Sunday, August 19, 2012

A History of My Studio

Key West House by Roberta Warshaw
Key West House, a photo by Roberta Warshaw on Flickr.

I haven’t always had my own studio. I first began to paint in 1976 right after my daughter was born. We were living in Key West at the time. I had an adjustable drawing table in the living room. I could sit at it and paint or draw and watch the children at the same time. It was this way for quite some time. When we moved to a larger house in Key West, there was a car port outside. Since the weather in Key West was usually always nice, I made half the car port my studio. That was until my son and his friends decided to “play” with my very expensive Windsor and Newton watercolors. Then it was back into the living room again locking everything up at the end of the day.

When we moved again, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I took over the entire dining room. That was my first studio. The kids liked to eat and watch TV at the same time so we put the dining room table in the living room. No one seemed to mind.

Then we left Key West and moved to upstate NY. We built a tiny cabin to live in and I was again without a studio and only had a small corner of the living area with a table and a sewing machine. ( I made all my children’s clothes at that time).

We were in upstate NY for quite a while. It was not a happy time in my life. We moved to a really large house there. The biggest I had ever lived in. There was a glassed in wrap around porch and it was there I made the most beautiful studio I had ever had. There was no heat in it, but I bought an electric heater and it worked quite well. The weirdest thing about that studio was this. I was the most prolific I had ever been in my fine art career. I made some of my favorite works there in a beautiful studio. But I was more miserable there than anywhere else I had ever been. I am not a small town person, my marriage was breaking up, my kids were teenagers. Everything was falling apart except my artwork.

After my divorce, I moved to Boston near where I grew up. At first I was a caretaker for my grandmothers house while she was living in a nursing home. This time the “breakfast room” was my studio. It was a small room off the kitchen for eating , as the formal dining room was only used for company.

I re-married and in my new apartment there was a second bedroom which became my studio. About 12 years ago we bought a condo where I have been using the second bedroom ever since.

I know that some artists prefer to have their studios off site. But for me, with a family and various household duties to perform, having it steps away is what works best for me. I have to admit that I sometimes feel guilty and selfish keeping this room all to myself. For example, when my son became unemployed and we thought he may lose his apartment, I could not offer him a place to stay. Giving up my studio is no longer an option. No boomeranging here. When my grandson came to stay with me when he was born, I had to give up my studio for a time and I was quite resentful.

When you are a woman and you have a family, it becomes all consuming as well as ever changing to carve out a space to create.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your 'studio history'
I recognise myself in your story. Indeed when you are a woman you have to combine your art making with many other activities and responsibilities, but we will always follow our creative path as well as we follow our heart.
(my english is not 100% but I'm sure we understand each other :-))

Chris said...

So true! My studio has moved from a large room, to a small room, to a corner of our bedroom for a short time while our nieces lived with us, back to the small room. We have two sons still at home, the oldest is living at home to be able to afford college. I'm hoping some day to have my large studio back. ;)

Candace said...

I love reading personal histories! Well, I don't have any of those excuses. I have part of our home office with drafting table and that's it. When I need to use my printer, I have to move all the junk off it onto the bed in the next room. And I don't even have kids! I do have a husband who has 2.5 rooms of his very own...a constant source of tension between us. Oh, well, I guess I have to take the bad with the good...

Othel said...

Dear Roberta, I just want to say that I liked very much to read your story. We are living totally different lives in totally different countries, but there must be something, that creative (and not so terribly young) women have in common.

Roberta Warshaw said...

Thank you so much everyone. It felt good to share this story.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. I gave up my play room when my baby was born and I ended up completely toxic. Within a few months I had taken over the dining table so we had to eat off our laps instead (having a space to create was more nutritious than the food anyway). When we moved house I specified that an extra room for me was a REQUIREMENT.

Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

Roberta, thank you so much for speaking from the heart about something I feel EVERY woman experiences at some point: the perceived need to explain, or make excuses for, the part of our lives that belongs to only OURSELVES. Aside from a lucky few, most of us have absorbed the notion, that our creativity and personal space should be our last priority. I have finally, after age 50, come to the place where I can take that time and space for me and not feel guilty.

Over three decades, I gave birth to, breastfed and nurtured four wonderful sons; kept five homes; worked both outside of and from home; managed two apartments; and was a busy volunteer in school, church and community. I think my story is the story of many women. Why shouldn't I have a studio and the time I need to create what is in my heart? I (we) deserve it!

Ginger Davis Allman (The Blue Bottle Tree) said...

I think this is a story that most of us can relate to...and have lived one way or another. And that's reflected in the comments above. We all know what it's like to have a passion for art, need the space in which to create, and try to work it all around the needs of a family life. The inevitable result is a measure of guilt, I think. But that's silly. We do so much for others, why do we feel so guilty about maintaining a space for ourselves? It's almost like we don't feel we legitimately deserve it? I have a blog post on this very subject incubating in my brain. I need to sit down and write it all out someday.