Most of my working life has been combining making paintings and prints and teaching, some of the time in Art Colleges, but mostly as a schoolteacher. A while back I read David Wiseman’s lovely post, Garden Studio. When I finished full time teaching last summer, I decided to have a posh shed built, which would enable me to work at the end of my garden in suburban London.
I have never had a designated space to work in, other than at Ravensbourne and then a slightly more private space at the Slade, but they were in the 1970s. During my fellowship at Norwich Art School I worked in a lovely studio overlooking the River Wensum. For years I had been content to work on the kitchen table or in the small spare bedroom in our first house in Romford. It was lovely to incorporate my work into the day to day activities of the house. Whilst this was fine up to a point, as our children grew I had to find a space outside, so when we moved to our current house in Upminster we had a small garden shed installed. It was great in the summer when the weather was reasonable but in the winter working was more challenging. It was probably me getting soft. The cold and damp didn’t help the materials, or my chest and the space which I grandly called the Studio had its limitations. If I needed to make prints, all the painting paraphernalia had to be stored away. I had little hoards of art equipment around the house like a squirrel. My family especially Criselda my wife had the patience of a saint. I’m sure for many artists this is a familiar scenario.
The key thing for my new posh shed was light and size. I hope it will outlast me. So I thought I might continue my Frames Of Reference contributions by showing images of the new build. It’s just about finished now and I have moved in, but need to organise things and think about how to maximise the space. The structure is 6 x 5 metres, and it coincides with a recent drawing trip to Northern California. The first paintings to be finished are those images, plus the ones I have had hanging around the house and the old shed, ones of West Wales and Corfe Castle and some of Italy and Dedham Vale in Suffolk. I have made some en plein air drawings in California of the country around Highway 1. Places like Gualala, Mendocino, the Amador Valley and Walnut Creek/Alamo which lies east of San Francisco. Added to all of this I have just taken delivery of some copper plates for some soft ground etchings. What I am looking forward to the most is seeing how different the work will be as a result of working in a new shed on some images of a new place. A change is as good as a rest I guess.