A hut of my own.

hans and peter 1

There was a book I was just obsessed with when I was eight. It was called Hans and Peter by Heidrun Petrides  (originally Swiss, “Der Xaver un Der Wastl“)and it told the story of two boys who find an abandoned workman’s shed and convert it into a playhouse.

hans and peter  2They cover the walls with newspaper and then whitewash it, they install an old wood stove, they plant geraniums in a windowbox, and make gaily colored curtains. The book was Swiss and had bright pastel paintings on every page (they were done by a 15-year-old girl!).

There was just something about this idea, of these boys making their own house, that was incredibly appealing to me.

hans and peter 3I guess it’s the same instinct that had us building forts out of sofa cushions and making a pirate ship out of the linen closet. I yearned for a treehouse or a tent or an empty refrigerator box — something domestic I could call my own.

When I was nine, I was sent to live with my grandparents in Pakistan for a couple of years. I had gotten a small tool kit for my birthday and when my grandmother promised me my own small patch of land in her garden, I had intense fantasies about using the tools to build a shed with a padlock at one end of my acreage. I was enormously disappointed when I arrived in Lahore and my grandmother pointed to a bed of snapdragons and said, “That can be your garden, Danny. You can water it whenever you want.”

The only apartment I ever had entirely to myself was my first one on Clinton Street in the Lower East SIde. It was the most dangerous neighborhood in the blighted New York of the early eighties but I was incredibly proud to have my own minihouse. I built a loft bed, a couch and cupboards, then upholstered them and sewed pillows in fabrics straight out of Hans and Peter. A year later I was gone from the ‘Hood and living with roommates, then Patti and I moved in together, and now I live with Jenny in this microhouse in Los Angeles.

However after all these years, I have finally achieved my Hans and Peter fantasy.

IMG_0126Our house has an old two-car garage, built in the 1940s and made of wood with a big swing-up metal door. Since the day we arrived in LA, I have been busily turning it into a studio of my own, a cubby house, a man-cave.

IMG_0117I spent a day on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, half chipped lino, half cracked cement. Then I built myself shelves, tables, and drawers to hold all my paints, pens, inks, and journals. I installed lighting, a sound system, and a grass green shag rug for the dogs to lie on while I work.

IMG_0116Slowly, I am filling the walls up with paintings — the first I have done in ages that are not in a small book.

It’s wonderful. I can work any size I want, a true luxury for someone used to painting in the space between my laptop and the edge of the dining table. I can work on a project, then at the end of the day leave it out, and resume work the next day. I can shoot videos in here and completely control the lighting and the sound.

I am realizing that my whole approach to art — small books, tiny watercolor sets, etc. — is probably a function of having had so little space and time. Who knows where this newfound freedom may lead?

26 Comments

  1. lynn cohen

    How exciting to fulfill a childhood dream, and to have a space to call your own and to create in.
    ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Morgan Golladay

    Look out world!! Art-man is on the loose!

  3. Cynthia Morris

    This is so exciting. I love your new hut. Have fun going big!

  4. Elsie Hickey Wilson

    WoooHooo! Fantastic! Enjoy your very own Art House!

  5. Karen Johnson

    What a wonderful space of your own to create! May you have many wonderful creative hours in it!

  6. John

    WOW ! I’m new to your work Danny, just got a copy of “An Illustrated Life”…I’m glad I did before your new space means you now work on A1 or A0 paper !!
    We all like our sheds and work spaces, my dream is the the one at Walden as per Henry Thoreau. Good to get your postings. Best wishes

  7. Darlene K Campbell

    Cheers! Studios are an amazing place and I love yours. Definately like your paintings, especially the one of the dog. This all has me smiling. Look forward to more news about all of this BIG time adventures in the studio!

  8. Kate Robertson

    Everyone needs to have their own space. I am sure you will have a wonderful time and love your own hut. The book you talked about sounds so charming.

  9. Thomas Massengale

    I think that Gumby once lived there.

  10. Joy Corcoran

    Congratulations! Looks like a great place to expand and dream and create. Can’t wait to see what comes out of the hut.

  11. Quite literally living your dream! Now whatever is in your head will have the space to grow . . . I’ll be patient.

  12. Nancy Vogt

    Looks great…you couldn’t do this in NYC. You’d freeze to death. Enjoy LA!

  13. Pamela Mcgee Leal

    :)

  14. Gabrielle

    More pictures!
    Love it! having a studio is great :)

  15. bohemianopus

    Beautiful!

  16. minerva

    I had to pass this on to my DH! He is just finishing up his “shed” & has been so excited! Has me taking pictures of each step! He even “borrowed” my solar radio so he had music to listen to! Happy creating!!!

  17. Patti

    I love Klimt too. And my dream is to have my own studio and one of those big nightgowns that klimt used to work. Have you seen them? Good luck!

  18. Matthias

    Hi Danny, this looks comfortable, I’m happy for you and I wish you much “creative license” in your new “art-cave” (without “apes” and “monkeys”) :-)
    Matthias

  19. pattiek

    I’m happy for you, Danny. I live in a little 800 sq ft house. It has a little garage too. I would love to be able to clean it out and turn it into a studio. It’s my next ‘big project.’ …will begin right after my daughter’s wedding in November and the weather cools down.

  20. AmyN

    I love all of your IKEA purchases! Heh heh. Enjoy your new space!

  21. Linda Urban

    Danny, you’ve got to find a copy of my all-time favorite picture book Andrew Henry’s Meadow. It was reissued a few years back in an anniversary edition and you can order it. The pen and ink drawings alone are worth it — but you’ll love the sentiment, too. (Use Google images to see some of the drawings. Just wonderful.)

  22. Hi Danny – congrats on creating a new space of your own – and making a young dream reality. Here’s to another place to flourish!

    Cheers from yes and yay HQ,
    Frances

  23. quickanimator

    Really nice great you are an inspiration

  24. Adriana

    OMG! I’m so touched by your story. A dream is coming true! Congratulations Danny!

  25. Irene

    As a resident of the LES I can certainly understand the need for smaller art supplies. Love the new ‘art cave’. Enjoy creating.

  26. Elinor Lynn Warner

    So great to find your post! I was just searching for this book today to show to another artist friend of mine! This was also my favorite book as a child. The illustrations are the best part and captivated me, as did the thought of making something so fine out of nothing! It took a lot of sticktoitiveness and some kind adults for them to reach their dream. Congrats on your own hideaway ala Hans and Peter. Your work looks great and how fun that it is grooooowing now.

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