Thursday, May 12, 2016

Purge or Splurge


When I teach workshops, I can often be heard saying that more is more when it comes to mixed media. For me it is all about the layers, all about the dimension, all about the details. Even if a layer is almost completely hidden, in the end it is an important component to the final piece. Building a history in my work is important to me.

But is there a time when more is not more? When maybe less is more? I have been contemplating that recently when it comes to my studio space.


When I work, I have always loved being surrounded by things that inspire me - whether that is art supplies, bottles of paints lined up in neat rows, piles upon piles of painted paper, walls filled with stuff that I have acquired from other artists and on my travels, cases with little drawers that are filled with little treasures, surfaces covered with found objects... Well, you get the point.


Recently I have been noticing a shift. A desire to minimize. To clear. To have more space in my space. I do not think this is just a spring cleaning thing. It really hasn't happened before. And I also do not think that this is about needing more room to create. I have always longed for an endless amount of surface to work on. But I know that no matter how much table space I clear, I always end up working in a space that is about 18 x 18 inches.


This seems to be an evolution. Perhaps connected to getting older and an increasing desire to simply be surrounded by the things that are truly meaningful to me. Maybe I am coming to the time where my studio is more about making art and less about making decor.


To be clear, this is not a revolution. I haven't purged my studio and I cannot imagine ever experiencing the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (although maybe if I actually read that book I would). But I have begun to move, store, clear and give away things. Only time will tell where this will take me.

How about all of you out there in blogville? These days, are your feeling the purge or the splurge?

28 comments:

Beanie Mouse said...

I have to be careful..... my "studio" is basically a desk in my living room (and I live in a SMALL apartment!) I do have hoarding tendencies but every so often I get the urge to be able to see the carpet...... so then I purge!!!! Heck, even having a desktop to work ON would be an idea......

Treasure Cooper said...

I am a pack rat.....and a mixed media artist so my studio had tons of art supplies for my craft. Sometimes I felt stuck, overwhelmed. Tragedy struck and all was burned in a house fire. As I rebuild my art supplies I find that I'm more focused..... Less distracted maybe? This is very new and the purge was forced but it may be a good thing.

Paul Browning said...

This is something I think about a lot too. Having been down the mixed media route before, I hoarded everything and built up more supplies than I could possibly use. I then flipped and went clean and minimalistic, purging along the way. Now I'm finding my feet again in the mixed media world. And I'm trying to find a medium between the two. In style as well as in space and supplies. So my route is the reverse of yours at the moment. I'm going along the track towards where you are now and you are contemplating the other direction. Be interesting to see where you (& indeed myself) end up. P x

Claudia N. said...

It's kind of a strange coincidence that you bring this up right now, Seth, because I noticed something similar for myself too during the last months.

I have also stopped browsing online stores that much and have started using what I already have (which I feel is way too much anyway...lol). My desk is surprisingly organised and tidied up (most of the time) recently and I too have given away a lot of the really old crafty stuff (from my time at an arts and woodworks teacher) that I found I haven't used in the last decade anyway.

My guess is that by doing so I am changing from following trends, tutorials and styles towards finding my own style, my own preferred techniques and my own "artistic message".
I found that I am very easily distracted and often feel I still have to try out this and that before....so I hardly ever started a project from just an idea, urge or image I had in me. It was most of the time something I saw on pinterest or Blogger that had impressed me and that I wanted to incorporate with a project (still in my own style...but it wasn't something that emerged from deep within me if you know what I mean). So I guess I am trying to shut out too much foreign influences by having a cleared studio desk and less pinterest excursions.

I think I am trying to help my inner artistic voice - which obviously can easily be overheard if there is too much noise around - to rise and be listened to. Maybe this is a process a lot of creative bloggers pass through. Kind of: first you exercise for a while and at some point your own artistic voice gets more confident - so it doesn't need that much (visual) noise around anymore to get you started with a piece of art.

Greetings from Vienna,
Claudia x

Kathyk said...

Yep, I can relate to your observations too .... I end up crafting in a similar space and have had "schtuff" piled up around me ... people have recently been leaving me comments on how "tidy" (for tidy read clear) my desk is! Wonder how this movement is spreading!!!

Fab pix of your awesome workspace though

Kathyk

Maryanne said...

