Life of Leisure?

Forgive me if today's post diverges from the central intent of this blog, but perhaps you're wondering just how it is that I have the time to devote to a d.i.y. studio build. Heck, even my wife just asked me last night, in a round-about way, and I had to remind her what she should already know full well: because being a full-time artist is now my vocational bread and butter, everything that flows out of it is all peaches and cream.

Full-time artist. It's been my occupational descriptor of choice ever since resigning from a staff position at the Colorado College two years and eight months ago. 

It's satisfyingly succinct, unlike today's post. It connotes a lifestyle in which, if not carving a surfboard with a coconut shell under a Tahitian palm tree, the bulk of the day is spent in one's private studio, playing one's own eclectic mix of music at whatever volume one cares to, free from the kinds of demands - especially time demands - that "working for the man" and relegating one's creative work to the periphery of the day, as I did for years, entail. 

To set the visual stage for such a devil-may-care character, one might picture the paint bespattered, silk pj bottom-wearing Julian Schnabel, while perhaps from the waist up, the bare chested and bronzed Picasso of waning years, brush in one hand, cigar in the other. 

More to the point, it's a footloose and fancy free sort of life, where one can really focus on their art, yet without stress or strain, in a leisurely, almost gentlemanly sort of way. If one chooses to. Either way, do or do not, there is no try. 

I've tried and failed to figure out how anyone with five kids and three "this old houses" ever thought there'd be a time when "their time" was not be divided and subdivided and sub-subdivided with all the multifaceted interwoven-ness of conjuring income streams and repairing things and balancing one's work world with a marriage and parenthood (and, no doubt soon, grand-parenthood) from which, having perhaps rather spontaneously entered, one may not check out, let alone ever leave. 

Possibly one origin was the time I made a five hour drive through the mountains to attend a sold-out lecture at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center featuring the late, celebrated American artist Wendell Castle, then in his early 80's, who once told an interviewer, "I'm not really interested in taking vacations - I'm on vacation all the time." See what I mean? Peaches and cream, folks! Bon bons, beach chairs, and ocean breezes.

From my recollection, he described his typical day thusly:

It would begin with him sitting with his wife, unhurriedly reading a newspaper and drinking coffee. Then, he'd meander over to his adjacent studio, a massive building where nearly a dozen assistants were already hard at work at various stages of completing Castle's whimsical, stack-laminated, and often six-figure artistic furniture pieces (of which the studio would produce, on average, about one per week). After checking in with each, coffee still in hand, he'd stroll back to his more private, yet still expansive, studio space to design and create scale models for new work or put some finishing hand-tooled touches on a piece before it headed to the finishing room.

Mid afternoon, he might look down and notice the wood dust accumulating on his glasses and clothes. Foregoing the pneumatic air with a blower attachment, he heads down to his garage, past the Jaguar XKE and the Porsche 911, and hits the road in his open-topped 1949 roadster. I can clearly see him now, as he can, increasingly, the wind blowing away all traces of dust from his lenses, his clothes, and his flowing, white hair...

Sounds dreamy to me, especially the part about having flowing hair.

If you happened to read yesterday's post, I said I'd probably take a break from this blog for the rest of the week to attend to other matters. But this morning, I thought I'd write yet one more post to compare and contrast the exotic, highly romanticized notion of "full time artist" I've established with my current, at times painfully dichotomous reality. 

It may not feel like it, but the bulk of what follows is a very abbreviated recounting of my "full-time artist's life" for the past couple of months. In no particular order:

My time, since mid-September at least, has been dominated by one project after another to shore up deficiencies in our "this old house". One of the first was the Murphy bed I built for my wife's new, dedicated literacy tutoring room, which, when folded up, doubles as a magnetic chalk board.

(Speaking of whom, my wife continues to balance homeschooling Nate while maintaining a private practice out of the home to tutor students with dyslexia and sit on the board of the local chapter of the Academic Language Therapy Association. Despite all my activity I'll continue to recount herein, she works just as hard, if not harder, than me.)

At long last, I pulled the six storm windows I'd started for our home years ago and completed and installed them. As nearly all such projects are wont, that one, which at the outset seemed like it might take a week, turned into at least two, after repairing and repainting sashes... which has in turn made me consider completely repainting the windows' interior frames, then the interior walls... the floor...

We had a handyman install beadboard wainscotting to our bathroom and an electrician install and wire a new exhaust fan. But then I spent a day priming and painting the beadboard and cleaning the tub and floor tile grout - quality and quantity time on my knees, old toothbrush in gloved hand, scrubbing around the toilet.

