Brick by Brick… Am I easily distracted or do I just have lots of good ideas simultaneously?

bricksI’ve been working in my home studio for about 2 years now- and enjoy several things about it.
•No rent.
•More space.
•Obviously closer to home-  I can go work anytime- for hours or 15 critical minutes.
•I can do the studio tour more easily.
•Everything is stored in one location.
•I have separate work areas set up for painting, drawing, printmaking, and desk work.
ah….. it’s the last one that might be a mixed blessing.

Desk area Ever the multi-tasker. Listening to a lecture by Daniel Ariely while reworking some monotypes with various media.
Desk area
Ever the multi-tasker. Listening to a lecture by Daniel Ariely about Irrational behavior while reworking some monotypes with various media.
Drawing Wall Lots of pending ideas, and a couple pastels up on the wall.  Finally using that black paper that's been in  my flat file for years.
Drawing Wall
Lots of pending ideas, and a couple pastels up on the wall. Finally using that black paper that’s been in my flat file for years.
Painting Wall Warpping up the large grey one, and several 8x10's coming along.
Painting Wall
Wrapping up the large grey one, and several 8×10’s coming along.

Because when I have several ways to work, of course I have several things going on at once. And they all interest me. And they are all mere steps away from each other.
uh oh
but over the years of working this way, I have become used to this  – everything eventually gets done… even if they all stagger towards the finish line at different speeds.  Being able to trust this is important. The author Daniel Pink says he believes in the simple action of showing up- working brick by brick-  how showing up every day becomes a cumulative effect.
SO… perhaps waiting for inspiration is lame-  we’ve oversold it (part of the mystique of the ‘artiste’?) and been undersold the PRACTICE
Or as Dave Hickey so aptly put it- “A frenzied, vague, emotional response just means your hand is moving in a pleasantly abandoned fashion.”  This is art as therapy.

The hand and eye working in response to how you think and feel about something  (idea/subject) takes more time and effort.

Being able to live with ambiguity and incompleteness- knowing that all the little incremental steps do add up to work that is resolved and also has a deeper history. That’s a tougher task.

brick by brick  –  that’s just the way I roll.  If you keep adding enough bricks- pretty soon you've built something substantial!

and Reaching Out….

ImageSo, how is it possible to do both. Stay put and reach out.  (Always gotta love a paradox.)

Well, one way this year that I have stayed put is physically. But perhaps more importantly, I’ve leaned to prioritize my time and energy. At least I’m working on it. In the past, I’ve signed on to several art related activities that seemed like a good idea, only to realize that the time and energy they took away from my own studio work and ideas was not worth it.   (‘been reading Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh after first getting the book about 30 years ago! and she describes this feeling very well)

This year, I have declined or ignored several calls for response.   There are other ways I give back in the communal sense. In fact, my community service for the past four plus years has been as a patient care hospice volunteer.

So, having turned my attention to my own work and questions has meant: absorbing a lot of new information via: Creative Capital, submitting work to juried shows in Denver, signing up for the 2-day studio tour, getting an exhibition slot at a local theater, even submitting again to New American Painting (was in 2 previous editions), trying to meet and network with more arts professionals and most importantly, gaining traction again in the studio.  

One of the things that was repeated in the earlier mentioned workshop, was that if you weren’t getting any “no’s” then you weren’t trying enough things.  Basically, that your chances of success at something are diminished to Zero, if you are not in the mix.

Considering I was in a bit of a funk a few months ago about where to proceed, and even if it made sense to keep making paintings, this is progress.

 It’s a truism that most artists can bounce back with even the most meager of encouragement. You get a show, and suddenly, your work IS good enough…. you sell a drawing and there IS an audience.

And I’ve done this long enough to know that there are slumps, and also periods where it seems like everything is going your way.  Currently, I’m feeling a bit of the latter, but not dwelling on it, since I know how ephemeral these things are.  In fact, working with hospice patients has taught me a great deal about how silly we are in worrying about lots of the things that are rolling around in our heads.  My last patient- still going strong, was 104 years old. She taught me, among other things, that there is no sense is being afraid of anything. Really, she had seen and done a lot, and just felt- what’s the point. We can prepare, but we shouldn’t waste our time being afraid.

staying put

On the shelf next to my drawing wall, my studio bunny keeps an eye on my progress. (and also holds spare change, since she’s a piggy bank). Getting ready for the studio tour, I’m doing more drawings, and trying to keep a steady momentum going.  I used to keep a small Kathe Kollwitz self-portrait sternly gazing out at me, but the bunny seems less accusatory somehow.

Now, that I am home more, there are upsides to be sure. The garden is really taking shape early, and it’s wonderful to sit and enjoy the birds and flowers during the day.  But those pleasures come with a price of distracting me from the painting and drawing.

Recently I told a friend who also has a studio in her home, that I’m still a bit challenged when it comes to arrivals and departures from my basement… ie: I can’t stay put all the time.

There’s a difference between leaving the house at 10am, going downtown to a small room where nothing else can happen vs. being at home, and needing to tell myself that I should be downstairs working, and that nothing should distract me from that process.  In fact the building where I used to work was often very quiet during the day, so I could work with my door open.  I had my supplies, and my pot for heating water for tea, and could occasionally walk a block or two for snacks, or head to the library.

So, how do I replicate that focus in the midst of this largess of distraction?

My friend’s ingenious solution was as follows.   Leave the house through the back door, walk around the house and come in the front door and down the stairs.  There needs to be some ritual that triggers my brain to make the transition. I have a suspicion my best working hours are afternoon, evening- but that also depends on what task I’m tackling. (still figuring out that one)

Just finished this one…

"In the Weeds" 22x30, charcoal pencil on Stonehenge paper ©Nanci Erskine 2012