Somewhere, out in the dark, is a box of materials I used in Cincinnati to make art. In theory, it is the most important of my art supplies. My studio, however, isn’t empty. I am lacking pens and watercolor pencils, but if I dig hard enough, I’d find something to draw with.
Or, I could do it the other way, and say that what is in the box is more important, and I need to get rid of things in the studio. All those “things” are not making me a better artist, but it is making it harder for me to find things I need. I’ve actually purchased things knowing that I had another one someplace, but couldn’t find it.
So maybe it’s time to pare away some of the stuff and keep what’s needed at the moment. Stop buying things unless I know exactly how much and what for. Yes, I may need some of it at some point in the future. But I also have a huge amount of items labeled “for class”–extra pairs of scissors and paints and inks and paper, rubber stamps and things I may or may not need for class. I actually don’t know how to sort those out, because I am still creating classes.
But there are things I must decide on, things that have to go somewhere else.
We’ve all played the game where we pretend the house is on fire and decide what we would save and what could burn to ashes. We consider books and photos, clothing and credit cards. I once had to make that decision. About 10 years ago, the roofers set our house on fire (it was a training issue), and when I called 911, the operator told me to get out of the house immediately, not to take anything.
I pulled the cat carriers out of the closet and the cats, knowing that I must surely be taking them to the vet, vanished into the burning house. I paused for a long 15 seconds, and watched smoke pouring down the stairs. I weighed the chance of finding the cats in a smoke filled house, and the cats figuring out that fresh air was outside. And then I realized that nothing would be saved if I stood in the house while it collapsed onto me. I picked up my purse and left the house.
And that was the answer–you will not gather up your clothing and your paintings, your child’s drawings and your first editions. You will pick up your purse and walk away. In my case, the roof collapsed through my studio and the cats were found in the basement by the firefighters who know where to look for them. All of them survived with the help of oxygen, and all of them are living with us to this day.
So I’m going to do some sorting and thinking and reducing. I think it will be lead to something that needs space.
—Quinn McDonald is an artist making room for something wonderful to take place.