Starts and Stops: Studio and Mind Messes

It’s a good thing I don’t actually believe in new beginnings, only in ongoing improvements.  New beginnings require clean slates, resolutions, stern-talkings-to-self. I’m much fonder of creeping up on things, only finding out the extent of  “challenges” after I’ve already begun.

Case in point — I decided that, having finished the tweaking the Petrified Forest paintings, I needed to find  some optimal groupings of the eighteen or so that I have available. But before I could do that, I needed to have my long studio wall clear so I could play with various groupings. I thought I’d run a strip of wood along what could be the bottom edge of the groupings; that would make moving them around easier.

But before I could nail up the wooden strip that would enable me to play with moving the paintings around, I needed to find a place to store the brick-colored panels on which I  exhibit the big paintings from the Nevada desert.  The panels and their linen paintings currently reside at the end of the long wall I needed for the PEFO paintings. I also, of course, needed to store the linen paintings themselves.

Turns out that the basement ceiling is not high enough (in any place that is wide enough) to put the wooden exhibiting panels upright. And there is no space long enough to lay them down. However, in the studio, back of the microwave and radio and just beyond the junk cabinet, is a space just the right size — provided a few things got moved.

Moving the “few” things was a PITA, because the junk cabinet is full of, well, junk, stuff that doesn’t go anywhere else. It’s miscellaneous, messy, uncoordinated, and heavy. The microwave is relatively light but bulky. Another left-over bit of cabinetry that filled in the corner is pressed wood with a drawer — heavy. And by the time I moved them, there was little room in the studio to move around.

Undaunted (and by now it’s 8 PM) I carried the sweeper from upstairs, down and out through the cold dark night  and into the studio. When one moves furniture, one discovers dust. But worse, one may discover an unpainted piece of the floor, left over from the various painting jobs on the floor which started about 2007 and were done as the shelves and furniture got moved. This was the last remaining unpainted bit. And there was no reason not to paint it — no emergency necessitating quick reassembling of the space, no need to get to painting tomorrow. In short, no excuse not to paint the floor.

However, before painting and after vacuuming, comes scrubbing. One can’t paint unless the space has been cleared of the worst of the dirt. And this is a plywood floor, which means that slinging a mop is insufficient to deal with its porous dirt-catching surface. So at 9 PM, I was on my hands and knees, with the Span And Span, scrubbing the 6 square feet that needed painting. And noticing that the rest of the floor could use it too.

Once the floor was dry, I grabbed porch paint from the basement, which I remembered using previously on this floor, took it out to the studio, stirred it good, slapped it down, and then realized that the gray was from a different porch —  much darker than the gray of the rest of the floor.

So today, my challenge is to decide whether to repaint the 6 square feet of new paint a lighter gray or to scrub and repaint portions of the rest of the floor. The rest of the floor desperately needs repainting, being not just smeared with droppings from the oil and acrylic and gessoing I’ve been doing over the years, but also rather dirty from a couple or so years  of muddy feet tromping through the oil-painted droppings.

I’m of a mind to paint the rest of the floor erratically, perhaps in squares of various colors. But to do that, I will need first to move the panels, linen and exhibiting, to their new space, and then put junk cabinet back in place, and get rid of the left-over pressed wood storage cabinet (after cleaning out the drawer and shelves, of course), and then, scrub any part of the floor I think I might paint. Then, I can paint it.

That will allow me to go back to the original problem, the grouping of the Petrified Forest paintings. Although the wall on which I’m going to group them is too mottled to show them properly and so may also need a coat of paint.

Did I ever mention how much I hate painting — walls and floors, I mean. (Painting canvas and masonite boards of reasonable size with interesting imagery is a very different matter.)  While I can imagine there is something “interesting” about the way I managed to circle and back myself into this particular mind and studio mess, it’s probably more interesting if you aren’t faced with the actual hands-and knees floor scrubbing.  –June

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16 Responses to Starts and Stops: Studio and Mind Messes

  1. june says:

    Olga, I’m a bit slow in answering your comment, which makes sense, given the context. But my dear ol’ Ma used to, when she was really angry, scrub the floor. She explained, quite reasonably I thought, that at least at the end of the day, the floor was clean.

    So doing your taxes makes perfect sense to me.

    I’m almost ready to post about the post-painting period. On to the website and all its related entanglements of an embedded blog. But I’m not embedding southeastmain — it will remain its own untidy unregulated self.


  2. Olga says:

    Thanks for emphatically encouraging my procrastination!! At some point in order to move forward in my own space I shall have to move backwards similarly. I think I might just concentrate on my tax return first!


  3. June says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Re: PEFO — the biggest tip for applying is is to go in early fall (we liked late Sept/early Oct. Spring is really really bad because of the wind (my daughter, a quite tough lady, said she fled in panic from it when she visited last year). Summer is hot, as in any inland desert; and winter might be fun if you don’t mind the snow (see the photo on the current “operating hours page” )

    It was hot in the afternoons when we arrived in late September but had started to get cold when we left Oct 16; it’s at about 5500 feet, so
    has that high desert weather.

    The ranger in charge of VIPs and AIRs said that post-Labor Day brought in few applicants, which is always good for me.

    It looks like they’ve changed the management structure of the Park (the superintendent left just before we got there last Sept) so I don’t know who is in charge of AIRs this year. One great resource was a ranger named Dave. He’s a fount of info. A bit shy and quiet, but really a good person to contact. And Sarah Herve and Matt Smith are our friends in “education” and “exhibit prep” — good folks. A bit busy with their 2-year old, but great to know. The volunteers who were working the Park while we were there became our greatest source of communal wisdom and sociability. They live in the residential area of the main visitor center.

