Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Things I have learned so far

Number one: I suck at keeping a blog, apparently. 6 months without writing? Oh dear lord.

Well, the title of this post isn't because I'm a know it all. In fact, I know less and less, which I'm excited about.
But I just got over some major events this month, and I think like any normal person, I'm spending some time reflecting on what has happened.

So a few things from recently having done a large quantity of paintings in a short(ish) amount of time, having a solo show, having one of the things I fear the most personally happen, and moving studios (again):

1. You don't have to wait for inspiration to be creative.  In fact, it doesn't happen when you have sh*t to do. I can't tell you how often I get people telling me how "oh! It must be SO wonderful to just be creative all day and PAINT, and just absorb and be free! Oh how I wish I could do that! ". Like I'm shopping all day or sitting by the pool on my tanned ass. First off, I haven't felt "free" since I really learned how to paint.
I. Have. A. Job.

 I show up when I don't want to, I do it when I hate my boss (I have multiple bosses: my own painting, myself, a gallery, a deadline, a client, an article, and so on..), I feel guilty about getting on Facebook while I'm at the studio, then loathe myself for half the day, I get sleepy after I eat, I crave alcohol on a bad day. I have days where I want to quit and tell everybody to go screw themselves. I don't have fun every day. And I'm certainly not INSPIRED every day! And in a way, I'm thankful for that. Being truly inspired requires a lot of emotional input, and I'm an insomniac, so I just wouldn't be able to handle it too well. But I do find a way to try to fall in love with what I do every day. In that way, painting, like anything else creative, is a lot like a relationship. Some days it takes a lot more work. I'm grateful most days for it, but some days, well, I just forget to be grateful.

2. Write stuff down. I may think I will remember those 7 digits to hack into my neighbors wifi, but tomorrow I won't. I won't remember some major epiphany I had today about painting skin tones in a month, more than likely. I will resort to my default when I come into the studio and haven't slept well. I will forget everything. I will even forget major life events. I will absolutely forget how I was feeling, what that important night smelled like, the names of people I met, what my deepest fears were. I won't remember who I hurt, what I said, what breakthrough I had. I won't remember that person that said something that stopped me in my tracks. I won't remember to update my blog more often (doh!). I will forget. I will forget all those things I worked so hard for, the things I felt so deeply. Especially when I am really feeling it. Then I will really forget.
I can't tell you (I forgot..) how many times I looked through notes when I was making this big body of work just to keep me on track with my own ideas. If you are in the process of formulating some bigger concepts, this is especially important, I think. I even have a piece of paper on my easel that says "Things that work",  and lists things like premixing big puddles of paint so I don't paint like a watercolorist in oils.

3. Stay an hour more than is comfortable. If you are working in a career you love and want, that is. At the desk writing, at a computer designing, reading, painting, drawing. Stay just one hour more than your natural inclination. I found over this past 6 months that that hour really, really made me grow. It's like the last half mile on the treadmill… you build your endurance right then.

4. It's normal to feel hopeless. As long as that feeling doesn't last for months and months, it's pretty normal I think, especially if  you are in a creative field, to feel overwhelmed, hopeless and just plain exhausted. It's not personal, really. I felt hopeless at least one day a week while I was getting ready for my solo show. "This is so stupid", "this isn't going to sell" "I make meaningless work" "I'll never finish on time" were floating around in my head consistently. I'm not sure if this ever goes away. They may get quieter with time.

5. You attract what you put out. Tried and true, as far as I'm concerned. In business, in relationships, in friends, in work. If you value honesty and try to be honest, you will attract that into your life. If you don't you won't.

6. If you are a painter, always have a tube of black acrylic paint handy. Scratches on frames, last minute signing of paintings that are shipping in 15 minutes, covering up edges of canvases, whatever. I use this ALL THE TIME. And  I only use it during really time sensitive emergencies, I've noticed, so having it around is a must for me.

7. Watch Fail videos when you feel overwhelmed. There is nothing like laughing at other people's stupidity when your day got too serious and too important. Thank you, John McLeod for this wonderful life lesson.

8. It's a good idea to say thank you. Over and over. People don't seem get jaded to this, and I agree.

9. Talk to your peers. Regularly. I don't know what I would have done these past few years without my peers for guidance. You can skip all the bullsh*t when talking to your peers about things that matter. Sometimes it has to be a peer, because the subtleties of creative work can fly over, say, your accountant friend's head. It's nothing to do with the accountant. It's just she probably can't help you out with how to take varnish off of a linen panel or maneuvering through a gallery contract versus a consultant contract. Or how hard it is to conceptualize and paint an emotion.

10. Drink water and go outside. Like a normal damn person! Don't get all vamped out and think drinking coffee alone can make you do good work. It can't.  It can, however, give you ulcers and shaky hands, and possibly hypoglycemia, which are, in effect NOT HELPFUL. I kept wanting to skip meals and paint when I got inspired. But the truth is, the days I did that, I slept poorly, felt crappy, and lost the entire next day. So an entire day lost, or 30 minutes to eat in the park? Most Americans are severely Vitamin D deficient. I am. Sit in the sun. Drink water, Eat. I needed to remind myself to do this way more than I like to admit.

See… don't you feel better? Thankfully, nothing we do is that important, in the end.