cleaning the studio...

...and other adventures in art

Here it is, my studio couch. It’s humble, paint-spattered, and very comfortable.

The couch in the studio of Barbara Downs

I got to thinking about my couch when my new studio neighbors, both sculptors, commented on how my studio looks like a ‘painter’s studio’ because of the couch.

At first I thought they were talking about the paint drips on the couch, but then realized that they were referring to the fact of the couch itself.  I have a couch in my studio, and they don’t. Which begs the question: Why don’t they need a couch?  Or, more accurately (since this is my blog and not theirs), why do I?

Does a painter need a couch? Does a sculptor not need a couch?

It may seem trivial, but the couch is actually an integral part of my studio. In my new studio I positioned it just about at the very center of the space, looking towards my painting wall. And of course that’s right where it belongs.

Here’s the view from the couch.

the studio of Barbara Downs, with several large blank canvases hanging on the wall

And here’s my own answer to the questions posed above:

Painting is a direct process. The rhythm is: I paint, and then I step back and look and think. That’s what the couch is for. If I don’t step back and look, it’s very easy to ‘lose’ the painting. All it takes is one errant brushstroke to make or break a painting, and if I’m not stepping back regularly it’s easy to pile on problem after problem.

Conversely, sculpture and encaustic are indirect processes. I spend a lot of time doing “grunt labor’, such as welding and grinding metal, or fusing and scraping wax. While I’m doing that work, I can ‘step back’ mentally and assess the piece, and do my thinking while I’m doing my work.

I have the option–which I exercise regularly–to step back from a painting and go work on a sculpture, giving me ample time to contemplate the next brushstrokes.

But the couch always beckons.