I returned to work in my enamel studio, today, for the first time in three or four months. I had missed it more than I expected. I've moved often in my adult life, but since my late teens, a studio has been one of my few constants. There have been several of them but they've all been set up the same way: aluminium trestles, industrial metal shelving, heavy canvas drop sheets, house painter's brushes. And frames, lots of frames. No matter the location – whether it's underneath a house or in an industrial facility – they've always looked similar. They've also smelled similar. Most of the time, it's the sickly sweet, acrid reek of enamel fumes but once that's dissipated, there's the pleasant, almost rural whiff of canvas and cedar. It doesn't take long to slip back into routines I've been practising for more than two-thirds of my life: sanding surfaces with fine paper; wiping with a tack cloth to pick up the dust; mixing paint, then applying it in long even strokes; washing brushes and re-shaping the wet bristles so they dry as if new. They're more familiar to me than sex.
I've adjusted my weekly schedule so that I spend four days painting in enamel, then three days working away from the fumes. This more reasonable level of exposure means I can continue using the medium while remaining well. I'm still finishing a number of commissions, which will take me until the end of this year. A handful of portrait commissions renewed my interest in enamel after I'd decided to give it up completely, a couple of years ago. Maybe, just maybe, I'll continue with it once these works have been delivered.