When it comes to creative process, it’s hard to think of free-spirited artists having any sort of routine. But in the case of veteran abstract painter Dorothea Rockburne, she’s got her practice down to a science.
“When entering into the studio I perform a ritual, which transforms my everyday reality into a different psychological entity,” she says. “Usually in order to get the feel of things, I begin by cleaning up and reviewing entries in my work diaries. Mahoney, my big, black, beautiful green-eyed cat, follows me into the studio and we keep each other company. I nurture the plants growing on my windowsill. My body language changes and my movements become larger and more strident. My shoulders square, my back is strong and straight, I never sit.”
The octogenarian artist, whose large-scale pieces are often rooted in mathematics and astronomy, has been living in and working out of the same Soho loft since the early 1970s. It’s a locale that’s had an indelible mark on her work. “I keep the space very fluid,” she says. “Right now, there are a lot of drawings in the back studio, like an exhibition space, but I am going to take them down and do some paintings. I can move it around; I can do whatever I want. That’s ideal for a workspace, not to have rooms that are designated but to have big open spaces that you can change.”
Rockburne’s decade-spanning body of work is currently on view at the Dia: Beacon in upstate New York in partnership with COS. The arty London-based brand has, in turn, created a drapey, minimal clothing and accessories collection inspired by Rockburne.
Here, the veteran artist shares the essentials central to her regimented way of working.
“Medium roast coffee from La Pain Quotidien to dip my biscotti in a smooth cup of coffee is how I start the work day.”
Tania Silva coffee mug, $48 at Souvenir Studios (souvenir-studios.com).
“An almond or hazelnut biscotti is the perfect breakfast cookie, especially from a local Italian bakery.”
Biscotti, $1 at Forno Cultura (fornocultura.com).
A vintage soundtrack
“I like to listen to Franz Schubert, Muddy Waters, Charlie Parker, Bo Diddley, Steve Reich, and Lou Harrison as I work.”
Charlie Parker, Three Original Albums on vinyl, $33 through amazon.ca.
“I use Lascaux Aquacryl for the high percentage of good pigment in paint.”
Lascaux Aquacryl in “Permanent Blue,” $25.41 through jacksonsart.com.
Trick of the trade
“My agate burnisher is an invaluable studio tool.”
Handover agate burnisher 27, $34.99 at amazon.com.