In today’s interview we will take another peek at In the studio with Tim Hussey. Last week we talked about his background, his new studio space and his creative legacy. This week we dive into organizing specifics and he shares some tips he’s learned through his years as an artist in various capacities. His new space is open to the public, and his latest show Listing, is his first in this new Studio. I dropped by while the show was hanging but he’s also shared a few shots of how he works in his space. These photos are not styled and are typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day. All the photo’s in this post were supplied by Tim too!
Tim Hussey Art Studio Organization Part II (see Part I here)
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once?
TH:: I used to only work on one piece at a time— and I had to complete it before moving to the next. I thought it was a way of really bending my brain and forcing me to look deep and try harder. I didn’t let myself listen to music either. After about 10 years of that, I loosened up and realized working on 6 or 7 pieces at once is a lot more effective when producing a body of work—and everything sort of cross-pollinates.
HKPS:: Do you ever find it challenging to locate certain things when you’re ready use them? How do you store tools and materials you use frequently to make your process easier?
TH:: I keep all my main (working) materials on one table and the rest are stored on racks, sometimes untouched for years. I have brushes and oil paints I’ve had since college.
HKPS:: Do you notice cycles or phases of projects that are more or less organized in your creative process?
TH:: I have a library in my head of things that I find intriguing and powerful always. Word play, large areas of flat color, the need to strip layers away and let an old layer become a paint stroke— these things are always resurfacing in my work.
HKPS::Do you think your creative success and or your process is helped or constricted by discipline? Do you find that limitations or boundaries can help fuel your creativity?
TH:: Without discipline and limitations, I would be incapable of making a decision and lock up. Boundaries are necessary to give a reference point and help guide a viewer based on materials, historical context, size, genre, etc. Otherwise its just self expression for the sake of self expression, which I do day-to-day, but don’t expect to be rewarded for it.
HKPS::Do you set any self imposed limitations (to your schedule, material use etc)? Is there anything you intentionally don’t have in your studio due to distraction?
TH::I used to be very intentional about use of music. For the first 5 years or so of painting, I wouldn’t play anything — just silence. I didn’t want someone else’s vision to inform mine. Then I started allowing AM radio only– the random programming and crackle and hiss were complimentary to my process, so it was helpful. But now I know myself well enough that any music is fine.
I do limit myself as much as possible to a few items on my work table at a time. If I am tempted to use all my new materials at once, it would be a confusing mess. I need to be able to memorize my table and use it as an extension of my hand and head.
HKPS:: How or did you learn your organizing habits and systems? Do you consider yourself to be organized or alternately do you tend towards hoarding stuff?
TH:: I’m a crazy organized and clean worker. I never leave the studio without putting everything back in it’s place and cleaning all I used. It’s the best way to start fresh each day. I used to organize my hundreds of acrylic tubes by color, but that only lasted about a week.
HKPS:: What tips can you offer regarding your use of schedules, systems, tools or processes that help you maintain organization in your studio? Do you use sticky notes? How/where?
TH:: Clean as you go, or at least at the end of each session. Take inventory every so often and keep a list of replacement items and stuff you have always wanted to try. Keep the floors clean and take trash out. This stuff is small but profoundly affects your sense of pride and preciousness in your work. I try to treat my process as carefully as someone would treat my paintings. Also, if you have in mind that you want to use a certain oil stick or color in a piece, but are out of it, it will most likely steer the painting in another direction—if you are as lazy as me. I need to stay in the moment. If I don’t have a material on hand, I will skip it, so I have learned to anticipate and stock up. Scheduling is still something I am learning about all the time. First of all, I go through cycles and seasons where I paint a lot and then not at all. I go 3-4 months at a time doing nothing but working the business end. And that feels right. But it takes work to get myself back into the creative state of mind. Once that happens, day to day and week to week scheduling has to be done or I lose the continuum.
Tim has shared some really great tips and insight. After an already long and successful career doing what he’s passionate about he’s figured out how to make things work for him! That’s what this is all about, with my hope that maybe you glean a little wisdom from your creative peers and how they keep their process orderly. Remember, if your in Charleston over the coming weeks, go see Tim’s new studio which will be open during the Piccolo Spoleto festival, check out the dates and times here.
*The idea for the Inside the Artist Studio series began while attending an art retreat where I curiously observed the differences in the creative cycle of order and chaos and what that looks like for different individuals. I’m very interested in sharing how organizing affects the artist’s creative process. Some systems and order are vital to our creative PLAY and learning to find a balance that works to enhance your creativity is what I hope to share with you through these interviews.
Is there a particular artist whose ‘Tool kit’ you would like to see featured? Leave a comment below and le