When you're working in your studio or office or around the house, what is it you hear in the background? What I mean is what do you listen to? Music, audio books, the TV, the sound of the dishwasher, the sound of your own breathing?
The sound of the dishwasher might not seem to fit in this list of options, but admit it—you find that sound oddly comforting, like a task is being completed, like you're being productive even if you're just sitting on your hands and staring out the window.
When I first started painting...let me back up a bit. When I first started assemblage work, because I was occupied as an assemblage artist before I fell in love with painting, I would most often have a movie on in the background. I would set up my project on the kitchen counter, tools at hand, dog at my side, and I would select a favorite movie from my vast digital collection.
I prefer classic films to modern ones and would often choose a theme, such as a day of all the versions of Jane Eyre. There's the Joan Fontaine one and then all the ones made since. And then the Joan Fontaine one. Or I might choose a newer film like The Martian, which for whatever reason, I can play on a loop and never tire of it.
I would occasionally listen to music I'm going to play later on (I'm an amateur musician with a local orchestra). But mostly with the movies.
Fast-foreward to these current days—while I paint in my studio, the sound and visual flickering of the TV actually feels like an offense to my senses. So, I have begun listening to audio books through Audible.
I'll flick on the lights, tie on the apron, pull on the rubber gloves, and say, "Alexa, read __________." Last week, I listened to Milkman by Anna Burns. Her Irish accent lulls me into some kind of trance, and the story is gripping. And now it's Sissy Spacek's My Extraordinary Ordinary Life—I tell you I have found a kindred spirit, a soul sister!
What's interesting to me is how each painting becomes associated with the book that serenaded me while working. It isn't inspired by or reflective of it in any way, but when I look at the painting later, I remember snippets of the story—Winter Garden or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or what have you.
So, back to my original question: what do you listen to in your studio? I'd love to know, and I'd love a suggestion for my next audio book.
(photo by Austin Kirk)