As a busy summer draws to a close, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by all of the things that I wanted to accomplish, but didn’t. I always have high expectations of summer- I simultaneously envision grand swathes of leisure time, and massive productivity. Reading fluffy books outside in the sunshine coupled with tearing out and remodeling the bathroom. Juggling just the right balance of beach picnics and bike rides with hours of undisturbed studio time. I grossly misjudge the reality of life- that the daily demands of dishes and errands, housework and paperwork, email and all types of obligations, chosen and not, gobble up an amazing amount of my time. I wish I could clone myself sometimes so that I would have time to triple my studio time, be the mom and partner I want to be, bake my own bread, and learn to play violin, go and get my graduate degree, do yoga everyday….. My biggest challenge is figuring out (too often on the fly) what my priorities are. I am the quintessential gemini, with a finger in every pot. I have trouble saying no, and it gets me into trouble.
All this is preamble to the fact that I have not been in the studio as much as I like, or blogging as much as I like, and some of the steam has gone out of my sails in my painting. And what I recognize is burnout. Not so much from doing too much, as not doing the things that allow productivity to continue… like riding a horse with out stopping to rest it or feed it, or water it. I’ve written in this blog about creative momentum, and how I keep that going. But it is not an automatically self-sustaining thing. If I am not careful, I tend to burn all of my creative fuel, my momentum carrying me forward, without stopping to gather, to practice new things, try new ideas, take risks, etc. In my rush to complete new work for shows this summer, I’ve neglected the daily or weekly practice of renewal. There is a certain safety in just focusing on an established body of work, and being productive in a measurable way…. sometimes process and exploratory work is not productive in the way that is easy to value- having a piece of artwork at the end of the day. Sometimes it just goes into the trash can, or sometimes nothing material comes of it at all.
In avoiding this kind of work, it’s come to my attention that one of the things I avoid above others, that absolutely makes my stomach squirm is drawing. This is surprising even to me, as my drawing skills aren’t exactly lacking. I’ve spent many hours drawing. I can draw fairly well. So why the avoidance? I’ve avoided keeping any kind of sketch book for close to twenty years. I think it has to do with how primary, how immediate it is. It is an instant feedback process. An instant record of my perceptions, my state of mind, my patience, or more often the lack of. And so, so often it doesn’t produce anything I would want to show to someone else. It feels extremely personal to me. More so than painting. I’m not sure why.
So in the spirit of doing something that scares me everyday (or at least often), I’ve started doing small drawings on watercolor paper. In ink. So unforgiving. To me, it feels like walking a tightrope without a net. But I am convinced that if I can keep doing this, I will be better able to develop new ideas for paintings, and have more of a creative flow. Here are a few that I actually like…
It doesn’t solve my problem of prioritizing, but it may help with creative burnout… It will definitely develop humility.