Recent studies of teenagers’ use of cellphones and other electronic devices have revealed some interesting results. Apparently, if you deprive kids of social networking for a week or so, a high percentage become significantly depressed. They also lose efficiency, will, enthusiasm and sleep. Their marks go down and their lassitude goes up.
For many artists, something similar happens when “the work quotient” is taken from their lives. A couple of unproductive days can send some creative folks into the dumps. They may not even be aware of what’s happening to them. “Fear of restart” and permanent creative catatonia can set in after long-term abstinence.
Fact is, good easel time is a noble dependency that makes you a happier, more generous person — better able to enjoy an enriched family and social life. Here are a few ways to promote these glad tidings:
Self control. While spontaneity is vital in the studio, monitoring easel time and work zones is also valuable. Work periods can be restarted with a gong or the change of a radio program. The “four o’clock reboot,” where you begin something new in the late afternoon (normally a slower time of day), accumulates bonus points, tops up the psyche and makes you more brilliant than Voltaire at the dinner party.
Serendipitous bumping. When you put in significant time in the work area, work automatically emerges. Creative tools, studio clutter and half-finished works conspire to attract your attention. Ideas breed and things need to be done. Rather than making a decision to get on with something, merely bump into opportunities.
Creative exhibitionism. Just as the boy and girl get their thrills texting across a classroom, connecting your work with others is good for art and life. I’m not talking about dealer action or green feedback. The work itself, in progress or completed, in exchange or not, can be sent by jpeg to global friends in nanoseconds. A critique or approval may be forthcoming, but more often than not it’s just the simple human joy of sharing. “Electronic interdependence,” famously said Marshall McLuhan, “recreates the world in the image of a global village.” While we may operate as independent workers, we are not islands unto ourselves. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood is alive and well and living in cyberspace.
PS: “It’s a great time to be alive.” (George Lucas)
Esoterica: Another way of thinking of art dependency is in co-dependency. Your work needs you as much as you need it. Your work begs your expression. You need to materialize it on a daily basis, from your enriched life — the better side of your nature. Without your personal focus and action, your magic cannot and never will exist. Think of all the great work you have left to do. Think of how necessary it is for people to see good work. “Work,” said Kahlil Gibran, “is love made visible.”
Leave something undone for tomorrow
by Dean Drewyer, Leesburg, VA, USA
I knew a wonderful painter who always left some passage in current work for the next day, a passage he was eager to get to — something he would think about in positive terms until he was back to work. This seems to work most often. Degas is supposed to have said, “The problem is not how to paint, it is what to paint.” Implicit in this quote is the “Why to paint?” that is the heart of “What to paint.”
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Two reasons to create art
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA
You’ve got my number. Like the flowers need the rain, I need to paint. And it’s gone beyond need; it has become a full-blown addiction. When I get down or out-of-sorts, people who know me well ask, “Brenda, when was the last time you painted?” This has been going on for some time. And, for the past two years, via two blogs and a newsletter, I’ve become hooked on sharing my new works. After all, are there not only two reasons we create art, 1) for ourselves; 2) for others?
by Leonard Skerker, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
I use a kitchen timer (only a dollar at the — you guessed it — dollar store) and set it for half or 3/4 hour. It helps to change direction even after that short a time — maybe stand up and walk around, clean a few brushes, change the music. It also serves the purpose of relieving back and shoulder strain after too long in one position.
A frightening dream
by Bill Skuce, Sooke, BC, Canada
Part way through a month-long painting workshop at the Instituto de Allende, I had a remarkably vivid dream. In it I was rescued from the brink of annihilation and placed in a large painting studio where I was informed I had to paint to live. I then awoke. There have been a few periods over the years when I have been delinquent to that dream’s dictum. But painting as “a noble dependency” seems to echo the words of my dream and has proven itself true in my life; moreso lately, and in ways I would not have expected, now that I am a good deal closer to the threshold of my journey’s end.
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Almost ready to give it all up
by Karen Martin Sampson, Sayward, BC, Canada
I broke my ankle in August and was laid up for a couple of months and could not get out to my studio (it is quite a distance to get to when on crutches and the weather is wet). Now that I can finally hobble out here I am finding I have “artist’s block” and just can’t seem to get rolling again. I had a nice monetary prize and acceptance in three shows of importance to me recently for work done well before my accident. It would be a great momentum to build on but I am not able to do anything worthwhile right now and I am becoming quite depressed by it. I have been here before so I know it should pass but while going through it I have this tendency to feel that everything I ever did or will do is worthless and why bother, yada, yada, yada (goes my brain). I am making myself come out here and put paint on canvas, do some sketches for some painting ideas and am hoping the sense of enthusiasm comes back — soon! Right now I almost feel I could give it all up and take up cooking… or something.
