According to the Urban Dictionary the definition of a man cave is as follows: A room, space, corner or area of a dwelling that is specifically reserved for a male person to be in a solitary condition, away from the rest of the household in order to work, play, involve himself in certain hobbies, activities without interruption. This area is usually decorated by the male that uses it without interference from any female influence.
This pretty much sums up my studio. I like studio better than man cave because it sounds more artsy.
My studio started off in the corner of our downstairs office. At first it held my easel and painting materials. Then, in anticipation of my working from home more once the baby arrived, a small computer desk replaced the easel. When I came to the conclusion that I was not going to start my own business, the smaller desk was switched out for a larger one so that I could spread out when doing my work. This corner with all of its changes had two major flaws. The first was that it really was not my own space and the second that I was always worried about getting something on the new carpet. I desperately wanted a studio space of my own. For years I had dreamed of having my own studio, but the picture I had in my mind was that of a graphic design studio with crisp lines, white walls and a modern look. After all, though I enjoyed painting I was not an artist in the classical sense; I was a graphic designer. When we had first looked at our house I had noticed the garden shed. About nine feet wide and twelve feet long, it is built directly onto the back of the garage. It has a couple of old windows and two large doors that have been hodgepodged together and stayed closed with the help of a piece of wood slid through two handles. I knew it had potential, but wanted something a little nicer, something with insulation perhaps.
Early in 2010, still reeling from the major life changes of a baby, job loss, and my new role as a stay at home dad I began a downward slide that would make me take a hard look at who I was. In a desperate grab for some kind of artistic stimulation I had taken to renting movies about artist. It was on a cold winter night while Noah slept and Erin was at work that I settled down to watch Pollock. When I saw that Jackson Pollock had to put on several layers before going out to his studio in the dead of winter, a studio that was in an old barn and heated only by a small woodstove, I knew that somehow the garden shed would become my studio. Around March the transformation of the garden shed and of me into an artist began. It started out simply enough I moved some things around to make room in one corner of the shed. I built a small table that attached to the wall and was on hinges so that it could fold out of the way. I filled in some of the larger holes and cracks that were peppering the walls, swept the floors and called it good. But the tiny space I occupied next to the mower and garden tools was not enough. Soon I took out the table and the mower and put them into the garage. The tools hung on one wall and a dirty old shelf hanging by the door held smaller tools and garden gloves. I felt selfish, taking over something that was ours and making it my own. I moved the shelf next to the tools, tried to work near the front of the shed. I spent more time madly trying to fit into the space while Noah was napping than I did creating. Then in April after a major yard project I decided that the tools needed to go. In an e-mail to my aunt I wrote;
I have evicted the garden tools from the “Garden Shed Studio”! After doing a massive amount of yard work last week, I realized there was not room for dirty tools and my studio. So this morning while the family was napping I took everything out, vacuumed and then hosed down the floor and one wall. I am very excited to put it back together and make it my own space.
I still felt guilty, but the artist that was emerging in me was taking control, as if desperately trying to stop my downward slide.
During my first Staff meeting at my last job I began composing a poem in my head after I had introduced myself to everyone. When I first set up my easel in our downstairs office, the first thing I painted was that poem, trying to be as free as possible. I sit here now in my studio that is imperfect with the slanted cement floor that sends me and my chair careening for the door if I am not diligent. And yet it is perfect. As I think back on the journey that I have had over the last eleven months, that poem comes to mind.
It happened in a meeting
Volunteering dominating the description of me
While the artist desperately screamed
The self doubt of my twenties
Clung to me like a rain soaked shirt
As the artist began to emerge
A month or so ago, when someone asked what I did, for the first time I told them that I was an artist. I had never said those words before to describe myself. When I take a moment to think about it, the progression of my studio is really my progression of becoming an artist—of finding out who I really am, and in doing so, finding out how I can be a better dad to Noah.