Saturday, October 21, 2006

Woman At Work

Grey clouds, a strong, cool wind out of the south, and light showers – it could hardly be a better day for me to get back to painting.
I have learned not to push myself too hard when I'm working with enamel. My body absorbs so much of its toxic vapours, even with a mask, gloves and layers of protective clothing, that after three or four days of painting, I am nauseous all day, my skin festers with small sores, my eyes are as bloodshot as a crack addict's, and my thinking is addled. I have to stop and get away from it completely for a couple of days.
This is why I try to maintain a studio that's separate to where I live. These days, my work space is a small house with bright, natural light, a steady cross-flow of fresh sea air, and plenty of open-plan floor space to allow me to work on two or three works – right now, the largest is three metres high, the smallest about half that – at the same time. A secluded surf beach is just a short walk across the street and I go swimming or surfing three times a day to rinse the acrid stench of enamel off me.
Still, it's not enough. If I want to continue being imaginative and productive as I work with this despicable medium, rather than oppressed by it, I have to allow for a slower pace, punctuated by short breaks in which I can recover some measure of physical well-being.

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