Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'M BACK - Apologies for my abrupt absence

First I'd like to start with an apology to anyone who has been following my blog and suddenly found that February rolled around and... nothing.

I didn't die. I didn't get hit by a truck. Nor did I get abducted by aliens.

I got a new job.

It is interesting that I had a post started regarding finding balance between my two worlds - art and veterinary medicine. It was on the back burner because I couldn't figure out how exactly I wanted to present it - but writing the drafts was helping me to see that some of the best times in my life were when I was striking a balance between art and science. But how the heck to do that? Well - about this time things were getting pretty tight financially and out of the blue I got a job offer.

As many of you reading this know (especially if you are in the US right now) a job offer is nothing to sniff at. I looked at my fledgling art studio and realized that changing careers and trying to make a business profitable in it's first 6 months of existence was a bit ridiculous. So I took the job, and it's a good one.

Remember my earlier post about Discipline? I have to say I haven't so much used it as a guiding beacon so much as an occasional tool for self-flagellation. And when you move from 24/7 art-time to having a 40 hr/week commitment you really need that Discipline if you want to try to achieve both.

I had lofty ideas - I'll juggle dual careers, yes - I'll set studio hours around my work schedule and grow my business. I think deep down I still harbour a bit of that non-artist prejudice that says it's 'just drawing, how long can it take?' (ah, there's a topic for a future post). Well, it takes time.. and when I tally how many hours I actually spend at the easel on a particular painting that is one thing. But what I've realized in the past two months is how many hours I spend thinking about my paintings - observing light, form and color in my environment, planning composition, practicing different techniques, and then the technical side of matting, framing, shipping. I ran out of fingers.

So when I left for job training the beginning of February I took some scratchboards with me - one that I was somewhat eager to finish, as it is a gift, and I'd hoped to post it here on the blog after it was given. Well training was hectic and exhausting - traveling is tiring too, so no surprise I didn't get any scratching done that week. Okay. But then why is it that now, two months later, that same unfinished scratchboard is still sitting here staring at me?

And this is where the doubt creeps in - over the past two months I have not done more than an idle doodle. I can tell from my doodles that I'm out of right-brain mode and I know from past experience that it takes some time and practice for me to get back 'up to speed'. So now I'm feeling the slightest worry about starting to do art again - can I do it? Is everything I draw going to look like crap? I know it's the left brain talking, because that's what the left brain does. The worst thing about the left brain is that it likes to predict... the right brain just does it's thing, it doesn't try to put things in time sequence or imagine the possible outcome. The left brain, however, loves to look at past experience and current situations and predict that I'm going to suck if I try to go back to my art. I don't know why I listen to it... I know my right brain can do it, if I just give it a chance, but the right brain is sitting there silently and patiently waiting for me while the left brain chatters in my ear.

So self-doubt keeps me away from doing art. But it's also easy to get involved in day to day activities and forget about the bigger picture. Thus enter the fear of complacency. Even though I'm more L-mode than I was a few months ago it is nowhere near where I was a year ago. But this is the first step along that pathway - I didn't get to where I was a year ago overnight, it took years of neglecting my art to do it. But it was such a miserable state that one would think I'd do anything to avoid it. As humans we're not good at avoiding insidious misery are we? We know we're eating too much, in a bad relationship, not going anywhere with school/job - and we so often just let inertia guide us rather than taking charge. It's nice to blog about the virtues of discipline - it's a whole other deal to change ingrained habits and, frankly, to put in the effort.

It's so easy to forget about what will happen long term - already I'm falling into a complacent contentment with this new job. Taking each day as it comes, hopping weekend to weekend. I'm sleeping okay - which is the big hallmark.

But something is missing.

First there is a joy to creating - to looking at a finished piece of art and thinking 'I did that', of working through the technical and creative challenges to get to that point. But there is also something that I didn't really anticipate losing, the artist's eye - that perspective of viewing the world that spills over into the rest of your life, sharpening your senses. Sometimes it was overwhelming - especially at first - I would see so much that was beautiful, interesting and unique and make plans for future artwork, more than I could ever possibly complete. But after a time I learned to just observe and enjoy - I started keeping a journal of ideas so that I wouldn't lose them, but once I freed myself from the notion that I had to bring each idea to fruition I as able to relax and appreciate the beauty around me. As I slip further away from my right brain my senses aren't so acute... I walk around, as I did last year, in a bit of a fog. I have lost some of the mindfulness that the art brought me.

And I want it back.

So this is my official first post in my new lifestyle. To achieve what I want to I think I have to add a new guiding word - in addition to Discipline I must also strive for Balance. And I have to try to actually use these words and not fall prey to inertia.

Part of that balance is resurrecting this blog. I won't be able to post as often as I did in the past, but I will strive to at least post consistently -even if I start with once a month.

Thank you to anyone who has hung on, and welcome to anyone who is discovering this little blog for the first time. By next month I will have some art to post, that's a promise to you and me!


JafaBrit's Art said...

congratulations on the job :) My thoughts are that it will take a few months for things to settle. To find a rhythm and can start working on that balance between work and creativity. Nice to see you back :)

ps. A dear friend of mine is starting a business (not art related) and she is feeling similar to you.

Amanda Jenkins-Adams said...

Hi Dr. Boutilier,

Congratulations on your new job!

Do you have an email address that I could get in touch with you at?

Thanks! :)

kaslkaos said...

Congratulations on the job. Money is always good. Remember, there is a time, and a season for everything, job now, art later, lots of job now, & a little art, however you slice it, take it as it comes. Have a very small notepad (5x7 or less) & keep it in your purse, doodle, just doodle, every day. Some of it will be sure shine.

Cat-in-a-Box said...

Thanks for your comments and support guys! Amanda - my email is

I am starting slow (5x7") and my current fervor is for scratch art so I'm just going with the flow with no restrictions on subject or medium. Once I'm 'in the swing' again then I can work on directing myself more.

~ Pam