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  • Writer's pictureRuth-Anne Siegel

To Studio or Not to Studio

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Tinkling piano keys. Thumping bass. Rolling drum solos. Keening guitars. Bouncy saxophone toots. It’s all about the music.

My visual studio practice starts with sounds, mostly pleasant sounds.

The other day another student was using a stapler or nail gun in irregular, loud bursts. It was disrupting and irksome. I could not start working. I could not even think. I put in my AirPods and cranked up my own music.

Only then could the creative juices flow.

On that day, I chose a piece of music that we experienced in our Art History class. It was John Coltrane’s cover of My Favorite Things. I created a playlist based on this song and started painting. As jazz musicians improvise over a steady rhythmic beat, I also react to the music and have it influence my work directly. I may have a small sketch or idea, but I will just use that as a possible starting point because the work will always reorganize and morph due to the beats, cadence, and pattern of the syncopated jazzy rhythm. As I moved around the studio, I made the paint dance on the canvas paper. I squeezed paint from bottles; I splashed ink with large brushes; I removed areas with rubber tools and towels. All these marks were executed while incorporating my physical flicker and flit generated by the music.

Will I go into the studio today? While in Palo Alto, it can be a problematic question with the distractions of home including, but not limited to friends, breakfast dishes, my Peloton bike, the beautiful weather, and general malaise. While in Chicago during the MFA residency, that’s is an easy question to answer: YES.

For me, a deadline is an amazing motivator. Knowing that I am only here for less than four more weeks, I feel the desire, need, and absolute urgency to not only get into my studio in Maclean, but also take advantage of a wheel-throwing demo by LuLu in ceramics or a monotype workshop with Fran in print media.

As I wrote in my last blog post, I decided to get my MFA to uproot and reorient my

practice. The opportunity to try new modalities and mediums is exhilarating and intimidating. I have painted drawing fluid on a screen and will try and print with it today by using watercolors and transparent medium. I have never done that before. I have not used a silkscreen since junior high school (a very, very long time ago).

My practice is usually two-dimensional. I paint on a flat surface, sometimes with collage. While in Chicago, I have spent time in the ceramics department, mostly watching and getting certified. Today, I am going to try wheel throwing. I know that I will not make anything, but I am so excited to play with clay and experiment.

The beauty of studio time is the ability to experiment and fail. Mistakes are the way I can grow and nurture my practice. Making art is not meant to be an exercise in perfection, but an act of challenging the status quo, whether in my own mind and practice or in the world.


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