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  • julia swaby

What do you think about at work?

Updated: Oct 11





My studio is an industrial unit not far from my home. There is a strip of natural light pouring in from the corrugated band of plastic roofing. The walls are such thin tin that I can hear the archivist next door dictating endless strings of numbers to her assistant.

And yet: the space. The high vaulted ceiling, the immense floor area. In one section, I have a huge old green velvet sofa in my 'lounging' area, where I sit to percolate ideas with a cup of Earl Grey. On the coffee table trunk lies a book on Zao Wou Ki and The Bible; my two Go-To's. Behind my mini lounge, there is a desk, brought with me from my last studio at Ashburnham Place (a tiny and damp space - my heart sank when I saw it but it was in such beautiful grounds with such vibrant people that I took it anyway). There is a rug area for packaging. A varnishing station. An easel station. A white lino-ed rectangle, bigger than my living room at home, for lying work down to dry, or, to work with fluid art, pigments and charcoal. The back wall is made of white planks of interlocked metal but is smooth enough to clip generous loose canvases for painting - it's about eight metres in width I'm guessing. A 1950s drop leaf table which I bought for £10. In short, here is all I need to be the artist I want to be.

The painting above is a commission which is drying out. It is one of two destined for Los Angeles, both are around 5 foot by 6. Enormous. I loved painting the above one particularly. The first of the pair went through several metamorphoses before reaching its final image whereas this one just happened. It's all down to the state of mind, for sure. I was in trepidation on the first, uptight to get it right for the client. Once I let that go, the painting came through.

Something that really helps me paint, helps me get out of the way, is to study and read. I then carry those musings with me in the studio and it distracts my mind from the inner critic. Not only that, it creates an arrow of sorts to launch the work into the air and towards a telos, a goal. I would like to share that part of my journey with you also in this studio diary. It may give texture, if you will excuse the pun, to the work. At the moment, I am reading two books. One is 'History of Western Philosophy' by Nigel Tubbs and the other is 'Jesus, The Evidence' by Ian Wilson. Whilst this studio diary is not intended to be in any way preachy, being a Christian is the central pillar of my life and can't be excluded from a behind the canvas look at my life. That said, there is so much which troubles me about 'religion' and that is why I am exploring my faith intellectually, or by any means necessary. I was part of what I now know was a 'cult' for a decade of my life. I didn't know it then and only towards the end, as things became increasingly bizarre did I start to see the priest leading me (Father Joseph) for who he was. Sad to say, someone who was lost and he took me into a place of lostness also. More on that as we continue. Painting gives me so much space to be still and contemplate (as well as to struggle and overcome self doubt) and I will be sharing with you (if you are interested) some of my reading and ruminations as well as what is actually happening in the studio.


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