Up in our attic room, having cut a hole through the drywall where the electrician accessed and installed the fan above the bathroom, I discovered that the insulation I'd blown in years ago had piled like some dirty snow drift due to Colorado's high winds battering the eaves, and spent some time installing cardboard dams to block the wind and re-level the insulation.

I bought a new porch swing to replace our increasingly rickety one, which despite its age had never snapped like a twig like the pretty new one did when one of my big galoot sons (I'm 6' 2", and all four of them are taller than me now), gave it an inaugural test swing with his girlfriend, and simply adjusted his weight. It took the better part of a day to piece together a makeshift cardboard box to return it for a refund. Should've billed my son for my time, but how was he to know the swing was hardwood in name only? 

We'd been wanting to but dreading the monumental task of detaching all ties to the insatiably excess fee-hungry mega-bank we'd been associated with for years, but I finally, and conservatively, spent forty hours transitioning our checking and savings accounts to a highly rated regional credit center. Then I spent at least the same amount of time answering query after query from mortgage companies while investigating the best vehicle for funding our upcoming builds. Word of warning: don't fill your info out on Lending Tree unless you want to know what a bitch in heat feels like at a crowded dog park - only, like, for weeks. Please, please, I'll do anything - just leave me be

I bought a stool and an old desk off of Craig's List for $20 to put in my wife's and my attic bedroom. Being a bit too short for my legs yet too large to get up the stairs, I cut its legs off, then built new longer, screw-on legs in the studio, and added some blue paint in places.

I've been using the desk to take a couple classes related to investing in the stock market and the forex. Whether or not I'll actually do so is anybody's guess at this point, but it's been an interest.

Speaking of investing, but transitioning out of the house and into the fascinating world of automobile ownership, today I'll possibly be buying a BMW I found on Craig's List, depending on what my mechanic finds during the pre-purchase inspection. The hope is I'll be able to have a few electrical issues repaired, then resell it and make a buck or two.

My 1990 Toyota Pickup, beloved "Beans", in which the first four of our kids learned to drive and hence increasingly looks and sounds like it was once pushed off the side of Pikes Peak, and which Peter, 18, now drives, has required three tows in the last couple months. He and I attempted to do some of the engine work ourselves, but had do abandon the track. Here's the sad text thread where I announce the impending loss of our four-wheeled family member:

Then there are the 2x daily drives to swimming lessons for our son Nate.

Let's see... what else... I installed a new trailer hitch on my Ford Ranger, during one of the brief windows of time when Peter wasn't needing it to get to school and work and the girlfriend's, with Beans in the shop, to attach to the flatbed trailer I was recently gifted. All the trailer needed was new wiring, which I did, and a title, which, after a half dozen trips to the DMV and State Patrol, I now have in hand.

Since making the trailer operational and legal, it's been used to make a couple runs to pick up reclaimed wood from a deck demo (for this d.i.y. studio build), as well as to take the apple tree I cut down a few days ago to Rocky Top Resources. At least such labor-intensive errands are new studio-centric.

Speaking of which, I've said yes to a couple of group studio visits. Any time such visits are planned, you can kiss at least three work days goodbye, between studio organization/art setup, the visit itself (the second of which occurred on a day when the on-again, off-again weather made for some spontaneous excitement, having to ask the participants to help me hurriedly cover other 2D work propped against the fence in the back yard with plastic), and then wrapping the art back up, returning it to storage, and reorganizing the space for art creation.  

A couple of all-day trips were made into the mountains to deliver art to/from my gallery in Steamboat, Red West Contemporary. Sitting in the cab of a box truck for eight hours can be a welcome respite from the sometimes 2 or 3X a day trips to Lowes. 

I know how fascinating all this and don't tempt me, I could go on - there have been a number of equally absorbing home and rental home projects (sewer line backups and the like) that have done just that - dominated my time of late having nothing to do with a studio build (or "building" a studio build-centric blog. As if I needed something else to do.)

But I should really start to think about what's on tap for today. Let's see... well, it's the start of the holiday season, meaning much house cleaning and food preparations for more hosting of people tomorrow, not to mention preparing for the even larger upcoming family/friends retreat in the mountains to follow...

Oh, and I'll run over to the mechanics to take a look at the BMW. Also, talk to my other mechanic about the Toyota Pickup, to see if they figured out why it continues to overheat.

All that to say, for the life of me, I can't figure out why my wife is questioning the sanity of starting a d.i.y. studio build on top of an ADU build.

She of all people should realize the overabundance of time, energy, and creativity I have now that I'm a full-time artist!


(Post-script: an hour after posting this, the mechanic with my Toyota Pickup called. Blown head gasket. $1,500 fix. End of the road for Beans! Nooooo!)

(Post-post-script: the BMW, however, looks to be a fairly inexpensive fix! I'll buy it!)


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