The artist parent – keeping the studio sacred

studio andrew conti artist

My studio is both retreat from the daily world and my viewing lens of its workings. It is a perch from which I orchestrate a kind of give and take of ideas and energy with the cycles of the day. It becomes both meditation chamber and carnival mirror room for the spirit extended to my work. It is a kind of extension of the self and its vision. A physical space for uninterrupted play and curiosity out of view of others eyes and commentary – and most importantly a place to leave out your own critic and commentator.

My studio is on the 3rd floor of our home, a converted attic space above the 2 main floors. It is spacious, but cozy, and despite the best laid efforts to keep things simple, it has quickly filled with work and the many supporting items of inspiration and ideas that I collect. Between my studio and the rest of my home, there is a flight of stairs and a single often sticky door that takes a little effort to open and close. This is the barrier I have created for myself and my work between it and the regular demands of the everyday.

And I maintain this barrier like a honey badger with a den full of puppies. That is to say fiercely, and with a lack of compromise or calm.

Having my studio as part of our home presents some real challenges, and maintaining this separate and sacrosanct space is a key way I insure my focus and freedom. I’ve written before about the necessity of having a studio space for anyone and everyone.  I believe maintaining that space in whatever form it may take for you is a vital part of being a creative. And if you are a creative with kids around, then I think defending it as a space where no kids, no dolls, or no toy shall enter is vital. It is Daddy or Mommy’s work zone, and that is an unbreakable rule.

Generally speaking, my wife and I are fairly easy-going when it comes to our daughter’s reign of the house. We encourage her to keep her own space, and clean up after play of course, but we also allow for dolls and toys to find their way all over. The living room sofa is often a menagerie, the dining room table could just as easily be described as a princess’ castle, and even our own bed becomes a play pen for our daughter’s stuffed animals.

But the studio? This is where the easy-going thing ends, and the strict parental gauntlet is raised. It is clear in our home that Papa’s studio is a separate space, one that is not to be entered without permission or reason. One doesn’t enter on their own, or even come to the door at certain times. The studio, despite being on top of our home, is treated as though it were a separate building, and often as though it weren’t even there.

This isn’t to say that my daughter is never allowed in. She is, but never with a toy in hand, and never on a whim. She comes to the studio as though she were visiting my day-job. That is, on her best behavior, and usually while holding her mother’s hand. I often have my wife up to the studio to critique and discuss work, review certain materials, and generally carry-on like a studio visit. My daughter takes part in this as well, she has learned that time in Papa’s studio is all about art.

I maintain this separation for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is selfishly about my art and my needs. I will willingly hand over just about anything to my daughter. The laptop? sure. The book I’m reading? Yeah, let’s look at it together. My iPhone? Knock yourself out.

But the studio is my own. It is the big barrier I have erected in my home to ensure that I can make my art with the free and uninhibited space I require. It is my space to truly be me without being Papa or the husband. It is a work space, it is a thought space, and it is unequivocally and unalterably my own. Do we see the theme clearly now?

I could launch rather effortlessly into a resounding list of all the wonderful benefits that having children brings to an artist or creative. If you are an artist with kids, then you know all about this. But I fully believe that your studio must remain a sacred space for you and your work. It doesn’t matter if it is just a single desk, or corner of the kitchen table, or even a 200 acre farm.  Defend this space as though you were a wild animal, and no child or no one shall near it unless you allow it.

Because your work is worth it, and your time is valuable, and you have great things to do. Now do it. There are plenty of other places for your kid and you to share and wear out together. Just not this one.