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Monday, March 22, 2010

Nice Work If You Can Get It


I’ve thought a lot this winter about workspace requirements. Painters and fabric artists need more room than writers, which I guess is a pretty self-evident proposition. (Every time David and I make a big book buy and load the van with heavy boxes, he says that he’s going to be married to a stamp dealer rather than a bookseller in his next life. That’s postage stamps. Low weight, big bucks.) But painters are not restricted to one-size-fits-all canvases. One Michigan woman I know painted and sold exclusively miniatures for many years, work designed to fit on the walls of dollhouses, while James Rosenquist here in Aripeka works up to billboard size. David has been very happy with the space he's had to work in this winter.

Michigan friend Judy Rantz has been enjoying this sunny winter corner room in Suwannee, Florida,


while her husband, Gene Rantz, is a bit cramped in the house but also has a garage studio and the whole great outdoors in which to do his painting.


I realize her space looks smaller in these pictures, but I’ve only shown one wall of her space, whereas their sleeping room was doubling as his painting studio.

Writer friend Trudy Carpenter, on the other hand, whether at home in Northport or on vacation in the Florida Panhandle, needs only the space occupied by her laptop computer. There’s a wonderful book I’ve seen that is photographs of writers’ desks, studios and offices. Must be nice! On the other hand, who really needs that much room to put words on paper or "recordable medium"?

When we are at home in Michigan, David doesn’t try to paint in the house we live in but keeps a separate studio, where he can spread out his canvases and other equipment and not worry about making messes, but in Aripeka our working space, his and mine, is integrated into our living space, a blending made possible by the size of the house’s largest room. Windows add to a feeling of spaciousness, extending the visual field into the outdoors. Also, since this large room—most of the house, fact--formerly functioned as a carpentry studio, the floors are unfinished plywood and can’t be hurt by paint spills. Neither do we bother to sweep them every day, a big savings of time. The whole space is really more “studio” than “house.” What does it say about us that we are so comfortable living here?

My workspace is completely movable. Most often I write at what is also our dining table, with light from the big south window coming in over my left shoulder...other times curled up in a corner of the loveseat, under a bright floor lamp...or (the strangest, to David’s eye) I stand at the kitchen counter, where I can glance out the windows or over toward David at work on his desk or easel.

Along with physical space, the element of time has had lots of room in it for us during our Florida winter. While we’ve been here, there have been few demands on our time other than those dictated by our hunger or restlessness or Sarah’s need for exercise, and none of those are clock appointments. Laptop or yellow pad, keyboard or rollerball, I do most of my work in the early morning, before either David or the sun is up, while he tends to work more in the late afternoon or early evening when I’m getting dinner or doing dishes or reading, and we both shift easily in and out of work mode, as the spirit moves us. We are happy seeing each other at work and don't feel jealous or excluded, and we don’t have to find the time to go somewhere to get to our work because it's right here, structuring our life.

As in Michigan, we live frugally. Our winter great luxury is time. So, as much as we miss home and friends, bookstore, orchards and roads that wind through dunes and woods, it will not be easy to bid farewell to winter’s meditative, productive pace. To have it for a while is great good fortune, regardless of the weather.

More specifically, while I'm not sure of the number of paintings David has finished, I have drafts of ten stories and a prologue, with one story still in the rewrite stage and the epilogue yet to write. Counting words last night, I came up with over 28,000. After last winter's writing meltdown, I'm feeling very good about what I've been able to accomplish here since January.

9 comments:

natureinfocus said...

It sounds such a great lifestyle you have enjoyed over these winter months - a bit like my own in that I live and work in the same small space surrounded by boxes of specimens, filing cabinets, and books, with the computer and printer in the midst. Now I am retired I can do what I like when I like; and my own activities inter-link with my those of my partner in a very compatible way.

upwoods said...

28,000 words! Oh my goodness. You have been very productive this winter. Congratulations, Pamela. This was an interesting blog. What an ideal life you've "painted" with words. I like that we can live frugally and yet visit places like Florida. When are you coming back home?

torchlakeviews said...

Ah, I thought--a clean, well-lighted place. What more could a person want?

These are intriguing photos. Where and how people work is endlessly interesting.

I'm glad the stories made it to full drafts this winter! Envious, too, as we slide toward summer and its relentless demands.

P. J. Grath said...

Jessica, I can almost picture your indoor space from your short comment, and it sounds delightful.

This is the most productive winter I've had, Kathy. We did very little driving around this year--just stuck to work. Will be home shortly after Easter.

Gerry, already the thoughts of summer's "relentless demands" leave me breathless! Well, that will be a different kind of work, with less solitude, but I will enjoy it, too. Everything in season.

Mr G said...

It sounds like you and David have the best of all possible settings for your endeavors (in the best of all possible worlds?).

Je vous remercie pour le livre. Mais, il est difficile à lire. J'ai un vocabulaire limité. Enfin, je vais essayer.

A Bientot, Etienne

Dawn said...

It's a gift to have such a place and time. It's also a gift that you recognize it as such.

P. J. Grath said...

We looked again this morning at all we have accomplished, painting and writing, and realized we would never have gotten so much done if the weather had been nice enough for sitting on the beach. Bad weather = mixed blessing! Beautiful Saturday, nonstop rain Sunday. I guess it all balances out.

Lise said...

Wow! That's an impressive list of writing!

Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog today!

P. J. Grath said...

We were lucky, Lise, to have this time, which we used well, many thanks to bad weather!

Steve, the book I sent you is one of my favorites. Don't bog down over unfamiliar vocabulary. That's my advice. If a word comes up over and over, look it up; otherwise, just keep going. It's a magic book. English translation is entitled THE WANDERER. The rest of you, this is the only book written and published by Alain-Fournier, who died very young. World War I, maybe?