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Wayan's Studio

Sketches of my art studio and process; art 1999/9/6, notes 2007, by Wayan

I thought I'd sketch my work-space just for fun, and meditate a bit on how materials and space can either cause or solve artistic inhibitions.

My studio's a big room in a cooperative house in San Francisco--very much a live-work place. Below is half the room as seen from my bay window. It's set up as a series of separate workstations: computer art in the left corner, then a music/recording area, then a sculpture table; I'm reflected in a mirror in the back, past a housemate peering in the door. Out of the picture to the right are a painting area, an art-storage area, then my dressers and bed and bookshelves in the back right.

I do pretty near everything in this one room--eat, sleep, dream, make love, do yoga, read... and work.

True, it's a very big room, the biggest I've ever lived in. And it really makes a difference.

Line drawing of Wayan's studio: workstations. Click to enlarge.
You may recognize some of the visual jumble: small statues like Find Someone Spiritual, Stupid! and Raise Yourself!, the epic painting Banana Moon, the eroto-political sculpture Lonely No More! in the foreground, the huge round painting Lilies, Fox, Dreamer, and on the back wall, the dream-sculpture Cambodian Girl.

I like this multistation live-work arrangement: it lets me switch quickly from one medium to another when inspiration hits, and I can leave half-done work out! There's no way to moan "If only I could find the time" or "If only I had the space" or "If only I had the discipline to get out to my studio regularly!" It's all there, all the half-done (and half-baked) projects, staring at me, waiting for me to finish them... every day.

And funny though it sounds, I enjoy that.

Line drawing of Wayan's worktable. Click to enlarge.
Here's my sculpture bench! Typical bunch of half-done stuff--a couple of unicorns who wandered off from Unicorn Orgy (caution! It's just what it sounds like), a decapitated gooseneck lamp I was thinking of turning into a plesiosaur, the shy dragonlike creature of Tove Jansson's Thingie, a lot of costume jewelry to use as insets, a coyote-girl-bird-angel caught in transformation, a cornucopia full of wire loops, and a flame-shaped plant-sconce...

I drew this particular sketch just before I started doing Planetocopia, or there'd be a couple of second-hand globes chewed up and bulldozed into new shapes and repainted on the bench too. At the moment there are three--and two more under it, waiting... and one in the guest room drying!

Doesn't it seem fractal? I focus on one small part of the creative chaos, and zooming in just reveals more detail, more little projects. The part reflects the whole; as above, so below.

Line drawing of Wayan's workstation. Click to enlarge.
Here's where I built the World Dream Bank. Yeah, it's an old-fashioned desktop computer, not a bit compact. It's not even connected to the Net; I keep it isolated, and use a 2nd computer to upload. I have chemical sensitivities, so old computers like this are much safer for me--they've outgassed fully. The software is equally primitive, though for different reasons: if I keep my system unchanged, I learn it really well and minimize compatibility problems. My workhorse for images is Photoshop 3 (yes, 3--heavily customized, but about 17 versions behind the times. I like it. It's simple. You can find your tools) and IrfanView (free version) for resizing, compressing and sharpening efficiently. For both text and Web code I use Word 6 (later versions know what HTML code is, and "improve" it when you save. 6 is too ignorant to corrupt my files! Ignorance is bliss.)

The plant and the small figurine of a krelkin are my two guardian angels...

On screen? I'd just been to the Steinhart Aquarium and seen a strange, flat, dark, polka-dotted fish...


Looking around this studio, at least the bits attracting me enough to draw, I see two trends:

  1. it's mixed and baroque, full of organic forms, not geometrics.
  2. This scattering of projects doesn't just REFLECT my creativity but HELPS it.
See, I used to obsess to exhaustion on one creative project until I collapsed, sleep, dream about it, and resume it in the morning... till it was done. At great physical cost! I much prefer the present way--I work on half a dozen, in very different media, each of which progresses fitfully... but when one gets stuck, I switch to others. And dilemmas resolve themselves quietly in the background while my conscious (and its inner critics) focuses elsewhere.

Instead of pushing through my artistic barriers, I've been slipping quietly around them. In fact, I'm not at war with my inner critics these days. Much of the time I just notice what needs to be done, do it, then notice something new, do that... Not silent in my head, but no conflict. Just action and planning action. It's a flow state--bliss, really.

Just very active bliss.

--Chris Wayan

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