Yep, I'm in the same boat, Seth! I've been trying to get rid of stuff throughout the house for quite a while now. It's a tough job because I think "what if I could use this sometime". But, I'm conquering that idea slowly. Next up is the sewing room that Carrie and I shared for years! I'm starting to embrace the idea of simplicity without minimalism. I could never be a minimalist but I do like the "quiet" of simplicity now. I must be getting old!! Hope all is well with you. We miss you around the Ink, you know! The one year anniversary of Whidby is coming up. I can't believe it's been that long ago, it was a fantastic week!

Sharon Y said...

I am in a purge mood. Have been feeling this way for some months now and just now am actually taking action. I have been creating less and spending less time in my room. I think in part due to the clutter.

I have shifted over the past few years to more mixed media and art journaling. I have held onto some of the first tools I used for scrapbooking and feeling the need to let those go. I also want more space in my studio. Not my work area but the room in general. Every wall that does not have a window has a shelving unit or table. Baskets on the floor. Just feeling a bit closed in. Feeling the need to get rid of the visual and actual clutter.

As my art changes my space must change as well.

Thanks for sharing your studio and your own purge.

Just Jen said...

TOTALLY get this Seth.
When I switched from assemblage to "just painting" this New Year, I felt strangled by all the stuff looking back at me in the studio. In fact I literally turned my back on it, setting up my easel on the one clear wall (actually closet doors hiding MORE stuff!), I could feel the stress and angst ease.

And I do think it's age related.
Since hitting my 50s I've been very aware of time passing.
That there isn't an infinite supply and DAMMIT I have shit to DO!!

I look forward to observing where this will take you. xo

Karenliz Henderson said...

YES! I just completed a purge in my art room. I just want simple; no clutter. I was able to get rid of three pieces of large furniture storage, four bags of actual garbage, and gave away art supplies and only kept the supplies I'm currently using. Like why do I have paint from 5 different brands when I only use 3. It's amazing how freeing it is to just get rid of stuff. The rest of my house is next.

elle said...

Gee, being older, I just may be ahead of the trend! lol I have been restricting the inspiration, aka clutter, so I can focus. I purged lots of someday stuff that sifted down on my top ten to-do list. This also helps make SPLURGE become splurge. I hope. I read as one ages one can still do it all but slower. That probably also translates to simpler work space where there are less 'good' spots to put/hide things. ;^) And I'm jealous. I only seem to manage 12 square inches of clear space!

Pamela Gerard said...

Loved the post -- and the photos, Seth. Good question too. I seem to be the odd person out here but I like all my ephemera etc I seem to work very well in clutter and ideas just spring from associations I make by seeing various items sitting around my studio. But I do wish my studio was neater so my pals could enjoy it. (They all say they like the clutter too tho). I say, do whatever works for you!

Ann Zawacki said...

I say hoard away--however, I am organizing my hoard to satisfy my OCD tendencies.

Anne Lemay said...

I'm both a librarian and a Taurus, so I have great respect for stuff - as long as it's organized. That's the challenge for me, as I have a very small studio (okay, it's a Victorian house, not a NYC apt., but it's still a small room). I purge regularly by bringing things to the library to use in my classes with children and their families, and I have to know where something is going to go before I buy it. People may not realize that library collections are weeded regularly to keep them up to date and inviting, and I try to do the same with my small studio of supplies. My favorite question from "that book" is "Does this make me happy?" It's been very helpful. Good luck in reassessing your work space, and I'm looking forward to your class at The Ink Pad in June!

kathy nesi said...

I am feeling a need to purge as well. In the past after I have purged, I find I got rid of something I could have used. It's a catch 22 situation for me....

Angie said...

I'm moving house so have started to 'sort out' my stash of stuff.

Cindy said...

Living in a small apt. does not leave room for clutter or for many items. Luckily, I'm not a collector of stuff. My "studio" is a drawing table. I find that a few paint brushes and paints, some paper and pencils, a few supplies...is all I need.
Although I loved the blog about the studio tables, I knew I could never live with so much stuff around me.
Would it be different if I had more space or more money to buy supplies? I don't know.
It would be nice to have more wall space to hang pictures!

Maureen Sladdin said...

I recently have semi retired and discovered mixed media. I've always saved those bits and pieces though. Little wheels, useless spiky cogs, buttons and the paper, oh the paper! Loving de cluttering my life right now, its exhilarating to down size and get rid of now meaningless objects.About to buy some important stuff like art supplies to make those wonderful layers.

janice pd said...

