Monday, May 24, 2010

Paint Dates

I am most happy and at peace when I am alone and working in my studio. My studio is my refuge, my creative space, my spiritual center. I spend most of the day in my studio.

Two years ago, I didn’t have this space. I was renting a small, SMALL one bed room apartment over in Felony Flats with the bedroom as my office and the living room as my art studio. It was only about 325 sq feet and I spend 12 to 16 hours a day there. I began looking for a small condominium to use as an office/studio. I couldn’t find anything close to home that was suitable and/or affordable. My realtor was extremely patient showing me any property that came available. Norm is also an artist so he was sympathetic to my needs as an artist. We looked for months without success.

At one point, Norm asked, “Why don’t you add on to your house?” I had considered it; however, I could only envision one of those pre-fab 8 X 12 foot shed-like rooms with a glass wall; no insulation, little room. The idea is not practical in the intense heat of Palm Springs. I continued looking at properties. I looked for a year in total frustration.

I love hour home in Palm Springs. We are still friends with the prior owner of our home. Peyton Ray is a designer/builder and did the remodel of our home. I love his work. We bought his house. I called him to ask about the possibility of adding on to our house. I thought he would laugh at the idea. Well, he didn’t! Peyton came over to look at the house and talk seriously about what we could do. He opened our eyes to the possibility.

Prior to this house, I’ve always had a studio of sorts in every house we’ve owned. It was generally space claimed in the garage or a spare bedroom: space designed for some other purpose than an artist’s studio. This house did not have that “extra” space. We worked with Peyton and our architect. Eighteen months later our home was 645 square feet larger and I moved into my dream studio.

I was able to provide significant input into the design and finishing of my studio. It has everything I wanted and more. The light is perfect. The storage is perfect. The studio is perfect. I love my space. The new addition(s) blend into the original design, looks and feels as if it’s always been this way. I have no desires to move from this house.

Everything I want in a home is here. Everything I want in a studio is here. Almost.

Every artist I know has a private studio space to work on their art. We work alone. It’s just me and my art. I pause often to consider what I’ve done then continue working. I’m not always happy with this arrangement. There are times I want criticism from another. I can ask husband who is a physician. “It’s nice,” is a standard response. I suppose that’s better than “that sucks!” But still not very helpful. I crave criticism from other artists.

About a year ago, I met an artist here in Palm Springs whose work I greatly admire. I like his style. I like his images. I particularly like what he does with and uses paint! We met at a cocktail party and spent hours talking about art. I worked in healthcare for 40 years before retiring. He also works in healthcare. There are many parallels in our lives. We hit it off.

Over the months, we began getting together to talk about art, to show each other our work. I am intrigued with how he obtains the layered transparencies in his work. He said the same about my work. We are both influenced by and incorporate grids, horizontal and vertical lines, monochromatic palettes. I asked Steven to show me how he paints. “Only if you show me how YOU paint,” he replied.

And so, our Paint Dates came to be. We meet about every other week to paint together in one of our studios. We talk about our technique, our inspiration, our vision. It’s a very different feeling working in a studio with another artist working next to you. I’ve not had that experience since my university days with open studio.

We ask questions of each other as we paint. “What are you thinking about when you add those red fields?” “What effect are you going for as you paint that?” Seeing and hearing about what another artist is doing as he’s painting can be a validating experience. It is challenging to verbalize what you’re doing at the time you are doing it. It’s too easy after the fact. Taking the time to think about and describe what I’m doing as I’m doing it adds a whole new perspective to MY work for ME.

I’ll stop my work and just watch Steven paint. I am intrigued by how he uses a paintbrush. I never learned to properly use a paintbrush and am far more comfortable using a palette knife or my fingers. (This would explain the paint streaks across my bald head.) Steven never learned to use a palette knife. He watched me use my palette knife for the longest time. We learn from one another.

In addition to verbalizing and demonstrating what/how we paint, we also share those tips we’ve learned along the way. What’s the best soap to clean an acrylic paint paintbrush? Tea tree oil soap. What works well as a reusable palette? A thick sheet of glass. I’ve learned tips on organization in the studio. I truly need that!

However, the absolute best part of our Paint Date is the honest critique we give each other. We discuss what we like and dislike about each other’s work AND our own work. We discuss WHY we like or dislike those features. For three hours every two weeks, I have immediate feedback on what I’m doing. Steven will ask questions about my work no one else “sees”. If I’ve added the tiniest spot of blue on the canvas, he will see it and comment honestly about it. Seeing your work through another artist’s eye is gift every artist should experience. I also know that I wouldn’t want to share a studio with another artist no matter how well we get along.

i treasure my time alone in my studio painting and weaving. I rather enjoy working alone, painting with wild abandon. I can scratch my butt or crank up the music without worrying about someone else. And I know that every other week, I will have an evening working alongside another working artist who I admire and trust. I can ask those questions I always want to ask like: “what were you thinking when you did that?” Sometimes the answer is “I don’t know. Nothing. I just did it.” And that’s an honest answer. It’s nice to know other artists do that too! I’m not alone.

You can see all of my artwork available for purchase on my website at . If you want more information on any of my artwork or to make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at (best option) or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157.

I thank you for listening!

Jerry L. Hanson


  1. Great space, Jerry, and I also enjoyed your article. I have a close artist friend and we work together from time to time - mostly on "out the box" projects. Last time we tried silk screening and it was a blast. Gaining another perspective is great, but I would rather go flower shopping or just hang out with her most of the time. Working together is like having cheesecake - having it too often is just too much! :o)

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post. I envy you. I would love to have a Paint Date or just an exchange of critiques with just one or a couple of abstract artists. I have yet to make that connection with someone here in Houston. I'll make it a goal for this year though. It'll happen when it's right with the right person.
    Thanks for sharing!