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Late afternoon reboot?
by Carol Dayton, Marana, AZ, USA
The late afternoon “reboot” must only apply to those living alone, or who are men. Late afternoon requires for many of us, not living alone and who are female, the following tasks: feed the dog, clear the table and dish drainer, start the dinner, etc, etc, etc. Who among us has the luxury of an artistic reboot? Only those who have someone else, presumably not an artist or a worker themselves, preparing the evening meal, or who don’t eat. Artistic endeavors must be wedged into those “free” hours when no-one needs tending, housework done, birds fed, etc, etc And then there’s paid work… Even retired, with kids blessedly finally flown, my day is not entirely my own.
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Production slows as meaning becomes crucial
by Scott Kahn, NY, USA
The ‘in between’ times for artists, I’m sure, are different for every individual. At the moment… actually, for the last two months!… I have been ‘in between paintings.’ Quite frankly, it’s a form of torture. Two months is an unusually long period of abstinence for me. I’m used to these times, knowing that eventually the muse will strike and that I’ll get back to work. For me, it’s crucial to have a strong impulse to paint, a strong motivation. If that is not there from the very start, how can I expect the viewer to be compelled to look at my work? I don’t think it’s wise to manufacture a painting, just for the sake of working. One can look in every nook and cranny and devise all kinds of strategies to get to work. But if the impulse isn’t truly there, the painting will lack power. I’m a mature artist. I have a studio full of inventory. I’m in no rush to paint to increase my production. I have plenty of paintings which are saleable. At this point in my life, it’s more important to paint compelling, meaningful pictures than to paint just to work or fill my time or drug myself. I don’t want to leave any more duds behind. I’ve already painted enough duds. I want to give each and every painting everything I’ve got.
I don’t want to let it go until I’m completely satisfied… that I’ve carried it as far as I can. This is actually a luxury at this point in my life… to have this kind of freedom… to take my time. Increased production is a concern of youth. One learns to slow down as one gets older. Yes, we are dependent on our work, as a drug addict is dependent on his drugs. But it’s crucial to have a reason to paint, to be inspired and motivated, to be moved, before one puts brush to canvas.
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A mandate for integrity
by Judith D. Dupree, Pine Valley, CA, USA
I am primarily a poet (although my roots go back to significant art-expression). I have been on the receiving end of your letter for some years, and perceive it as a sort of “coded” message. It tweaks into language I understand and ingest as a writer. It has been a mainstay. The arts are all interconnected, so inseparable — and that is celebratory, isn’t it?!
Your word today is a waker-upper to anyone bound to creativity. The call is dependent upon the answer, yes. If the river is bled off in too many directions, the flow turns to dribble. I have often allowed that. Thanks for the call back to noble dependency. A mandate for the integrity of whatever treasure lies beneath the turbulence? Is it too “poetic” to name it “the hidden springs”? Probably, but it feels so. May we learn to live within this thirst!
Come to work every day
by Kittie Beletic, Dallas, TX, USA
Spontaneity is such a gift! It acts with inspiration and so many fun ideas and results come from it. I can usually stimulate it through my trusted muses and of course, the best is when it happens on its own.
However, the greatest gift I have given myself is the vow to come to my work every day! That might sound banal or trite but it works like a miracle. Some of my best work has come from showing up and surrendering to what is before me. There is a range of results that can occur, from experimentation to seeing my art piece with new eyes, from cleaning out old supplies and creating order in my work space to getting everything out so I can see what new technique I can invent! The habit of work is like breathing; it is the life force that brings me through, even when I am feeling blue.
We are faithful to each other, my art and I. This habit has birthed whole series of paintings and writing and musical scores. The residual effect is solid satisfaction and the underscoring of my artist self. I am able to fully understand what it means to create. Best of all, it affects every part of my life, enhancing it, deepening it. I am grateful to be a part of this noble dependency. We serve each other well.
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acrylic painting, 14 x 15 inches
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