There’s something a bit trite about saying ‘I found myself in Elsewhere Studios’ but it’s definitely something that happened. It starts around two in the morning, after a day of not leaving the apartment because you’re scrapping that one illustration that’s been bothering you all day. Even if the first one looks fine, you know you won't be happy until you try to draw it again. At this time, I think I’m the most ‘myself’ I will ever be, surrounded by cups of ink, water, and coffee, reading a passage over and over again until I can pluck out the dissonant word. There’s such a satisfaction in jumping so completely into your work and being completely submerged without interruption. I don’t think this could have happened if it weren’t at Elsewhere.
Not to say I didn’t leave the apartment. I was extremely fortunate in the company of both fellow residents and staff, who made the bar trips, karaoke nights, and my entire stay all the more memorable. Perhaps it was because of my brief stay, but there’s something wonderfully surreal about Paonia, as if the set from a spaghetti western was yanked into the 21st century. Most everyone seems to know each other’s name, a restaurant festooned in doilies opens at the turn of a dime, a pack of dogs runs rampant through the local bar in the small hours of the morning. At the heart of this is the residency itself, which looks like an enchanted patchwork house formed from driftwood, doors, and ceramic tiles.
What luck it is then that I got to see the residency come to bloom. After three years in Los Angeles, I realize what a gift it is to have a backyard and Elsewhere’s is positively thriving. I watched as armies of irises sprouted in front of my door. I discovered a secret patch of rhubarb in the backyard, the leaves big green platters hiding brilliant stalks. Before this, I had only seen poppies from a distance flecking fields with spots of crimson. Here, they bloomed outside my window. Their blooms so vivid they looked straight out of Oz, their size as big as kittens.
Speaking of kittens, I can’t forget to mention Tomatoes, the ambassador to all the studios. Regularly he invited himself into my workspace and circled my chair like a shark until I let him sit on my lap. He had little respect for my work, which is humbling in a way, especially when I find a little paw print square in the middle of a drawing I had just finished the day before. The morning I left, rising at a time some would call unholy, he was there to walk us to the car.
My time at Elsewhere peeled back the skin I had grown over the bones of who I wanted to be. I found that this month was a much-needed break in my life and possibly the healthiest choice I could make for myself. For a first residency I couldn’t ask for a better experience and can only hope it won’t be the last time I visit.
Thank you so very much!