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.