the studio


My studio is wherever a room is vacant in whatever space I am living in. Currently, it is a third floor attic space, the ceiling strung with hot pink LED lights that cast a warm and inviting glow. “The Pinklight Studio” I have dubbed it. Hot as an oven in summer, and chilly in the winter, this is where I am creating at the moment.  If you visited my studio, these are the things you would see.

Proper finished sketches, and fledgling rough ideas on scraps of paper of paintings-to-be, all tacked up on the wall. An old farmhouse table with peeling paint on the legs, covered with mason jars filled with mixed paints and palette knives.  A tin bucket of brushes in varying sizes, even though I usually only use the same two or three brushes, over and over. 

        My two easels. I have used the same one since I began painting—it’s a modest easel, and not very sturdy, and sometimes it gives me a splinter. It sits covered in layers and splatters of dried paint from paintings past, and a few artist-related fortunes from fortune cookies taped up as a sort of whimsical, prophetic good-luck charm. My more expensive and solid easel sits to the side and is only used to hold a finished painting to dry. I’m sentimental about these things; the old easel has been with me from the start, so helpful, and feels like an old friend.

        A picture of my friend Matt. An old birthday card from my Auntie Barb, a message of love and encouragement written inside.  Blank canvases against the wall. A fabulous huge teal blue ceramic lamp from the 70’s that belonged to my parents.  

bucket o brushes
vintage lamp and pink lights

        There are two small windows at either end that let in barely just enough light. The light is better on a sunny day. At the far end of the studio sits my old desk, where I sit and sketch. There are little bits and bobs tacked up on the wall here too, at eye level. A dancing finger doll puppet from the old Salamagundi West antique and curio shop that used be down in Gastown.  Old family pictures. My grandmother in her leopard print bathing suit, suntanning on a beach in Florida, wearing tiny sun goggles. My aunt, smiling and holding up a paper banner I drew for her wedding anniversary when I was a teenager. My favourite photo of me as a kid—I’m wearing a green “The Fonz” t-shirt, jeans, and blue Adidas sneakers, and playing with my grandmother’s dalmatian pup on the grass, my head cut off from the frame by my grandmother who took the photo.  A picture I took of the painting I did for Matt, “Lucy Mae Brown”. A black feather from a raven.

        There is a small bookcase filled with books about the odd and wonderful, stacks of my old Archie comics and MAD magazines, my old Judy Blume books from adolescence, vintage Playboy magazines. A crystal ashtray given to me by my aunt sits on top, beside a framed note from my first grade teacher. Candles that smell like grapefruit and lemongrass and oranges, and incense that smells like sandalwood and reminds me of my grandmother’s old lake cottage. 

        I create surrounded by ghosts and memories, bits of my past co-mingling with new and bright ideas, the hopeful with the sentimental.

faovurite childhood photo

        As I work, I prefer a bit of background noise. Netflix for sketching and mixing colors, with usually a horror movie or British TV series playing. When I begin to paint, I prefer music. I prefer to go more inward with my thoughts as I paint, to get to that meditative place where I am collaborating with the piece as it emerges. What music I play really depends on the mood I want to create within myself. I love music. Nick Cave to flamenco to Die Antwoord, Edith Piaf to Hot Chocolate to classical. I love it all. What I listen to in a day depends on the place I want to go, or where I want to return to, depending on what I’m painting. Sometimes, though not often, I prefer silence.

        Days are long in the studio once I start painting. I admit it, I’m a terrible procrastinator. It can take me weeks to finish an idea, to complete the necessary preliminary sketches. Sometimes I sit at my desk and don’t even touch a pencil, preferring instead to watch re-runs of Downton Abbey.  It can take days to mix one color to my satisfaction.

        But once I begin painting, a switch is flicked: this is the part I love, the part that feels like magic. Some days, I am in front of the easel for twelve or fourteen hours.  I sometimes paint until 3 am; time slips by unnoticed in those quiet hours, and I am surprised when I finally look at the clock. Even so, it is hard to put down the brush, to finally unplug the pink lights and crawl into bed, with flecks of the day’s paint drying on my hands. Truthfully, those are my favourite nights, where I feel both tired and accomplished, happy and assured that I am where I am supposed to be, and doing what I am meant to do.

My studio. Now you know.

Studio cat Kiki with rabbit mask
Words of praise from my Grade One teacher