The best way to purge is move the studio.I recently moved into a 1800 sq ft studio/gallery space from the spare bedroom. When packing boxes this stuff just explodes and expands to fill the space. I found things I had forgotten and donated vanloads and still have more than I could ever use. And the worst part is that the new space is still packed. How on earth it ever fit into the studio before is a mystery. For me it came down to deciding what is important and what my heart wants to use. Maybe that relates to finding your true voice by clearing the trees in the forest to make a path.

Anita Houston said...

I do both! I get rid of what's not relevant to me or my art, and add what is. I try to do it yearly. I don't sell my purges either, I give it away to those who will use it. I think you want to purge for the same reasons, and to fill your space with what is designed by you. You have a line of lots of goods now, so why use anything else...lol!!! It only makes since. I would love to see the new purged space too.

harry bell said...

Having moved into a new studio and begun a slow shift from oil painting to mixed media, I suddenly find I'm surrounded by stuff: bits of paper, bottles of paint and glue, scissors, rulers, found objects and fragments of newsprint. It's really frustrating trying to find space to work now. Something must be done! I'm glad to learn it's a common complaint.

Candi Harris said...

I’ve been minimalizing everywhere except my studio – it looks like a tornado has gone through it. For some reason, I work best sitting on the floor (I’ve repurposed an acoustic ceiling tile to work on) so walking across the floor is like trying to walk across a landmine. I feel the need to have everything I might possibly need right within reach because god forbid I might have to burn a calorie & get up. Since I generally don’t have a plan when I sit down, I don’t have a clue what I might actually need. Of course, then I get frustrated because I can’t put my hands on what I want because its buried somewhere in all the rubble. Every so often, I finally pitch a hissy, pick everything up, put it all where it rightfully belongs, enjoy it for about 10 minutes & then start all over again…

Craft Addicts - Tracy Evans said...

Two years ago I was having our kitchen refitted, this prompted a declutter of cupboards which then snowballed to other rooms. Once I had finished I realised how invigorating it was to sell, give away, and downsize my clutter. I have never looked back and two years later my little craft room is completely decluttered and I now use everything I have and I feel more inspired. Tracy x

Kate Burroughs said...

I definitely need to purge items that I no longer am using and get them into the hands of someone who would. The problem really is the willingness to pull everything out and get real about what I will use and what I will not. But I have things that have not been used in 5 years-those should really be the first to go.

Kathleen Harrington said...

For the last three years, I've been getting the urge to purge in January. I choose an area that just feels draining when I look at it. It's always things in boxes or closets that I haven't looked at or used in years. I only let go of things that "just don't do it for me" anymore. It makes me feel light and satisfied and more at home. Then when I feel finished, I go out and splurge! I've got somewhere to put the new treasures, and for awhile, I will know where they are.

PocketSize said...

I recently weeded out my art stuff. (I like calling it "weeding," not only is it more library-ish, but it sounds more positive than "purging.") It was kind of nice to let go of stuff that I'm really never going to use, but someone else might; at the same time, I rediscovered stuff that had gotten buried in the hoard. It helped that The Queen's Ink had a "garage sale" for people to bring and sell their gently used or unused art supplies and such, so I had someplace for the stuff to go!

Anonymous said...

I have been splurging for the last 20 something years.. to the point that I didn't even know what I had and where it was..
Now I need the space and I need to downsize so I am working on purging but this is so much harder! I still see the artistic potential in every little piece of paper/fabric/
found objects etc.. I had to find an organization that would be happy to take large amounts of stuff.. this is where I am now: Clearing, giving away, donating!
It feels great, and just like the previous comment stated, I find some buried treasures along the way.

Jackie P Neal said...

Purging/splurging- hmmm, not sure where I fit in! heeehee
I think your fourth paragraph about evolution sums it up for me as well- keeping the important things at hand- I have noticed this as I go through family pieces that have been handed down to me,that I am now giving to my sons,it is time for them to enjoy them. And also good to know where they come from before someday someone forgets! "0
Great post Seth! and I always love your photos!
Jackie ")

Angela Radford said...

I'm with you Seth on the surrounded by inspiration and definitely only work in a small space mainly because I have to have my main supplies ready at hand but I am a hoarder and it doesn't help that I taught textiles for about 30 years so still have loads of that stuff around too.
I think it must be easier if you have one method of working but I like to use all kinds of techniques and make lots of different things and I am easily distracted, moving on to something else before the first one's finished.
However, there have to be things that can go, please make there things that can go!!! So gradually I will have a clear out this year though it may be slow as other more important tasks appear and who knows maybe one day I will have more that 18x18 inches to work on!
Have a great week, Angela x