Screwtape for Artists, Letter 2: Studio Time

Goose Game series monoprint, Suzanne Edminster

Goose Game series monoprint, Suzanne Edminster

I decided to ask my artist friend Karina Nishi Marcus to join me in a studio time game. From January 30 to February 14, we’re going into our studios every day. The only rule is to walk in and touch something. That’s it. We’re curious what effect that it may have on our productivity. We do email check ins to report without judgement how we’re doing. I’ll let you know how it goes. Care to join us?

Here’s the second Screwtape letter for artists. In case you have just joined me, you can read the introduction to the letter series here. It is a letter to the demon Wormseed, who’s trying to capture the Artist’s soul.

My Stygian colleague Wormseed,

The situation with the Artist grows worse and worse. Each day she enters her studio, your goal fades like the bright colors of the Old Masters or the wild painting on Greek columns. You,  Wormseed, have been assigned to suffer Inquisition Number 25631 to remind you to keep working harder. It won’t end soon enough. If only you could succeed as well as the your brother Ifrit did recently in the book burnings.  Murdering books is the most delicious snack after eating souls.

I’m afraid you may have to concede defeat on keeping her out of the studio, a tactic which worked so well for so long. Now you must concentrate on subtleties. Early exposure of immature work is a sure-fire way to shut off the tap. Refusal to “practice the scales” of repetitive trials is also good. Perfectionism is a superbly subtle dagger… it bleeds out their disgusting passion for making in a very satisfactory manner.

I see you have activated the string of disquieting dreams that used to derail her from her work in the past. Even those seem to be ineffective: she’s broken their code and now know that they mean she is creating something new. However, a good nightmare or emotional crisis can go quite far. Just don’t let her make any art from them, or the jig is up.

I hope for your sake that you make more progress soon. A molecule of your diabolical existence vanishes each time a brush stroke or line is applied to paper, a reversed Dorian Grey. ( You were involved with him as well, though Oscar escaped us at the end, and after such a promising start. ) I have my faceted fly eye upon you. Do not fail again.

Your ball and chain,

Screwtape

P.S. Despite our continual efforts at the destruction of beauty, new painted caves continue to be found, obscured masterpieces restored. To offset this, the internet offers so many new opportunities for degrading artists, especially if they identify with digital “fame.” The hand of the artist is chopped off and dismembered from the Work, carried out to sea in an exquisite virtual tsunami of mediocrity. Divide et impera!  

15 comments

  1. I love this idea. I don’t have a studio, just a small table in the corner, piled high with projects. When I only have a few minutes at the end of the day, it’s often impossible to decide which project deserves those precious minutes. Here is something real and tactile and daily that I can do to keep in touch, even if fleetingly, with my art.

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      1. Indeed, it does. After work, I went over and laid my hands on a half-done piece made of sticks and string. It was like a scene in a supernatural movie, where the psychic touches her subject and is overcome with visions of the person’s life: I saw all the ways this piece could evolve and I saw the same for all the half-made and half-drawn pieces that surround it. A cacophony of images. The biggest sore spot on the skin of my life is the art I would make, if only I had the time, the energy, the resources… Evocative, indeed.

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    1. My definition of a studio has been a spot that you do not have to clean up…..but basically a studio is the place where one does ones work — so it could be anywhere and under many different circumstances…..

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      1. Yes! My ultimate goal is to have a work space I never have to clear. For now, at least there’s the little table where my projects can sit until I pick them up and spread them out, catch as catch can. They keep each other company.

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  2. Yes, so much that is classified as “creativity” is “the practice of scales” — One of my favorite Cezanne sayings (paraphrasing) is: One starts as an artist — one becomes a workman.”

    That is why it is referred to as “studio practice.”

    Good to see the first image of the Goose Game…..

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  3. You seem to be busy lately. Daily studio visits are good. I have been practicing a difficult Van Ronk piece daily and trying to sit fifteen minutes a day as well. I’ve having more success with music practice lately, mostly because I do not feel like getting out of bed and sitting when visiting JH.

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