    If you go, I hope you get to use the adobe cottage inside the Park. It lacks internet access, but the stars and being inside when everyone goes home would really make up for that. The cottages sit on a hill overlooking the Painted Desert. Just thinking about them makes me want to go back. You can always go online at the Post Office in the main visitor center (1.5 miles from the cottages), to which you get a key. So occasional access to the internet isn’t a problem.

    However, the apartment we had (not the adobe cottages which were closed because of a water main break) was very convenient and we had access to everything, including a key to the gates to the Park, so we could come and go as we pleased. But being inside in one of the cottages would have been better for me (if not for Jer).

    Most of the permanent Park staff live in Holbrook, about 25 miles away. This makes the employee/visiting dignitary quarters quiet and sometimes a bit spooky. If you are there by yourself, insist on having your own quarters. That was an issue with another AIR when we were there — she finally got her own unit, but not without hassle. Just be firm and pleasant; the people we dealt with tried hard to accommodate us in every way.

    Finally, do go into the off-raod wilderness areas. I didn’t do one near the Painted Desert Inn and am still sorry to have missed that. It goes into the painted desert, where the badlands and the wide washes and interesting petroglyphs are located; another, which neither of us went into, is in the petrified forest area (south) in the Park. The Blue Mesa badlands are also located in the south, and we did do that fairly easy walk and found it fascinating.

    Oh, and the PEFO Foundation, which has quarters in the main center, allows you to buy any books for 1/2 off. It’s a great way to get a handle on the area while you are exploring it. The Wikipedia article on PEFO also has highly reliable information (it’s a bronze star article, which means it’s passed the highest level tests of accuracy and reliability).

    I shall be watching your blog to see if you go; I’d love to see what your artistic vision of the place could be.


  4. Kathy Hodge says:

    I can identify with your post. Just this morning before work I was trying to figure out how to hang a room divider in my studio so I don’t have to heat the whole thing. This after spending two weekends insulating the garage door and cleaning up the mess made. Do I really want to spend my studio time constructing a divider? or…MAYBE…I should actually PAINT for a change! There are good reasons to choose construction, the nearly $500. propane bill is just one, but I think sometimes I just gravitate towards it because it’s easier than painting.

    And…inspired by your series, I’m thinking of applying for the Petrified Forest residency this year, any tips?


  5. june says:

    Gee, Del, I was going to invite you north to help out –snort–.

    Actually I would never paint any walls or floors in the house. It’s just that the studio is mine and the finish was made deliberately rough so I didn’t have to worry about it. Except that deliberately rough over time can become impossible to live with. But don’t worry — I’m taking lots of naps.

    And am still contemplating the floor — it may have to wait until I’m inspired — or spill a bucket of paint — whichever comes first.


  6. Del says:

    I was so exhausted from reading your post I couldn’t leave a comment yesterday. Don’t come to visit – I never clean and painting a floor sounds Herculean. I’d have to go live in a cave if that were a requirement in my house. Or do cave floors also require painting? Then I started thinking about where I should begin ‘cleaning’ and ended up having a nightmare about it. Just remembering makes me want to take a nap.


  7. janetl says:

    I definitely vote for the two shades of grey porch paint. The fact that my front porch floor features two shades of grey porch paint may bias my opinion.


  8. June says:

    However, as a postscript, I have destroyed the pressed wood ‘orror, moved the honking big exhibit panels and the paintings to their appointed places, re-established the heavy junk cabinet under the window, and am ready to move another storage cabinet to the basement as soon as my strong-back agrees to help. Progress is being made. I admit to not having scrubbed and/or painted any more of the floor, but that can’t be done until one can actually get at the floor, which is what I almost accomplished today.


  9. June says:

    Sheila, I never grew mushrooms — but there the wart effect. That’s perhaps closer to my experience –snort —

    Of course, what boggles the mind is the backward track of necessity. I must do this before I can begin, but before I can do this, I have to do that. But that requires the wiring widget, which requires a trip uptown, which requires a bus ticket, which requires ordering a book of tickets online which requires looking at my email — and then I’m lost……


  10. Sheila says:

    I believe it’s known as the mushroom effect – a simple job mushrooms into a dozen more you had no idea were lurking there waiting…


  11. June says:

    Boy, you are one tough cookie, Jeri. Which one would you choose? Problem is, I’ll never clean on a weekly basis, my stomach is too weak to do the drinking, and fame isn’t under my control. Maybe I’ll paint the studio floor pink.


  12. Jeri says:

    June, I’d say start with one and see where it goes ;-).


  13. June says:

    Jeri, I lose on 3 counts — no Sat. cleaning, no drunken aftermath, and no fame. What can I say ?


  14. Jeri says:

    Geez June, I think William de Kooning stripped his studio every Saturday and scrub it top to bottom….

    and then got drunk, (or at least the is the impression I got from his autobiography).


  15. June says:

    Jan, it’s always good to know that I’m not the only one who backs into these “situations.” I am now (3 PM Tuesday) dismantling the pressed wood, damaged cabinet so it can be recycled so I can get it out of the way so I can move stuff into the “clean” space. I didn’t imagine that that was going to be part of the process. So repotting the plants I totally understand — it’s precisely where I find myself staring off into space thinking “what _was_ I thinking?”


  16. Jan says:

    Oh June I totally sympathize with your predicament. This is why I don’t bother to clean, there always seem to be so many steps just to get to the thing that needs doing. For instance to wash my windows means moving all the crap off the window sills which leads to pruning and washing, possibly repotting the plants which may lead to reorganizing the potting shed and on and on. By the time you are finished you will be too tired to do whatever it was that led to this cleaning binge. Good luck!


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