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January 6th is an anniversary at Al Young Studios; the anniversary of my first attempt to set aside and equip a place dedicated to creating artwork. We celebrate the beginning of that ongoing effort because the task of configuring, equipping, maintaining, using, and improving a fine art studio is an amazingly multifaceted and demanding endeavor; at least, it has proven so for us. It's an endeavor that never ends.
My journal entry for January 6, 1981, says simply: "This afternoon, I started building a drafting table – which I hope to complete tomorrow." At the time, pencil drawing was my primary medium, and a drawing table was the largest and most involved piece of equipment I lacked. I had been drawing for many years, but I did so by "camping out" with my drawing board and tools on a dining table or a desk, on the floor, or wherever I could find a place.
Today, as we take a moment to look back at the beginning of "the studio" part of Al Young Studios, and focus on the fact that from the very outset (as the journal entry says) do-it-yourself has been an important part of "the studio," I'm convinced that a major part of any artist's life is discovered and attained only by do-it-yourself.
The artistic gift seems to inhere in the ability to see what's missing in the world and to be able to supply the want. Having these abilities often means that not only must the artist make the missing artifact, but the very tools by which to make the artifact. Such is the work of creating a studio.
The drawing table mentioned in the journal entry was not only homemade, but made from scraps -- another foreshadowing of the artistic life. The 2x4s in its base came from the wall that had recently been removed from the garret where I worked as a freelancer. The tabletop came from surplus remaining from a brother-in-law's restaurant.
The table served very well for many years, but like all custom-made equipment, it has been modified many times to accommodate both artist and projects. And when I became involved in lithography, the table and accessories changed even more.
The drawing table as it appeared in 2001, having been modified to accommodate not only my drawing technique, but slabs of Bavarian limestone used in lithography.