Studio Practice in the time of Corona


Empty Streets


Change is always strange. And I’m not minding the shift, my studio life is actually enhanced by it. The quiet and empty streets remind me of weeks spent on Zen Buddhist retreats in France and in America. As a writer friend expressed it in an email to me a few days ago: ‘We’re still busy, but instead of ranging freely and widely, we go back and forth inside our structures or take solitary walks along proscribed paths’. I’m very fortunate to have my live-in studio in Amsterdam and the opportunity to be with my partner outside the city in the weekends (or whenever I need to). It allows me to ‘get out’ and experience a different space and environment. As I watched Lili’s chickens from out of our own enclosed ‘coop’ last week I realized that for the time being our lives are very similar.


City Walks


I try to keep my daily walk schedule intact as well. At first I assumed it would be a bit difficult in the narrow streets of the Jordaan to keep the required distance between myself and others. But surprisingly there are few people walking early in the morning (or at night for that matter). What I quickly noticed was a huge increase in the amount of joggers filling the streets. Seemingly a number of (mostly) young people have decided to use this sudden break in the normal routine of their lives to weave in a healthy practice that will hopefully remain in place when the demands of getting the kids to school and themselves to work kicks in again. And I still take advantage of the close proximity of the Westerpark to get my hit of nature before my own day in the studio begins. Wonderful to see the spring once more materializing although it is definitely the strangest change of season I can remember.


Busy studio


The pre-corona studio rules still apply: I have to be at work no later than 10 am. And actually I’ve found myself painting as early as 9 am these last weeks. Our travels in January and February not only made returning to and remaining in my studio a pleasure but also those same excursions brought me a lot of inspiration that I’m quite anxious to express now in paint. A new studio phenomena is the conscious decision to leave a mess behind and meet that same mess when the following painting day begins. It keeps me loose and ‘aesthetically sloppy’. What I mean by that is it helps me follow my first impulses better, to just put the paint down without being so ‘correct’ visually and creating a climate that encourages me to be more ‘correct’ emotionally. I read once that Richard Diebenkorn could draw so well that he began to invent methods to thwart his visual accuracy and open up accident and suggestion in his art. Another art hero, the recently deceased blind painter Sargy Mann, drew upon the knowledge of his many years as a ‘seeing’ artist to help him achieve some degree of visual accuracy in his figurative work while his loss of sight provided him with a bat-like radar to feel the resonance of his colors and enter into a more sensitive and heightened chromatic experience.


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