an open letter to my studio

An Open Letter To My Painting Studio

Well, *former* studio.

I know, you hate to hear that. And yes, it was rough, seeing me move out the way I did -- little by little over the last month, stealing away a canvas here, a pile of books there, until that last awful day found me moving boxes in the rain, looking distracted and wild and utterly tired, tramping around in muddy shoes, up and down those stairs, over and over, disappearing with a bang, and then coming back at night, almost slumped over, just tearing down what remained and throwing it in plastic bins, like I didn't even care, like I just wanted to be done with you.

Well, you saw correctly.

Don't get me wrong, you have loads to offer to the right guy. For starters, your location is marvellous. I mean, you're pretty much exactly halfway between home and work. And for a guy who walks, that's pretty seductive. I loved being downtown, loved being able to pop around the corner for a coffee or across the street for a meal. There's an art store just up the street, for Christ's sake. And just having you so available -- my own space for my own stuff, this messy art stuff that has no other place -- was tremendous. And don't ever underestimate the simple value of a door.

If only you'd had better roommates.

I mean, the *shared* aspects of the space were a bit of a problem, weren't they? That ugly hallway with its buzzing lights and industrial rug. That depressing cave of an empty studio, the biggest one in the place, the one the leasing company insisted we keep barren (read: *not* use as a communal workspace) as some kind of ghostly monument to darkness and failure. Empty for how many years now? That crowded and useless kitchen, so many lectures about blocking up the sink (it was *supposed* to be an artist's sink, for washing up paints, wasn't it?). Those awful bathrooms, with those fans like second-rate kamikazes.

And no, I didn't like my paintings moved whenever someone else decided that they were hanging in the wrong place in the hall. I didn't like the old-lady fussiness of that. Or when I'd put out a wee table with a few things, or hang some string lights, and hear complaints about that as well. It was always something.

Meanwhile, the guy down the hall seemed to be living a real-life version of Teenage Head's Endless Party.

No, I didn't like coming in some mornings to find *kids* (yes, I'm calling young twenty-somethings kids now) asleep on the couch or emerging half-dressed from the bathroom. Especially when I didn't know who they were. And I really didn't enjoy the copious amounts of dope smoke that wound its way through the ventilation system to my windowless room.

For whatever reason, this guy got a pass. Good for him. But if I even so much as put the wrong sort of trash can in the bathroom ... whammo.

Still, the thing that broke us up, dear studio, was that old chestnut called irreconcilable differences. This group you belonged to wanted you as part of a boutique space, a retail space, where they could fill the halls with artwork and set open hours and then just sit back and wait for people to come in and write cheques. Trouble is, even if people did come in, once they'd seen the artwork ... they'd seen it. So ... the coming back ... not so much. If you build it, people will indeed come, but only once.

I wanted to have events. I wanted to have shows. Trouble is, I was the only one. And when I tried to do it on my own, I got about as much support as Prince Charles at an IRA meeting.

And then the karma was just bad, you know? I didn't want to be around. We grew distant.

Hey, that's the way it goes, you've seen it all before, right? Tenants come and tenants go, leaving you a bit more older, a bit more marked up every time. Yes, I saw the insulation poking out of the baseboards, the industrial staples in the floor, the nail holes, the pockmarks. I couldn't miss those old lights strung out across the room. But I didn't care. You were what you were, and I appreciated your rough charm. I splashed some red paint on the walls and got to work.

I'll miss the smell of coffee from the Second Cup downstairs. I'll miss those hours of Sunday-morning radio, the books on tape, the cd's I made specifically as painting music. I'll miss having friends come by for a chat and to look at my work. More than anything I'll miss your lovely quiet, just the building mumbling around me, and those beautiful white spaces of concentration you allowed me.

Thanks for everything (and try not to inhale too much second-hand dope),


  1. Sniff Sniff! So sad!

    Where to now - new space or 'working' from home for a while?

  2. The next studio will be so much better!!!

  3. Anonymous2:33 pm

    Best wishes with new and better things to come! Cheers!

  4. saying goodbye is so hard, but like they said above, onward and upward! chin chin!


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