Monday, June 19, 2006

Lost & Found

As many bloggers seem to do at one point or another, I've returned from a posting hiatus necessitated by "life events" that consumed my time and energy like wildfire. The school year is over (finally!) and my son & I are basking in the glory of lazy mornings and days without driving here and there on one academic errand or another. Of course, the appointment book is filled to bursting with things postponed until summer so in reality, the next two months should be busy.

I often go "off the grid," especially when it comes to my art life. It isn't that I lose interest; I constantly dream and scheme about new and ongoing projects. It's not that I am unsure of how to proceed on those projects. It is just too easy for the chaos of life, both expected and unexpected, to insert itself between me and my studio. Laundry mountains, health obstacles, money issues, unavoidable chores, random worries, parenting challenges: All are effective and constant intrusions.

Oddly enough, I often journal about "not" journaling and use such an entry to spawn a new, highly-energized cycle of art-making. But somewhere along the line, I inevitably get derailed and it can be very difficult to rediscover that enthusiasm that carries me from one project to the next. It is sort of like trying to get a bicycle or old car up a steep hill: A running start is essential to conquering the peak but trying to establish that momentum halfway up is next to useless. This sporadic art life of mine has also been the subject of countless New Year's resolutions: "This year I will draw/paint/write every day." "This year I will submit for publication." "This year I will follow through on all those broken resolutions from previous years." I will launch into an art-making frenzy in the beginning but, depending on the distraction, will gradually or suddenly, put my art life into hiding so more pressing matters can take center stage. Days, months, and even years of art-making time have been lost like ghosts on the wind.

However, as this journal entry quips, it is never too late to be found. I inevitably take a run at the hill again, make it up and over, and race forward toward my vision of how a "real" artist lives: Balancing the necessary nonsense of everyday living with the deep need to create and sustain my soul on a steady diet of play, exploration, and discovery. And I try not to kick myself too hard if my artistic roadster stalls at the bottom yet again. I try to remind myself, that instead of sitting there and tossing the keys out the window in resignation, I can always get out and start walking. Step by step I can move closer to my goals; Day by day, I can see more possibilities realized. Inch by inch, I can look around me and find that I really have made more progress than I give myself credit for. Moment by moment, I discover that the artistic life I desire so much is already within reach if I just allow myself to live it without guilt, unreasonable expectations, and self-doubt.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

The Play's the Thing...

How often do you play at art? I mean really play? True art play isn't making art for swaps, sales, or shows. It isn't developing techniques to fuel teaching schedules or book deals. It isn't opening up the latest bestselling volume from the hottest or latest artist on Somerset Studio's editorial board. When I use the term "art play," I mean the kind of art-making that leaves you breathless. Think freeze tag, hopscotch, jump rope: Time in the studio to imagine, experiment, improvise, and leap far beyond your box without a single thought of deadlines, guidelines or headlines. This is play that reaches back and reawakens the wild abandon of the child.

As with many childhood games, art play is often more fun with a playmate, a kindred soul whose energy and enthusiasm fuels your own. This past Friday, a dear friend and I met for an "Art Play Day." We played in paint and inks until our bodies were covered in a rainbow of tiny flecks and splatters. We let serendipity take the lead. We discussed not a single teacher, trend, or technique. We used the most basic of materials, let our hair down, donned aprons, and let things fly. In the process, we discovered that our very souls took flight. We were free from the self-imposed pressure to create something pretty or useful or important. We cheered, we gasped, we shared, we simply played until we sank into our chairs, exhausted and utterly, completely in bliss. It was a good day. It refueled our passion for art that serves only ourselves, art that says nothing and yet speaks volumes about letting go and rising up.

Note: The above serendipity paper was created with sprayed dye inks (metallics & brights), mini bubble wrap, string-wrapped brayers, and an everyday drinking straw.
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