I know what the solution is.
The ritual that gets me into the work. It is surreptitious and sneaky, tricking me into liking it. Tricking me into coming up with ideas when I think there are none. Weighed down by the procrastination. If I just start doodling, then I am done. Time passes, I look up, rub my eyes and realize that the work is finished. All of the things that weighed me, the blank page, the insecurities, the crap, disappeared. And I feel great, and powerful, and light.
god i love to draw.
little moments (good things this week)…
…riding double on my bike, (one person steering the other pedalling), laughing loudly, feeling out of control but kind of liking it.
…tea time in the woods, chai with ginger cookies.
…lying on my back watching the tops of the trees, and a white feather floating for an hour.
…taking time to write in my journal again.
…wearing mitts for the first time this season (i got new stripey ones).
…clearing more clutter.
…missing my sister Jen (sometimes missing a person is good for the heart).
…collecting leaves to scan.
…fun jobs with cool companies.
This morning I pick up my weathered and stained copy of “The Wisdom of the Heart” by Henry Miller. Leave it to Henry to pick up on exactly the theme that has been circling around my brain for the last few hours. Reading his words gets me giddy and excited, all my worries about creating start to evaporate like the fog that hovered over the garden yesterday morning. I am reminded of having a class with Ross Mendes, wanting to run bursting from the classroom, excited to explore the world and learn everything I can about it.
It is nearly impossible for me to not quote the entire essay here. But I will refrain, and let those who are piqued it have their own little adventure in finding it for themselves.
“On the surface, where the historical battles rage, where everything is interpreted in terms of money and power, there may be crowding, but life only begins when one drops below the surface, when one gives up the struggle, sinks and disappears from sight. Now I can as easily not write as write: there is no longer any compulsion, no longer any therapeutic aspect to it. Whatever I do is done out of sheer joy: I drop fruits like a ripe tree. What the general reader or the critic makes of it is not my concern. I am not establishing values: I defecate and nourish. There is nothing more to it. -fr. Reflections on Writing”
And so the topic that is circling around my brain is the tendency of the artist to want to (or feel compelled to) either a) stick to what worked for others, or b) the tendency for sucessful artists to stick to the thing that gave them the success in the first place. Be it a style, or concept, or a format. One cannot put the artist entirely at blame for this, it is quite natural for the world to want you to do more of what they know you for. And also natural to keep doing what works. Especially in the field of illustration, we work hard to develop a “style” that sells and once we get it, it becomes a marker of sorts.
But with this comes a tendency to stagnate creatively. It can contribute to a lack of growth, and a fear of trying something different. If people like me for “this”, how will they react when I show them “that”. What if I lose everything that I have worked so hard to create? Is that fear real?
In my conversation with J, this morning on this subject we determined that it is the artist’s responsibility to always be trying new things and moving in new and unexpected directions. If we look at all of the great artists of the world, most of them constantly pushed themselves to new places, even when it was a great risk to do so. I silently wondered if there has been a psychological shift of late, since we now refer to art as a “career”, thus the connection to ‘making an income’. Wouldn’t want to impact my career negatively, but my personal work, that’s a different category. There’s no risk in trying something new when it does not impact my income.
Henry Miller himself admited to spending much time copying the great writers in the beginning of his writing career, studying them and attempting to emulate their style. He realized he was failing miserably at it and it was at that point that he felt he really began to write. Copying what works for others (or even ourselves) feels safe, looking into our own personalites and seeing what lurks there, then presenting it to the world can be terrifying.
When I give talks I enjoy showing examples of artists who are/were consistantly going out on a limb and experimenting with new ideas, many of whom bring all of their unique personality traits to the forefront. (Maira Kalman, Tim Burton, James Joyce, Frieda Kahlo, Charles Eames, Picasso, to name but a few). Things that are often perceived as quirky and strange to the general public, yet these are the things that make for a unique voice. We all have them, are we willing to present them to others? A conclusion that we might come to at some point is that we are not a good judge of what others will respond to. And so it is futile to even try. Our only job is to put things out there that we ourselves are responding to (to “defecate and nourish”). It is the judgement that stops us. But to what effect?
