Friday, September 27, 2013

A moment of soul-baring

So much has changed recently.  For some reason blogging about all of these things - moving, job changes, etc - just doesn't feel right.  What does feel right is that as a result of all of these changes I find myself sitting outside sipping coffee and looking out across a Caribbean landscape.  I find myself with what I've always wanted, more time to devote to my art, and with that comes a weird kind of pressure and an even weirder kind of mental 'push back'.  

 Quickie sketch of how I'm feeling - not how I look, just how I feel!
Faced with the freedom to develop my art career my Left brain starts in on me, telling me what kind of art I should be doing, how many hours I should do it, how I should feel while I'm doing it.  As much progress as I've made in the past years to stop self-identifying with my L-brain voice (or 'chair-voice' as I like to call it, because.. reasons) it's still present and in times of stress or change it's hard to not listen to it. 
'If you're going to call yourself an artist every drawing or painting you do should be beautiful'
'People don't get to do art as a career, there's too much competition out there, you aren't good enough'
'If you are getting to do all of this art you should enjoy it, every minute of every day, if you don't love every minute you're not a real artist'
'You should do art of things people want to buy, but not anything that's already out there because that's just derivative'

'Did I mention that you're not good enough - your art is (insert contradictory critiques here - not spontaneous enough, not planned enough, too subtle, not subtle enough, too unusual, too mainstream)'
You see, chair-voice is insane.  Its arguments are usually contradictory and always stressful.  So why do I even listen?  Well one thing I do know is the most sure-fire way to shut chair-voice up (and all the voices in my head) is to do art... that's part of why I love it.  And yet if chair-voice gets a good grip on my mind it can be hard to shut it out.  It's also good at coming up with self-preserving excuses to not work on art, usually in the form of 'Oh, you should update that thing on your website... it would be really good to make a list of your art inventory... you should look for websites on art pricing and time management and....'

And on it goes. 

This morning I was reading the blog of an artist I greatly admire, Tina Mammoser, and she was talking about 'morning pages'.  You know, first thing in the morning writers should have a notebook on their bedside table and write in it, people should jot down whatever is on their mind or they are inspired to write... something, anything.  For an artist it can be an exercise in just getting some drawing done every day - which is so important, and yet during times of stress or distraction can get skipped.  

After reading her post and thinking 'well, what would I sketch if I were to draw something right now' the first thought that popped into my head was 'a blossom'!  You see the beauty of where I'm living now is that there is beauty everywhere... you can't walk down a street without glimpsing the most gorgeous blossoms, and that's without even looking a the ocean or mountains.  I turned a deaf ear to chair voice, who had many other ideas about what I should do with the rest of my morning, and grabbed my cheapo sketchbook.  I went out in the front yard and said 'hi' to the big Caribbean caterpillar on our tree and plucked a blossom from one of the shrubs.  Without any particular goal or censure I just started sketching... 

I started by just drawing one petal - chair-voice was yelling at me to draw the whole thing and draw it well, and simultaneously reminding me that I don't draw flowers and it will probably turn out ugly.  So to combat the self-doubt that was stalling me I decided to just sketch one petal.  As so often happens I became completely engrossed in my blossom - the shapes and curves of the petals, the construction of the stalk, the play of the colours and sure enough I couldn't stop and had to draw the whole thing from a different angle. An hour of art (and some coffee) later and I feel so much better about everything!

I'm not going to commit to doing morning pages every morning, or schedule a specific time or a certain duration of minutes or hours I'll spend doing this - those all sound like suspiciously chair-voice types of things.  Instead I will just remember how good sketching makes me feel, and on those days when chair-voice is particularly strong I may start by just drawing a doodle, or a part of something.  And when I feel myself failing I'll just visit Tina's blog again!

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