Yeah, I know it’s already March, but this draft was lurking in my saved file!
….. Only 4:30 and you can feel the chill and darkness filtering in.
We’re finally leaving behind the shortest days of the year, layered up with long evenings curled on the couch with a book or a streaming video . . . often with a fire going in the wood stove. The Canadian geese are making their annual visits- hitting all their favorite water and grass locations around town. (watch where you step!)
My disbelief that we’ve been living in pandemic times for so long is coupled with a sort of acceptance. Things have changed and we’ve been operating with so many voids in our lives, both large and small, that a universal acceptance of a new norm seems to have taken hold. At least in places where people want to stay safe.
This past September, I was thinking I would jump into the local studio tour again- but of course we needed to do that virtually. Just not the same.
The good news in the new year …
Tireless lab work and clinical trials have yielded the possibility of fewer people getting sick in the future, though it will be a while before we’re all headed to large public events.
Sane, accomplished, experienced, qualified adults will be running the country. (mostly)
We’ve all learned to be a little more kind, and appreciative for what we possess and often take for granted: health, enough food, a stable and safe place to live. Volunteering at the local food bank has brought that home.
Art has found a way to thrive whatever the obstacles – online dance performances and symphonies, driveway concerts, murals and virtual exhibits, inspirational and enlightening podcasts, books…. you probably have more to add to that list.
Even though my studio life is pretty non-existent these days, compared to years past, it still tickles me to carve an image, print it out and then sit and add some touches of color; or to enjoy the stroke of pastels layer on layer until some imagined landscape evolves.
I have never looked forward to spring more than this year; with the return of gardening season and more outdoor activities. So as we stretch our legs and rejoin the world, here’s hoping for the best for us all.
This past year, I often told people, (without a lot of conviction), “I’m pretty much retired”. . . . . . yet I was not always clear on what that actually signified. It didn’t feel so final in the traditional sense. I had opted out of the annual studio tour, but there was still so much unfinished business (like the large painting that had been on the wall that I couldn’t quite resolve, and was losing interest in…)
It’s not like I had been doing something every day for years, and then I got a gold watch and had to figure out what I wanted to do in the next chapter of my life… but still…
something definitely had to shift….
when you are not actively seeking shows, trying to add lines to a resume, or supply a gallery with your most recent work, and your presence as an artist in the world has become diminished….how is it that you define what you do?
I have certainly seen a shift in how I prioritize my time, during the last ten to fifteen years. Being less driven to make a mark, and find a market- I began looking for ways to connect differently with my local community, mix it up with non-artists, doing non-art things.
Looking for ways to supplement our income, I worked part time as an admin person in a land trust office, and served on a committee that planned and produced fundraising events. I spent 5 years working as a hospice volunteer, interacting with patients in a myriad of ways. I began to volunteer in the local public schools, helping in the art room, and then was a reading buddy with several great kiddos just getting their academic feet under them. Also, while I was encouraging literacy in 2nd graders, I began to volunteer at the local hospital.
Both the school and the hospital are a mile or less from our house, so walking back and forth was another built-in exercise bonus! The hospital slot morphed from information desk to being up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, doing various chores, and adding in a shift each week when I now cuddle babies.
Occasionally, I pop into local art shows, and perhaps consign some work to a silent auction for the local botanic garden, or the local art museum gift shop. But I wasn’t really plugged into either the art scene or my studio that much last year. The large painting that I started a few years ago languished on the wall downstairs. I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t even drawing anymore, although felt in the recesses of my mind that at least it would be easy to jump back into that, at a minimum.
Lots of projects got done in the yard, and the house, some travel happened. All good things, mind you. And fixing up the home we will probably stay in for the duration felt like a good way to spend time and some money.
But I started to miss making the work. I didn’t just feel conflicted and somewhat guilty, but I missed the actual daily activity and rewards – the mix of mental and emotional challenge, the state of losing track of time while noodling around with color and form, instinct and memory.
After the year turned over, I now find my self downstairs regularly, listening to podcasts, printing and painting and drawing. Not every day/all day, but enough so that I am happier.
Now, there feels like a better balance between social activities, volunteering, and personal studio time. The motivation for staying engaged with my work comes from an internal place. One that can be nourished in different ways than in years past.
well, since I’ve started this process of going through digital files of all my work, and trying to gain some control over them- all I can say is “holy moly!”
There are lots of duplicates of course, and images that appear in various places on my hard drive, but also some scanned images from slides taken sooooooo many years ago. (“Hey, I forgot I did that drawing!”) And I still have boxes of unscanned slides to deal with. As I uncover more treasures, I’ll upload them into the appropriate groups.
For you youngsters, slides are those cute little square things with a positive film image inside a nice 2×2″ cardboard frame. They are what we used to label, mask with silver mylar tape, and put in plastic sleeves with little pockets, then assemble with a printed resume, a large self-addressed envelope, and a cover letter, in order to make packets, which we then sent out in the mail to schools and galleries. I even had two metal file cabinets that sat on my desk to put all my slides for teaching and my studio work, in chronological order by subject….but those were sold years ago on Craigslist!
It just amazes me, at the risk of sounding older than I really am, how much technology has changed in the world of being a visual artist. In some ways, how much easier, and more efficient it is to manage all this now.
Now, when you need to duplicate an image, just click. When the color or lighting isn’t quite right, you open Photoshop and tinker. When you want to assemble a portfolio, just drag and drop. And it all gets sent via e-mail. No more trips to the post office, or getting slide dupes made, xeroxing letters and resumes, or spending so much on postage, etc. And all these changes happened during the course of my professional life.
The first year after grad school, when we were housesitting, we lived about 12 miles from a town of any size. I used a portable typewriter that was sort of electronic. It had a teeny screen where you could see a few words of type to correct if needed…..I think. But each letter or document was one of a kind, and I used plenty of correction tape.
We didn’t get our first computer until I was teaching in Williamsburg, VA in 1990- A Mac Classic – not that we had a way to print anything. No wonder I didn’t look forward to the annual job search!
Ah… the pleasures of going through older work and reorganizing all the digital files of my drawings.
One of the memories that surfaced, along with the sorting, carries me back to living on 10 acres in the summer house of a former professor. I was just out of grad school. My daughter was not yet two, and our family raced (unsuccessfully) against a too-fast moving van carrying lots of our belongings out to this country road with a hand built house up on a hill.
There was a studio for me to use there, which came in handy for storing things, and making some monotypes on the small press. But most of the time I was working outside- crouching by roadsides, sitting at various places around the property, and exploring the surrounding countryside.
I was able to focus on my work, apply for my first teaching jobs, get a taste of rural isolation, and write lots of letters. We heated with wood and read a lot and survived all the minor mishaps of toddlerhood. Mostly very good memories, and lots of drawings and paintings- some of which I still have.
Stay tuned for my updated blog that will have purchase now buttons to let folks add something to their walls