Henry quotes the surrealist artist Rene Crevel,
“No daring is fatal.”
I don’t like leaners.
I am wishing for a moment to just sit and draw something for no reason other than to make lines on the page. But it seems I am completely booked up with work. Which is good I spose as it makes up for a very slow summer workwise. Such is the nature of my career, when it rains it pours. I always take the slow times as a sign from the universe to work on my own projects, time for me to do those things that have been sitting on the backburner for weeks. I sent out a manuscript today, something I did many months ago. That always feels really good. Even if nothing comes of it I just like the feeling of sending stuff out into the world. I love dropping a package into the mail. You put energy into a piece of work for many weeks, it is all you think about, and then, you let it go.
The last few weeks have been another time of transition. Contemplating what it means to be married, adapting to a new life, developing routine again (after having none for many months). We are starting to ease into a routine together, if you can call it that. I will say that it does feel different, there is a underlying consciousness that was not there before. An awareness that we are walking through this life as true partners, sharing at a deeper level. Something like that, though it is very difficult to put into words. I had a friend try to explain it to me many years ago, and I could not really grasp what he was saying until now.
He said something like, “You go out into the world with the knowledge that this person will be with you no matter what. And instead of being weighed down by that knowledge, you feel freed by it. Released.”
Able to breathe in the knowing.
some random jottings…
I am sitting here with a cup of orange spice tea, needing to start work. So hard today, to get into the work. I want to go out and soak up the last tiny bits of a summer that never really showed up. The sun is begging me to go and visit with the trees, to climb up a hill and get a greater view of things.
I have begun knitting a new scarf with soft orange wool on large handmade wooden needles. A gift for my husband. The needles make a lovely clicking noise as I work. How infatuated with yarn I am these days. I would like to fill my house with buckets of brightely coloured spools of the stuff.
My house has decided to rebel against me in a variety of different ways including, plumbing, washer, sewer, etc. I feel like a survivalist, ready to fight a battle against nature at any given moment, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. No toilet? Fine, I will shit in the woods. Can’t drain the sink? No problem, I will wash the dishes in a bucket. As I am so often fond of saying, ‘contrast is the spice of life’. One does appreciate a working toilet so much more, when one has been deprived of such things for even a few hours.
On Monday I saw the Nathan Jurevicius show at the delightful Magic Pony. I now want to obsessively create many little action figures with tiny houses, oh my. A sucker for the smell of new plastic I am, memories of X-mas’s past abound.
For all you designers and illustrators in the Toronto area…I know this is short notice, but I’ll send it out here anyway…
I am doing a lecture tomorrow (Sept 13th) for the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario. Non-members are welcome, located at the Arts and Letters Club, in Toronto. My talk starts at 2pm. The topic at hand…Living Out Loud: Using your personality to attract the work you really want.
Later that day I am off to see this. (illustration done by the fabulous Brian Rea.)
Secret number two is out. There is so much that I want to write about it, but also things that I want to keep for myself. I come back from my magical adventure and am thrown back into a world of doing and deadlines. In time I will process it all, and then maybe more words will flow. But for now I want to send out some thank-yous.
thank you to Sonya and Bob who inspired us with their incredible bakery (One Fifty Ate, in South Portland) and unlimited generosity. They have the best bagels and cherry danishes I’ve ever tasted! Here’s to a new friendship.
thank you to Mike Schwartz, the photographer, best man, maid of honor, ring bearer, and whatever else was needed in the moment. I am so very grateful to have shared the experience with you.
thank you to Grey Havens Inn for providing the perfect place for our day.
thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Pitcher (and Andrea and Matt) for providing surprise goodies.