more;) and my filing cabinet has some order; i could be going through it., but my work needs archiving!

  5. How amazing. I love that your artwork was viewed by so many people, passing by to be surprised by so many colorful cups! It is fun to see your creativity sort of "flow over" into your daily life!

  6. It's true, Ula. We have different needs at different times in our lives, for more or less solitude, for the places and ways that help us best to make art. Habit is the key, but good to stay flexible and modify those habits when things stop flowing.

  7. Thank you JeMa. The more I integrate making my art into my daily life, the better everything goes. And it is good to be reminded that a studio can be anywhere.