Well, to be honest, Lent 2018 had already started when I decided to lay down my brushes and leave the studio for a few weeks. It felt strange but necessary somehow, this childhood practice of doing without a cherished something for the Lenten season. I hadn’t really given the sacrificing bit much attention in recent years but the one time I thought about giving up my practice, I cringed: how could I ever part with my identity? That would be like an iris blooming in the midst of winter, like the flower in my studio window.
The artificial flower…
The “art fast” provoked some interesting questions about quality, commitment, intention. It was a time to really look at what I had done and question why doing was so important and why it wasn’t enough to simply be. Of course, the ensuing question of identity brought more questions but also some answers I hadn’t expected. At the root of so much of my dis-ease was pride. Artificial living.
I gave up my tenacious hold on my artist identity and found my original face before God. And when Easter came around, there was much rejoicing! I’m almost done with the Easter painting; can’t wait to share it with you.
As a child, I drew all the time – anytime, whenever I could find a blank paper (even in some of my mother’s books). Of course art school demanded more, and I had better materials and more subjects to consider. More drawing came in graduate school but began to drop off in the ensuing years.
In 2006 or so, I took my high school art class outside to draw. Since they were engaged, I decided to draw too and quickly discovered that I had no patience for this once-cherished activity. Stunned, I went home and launched a campaign to get drawing again. Some of my efforts were good, and all of them could have been better. I continued to draw whenever I could, but I soon gave in to the seduction of colors and painting with acrylics.
I began to feel some discomfort with painting recently, something I couldn’t quite name. Then I began to notice how often the subject of drawing came up: in books, in conversation, in art materials I was drawn to, in what I packed for a recent trip. I found a sketch pad small enough to get in my purse and when looking for a blank page, I found instead an earlier drawing with a note.
From me. To me. About a drawing of a trashcan.
“Drawing a trashcan is a humbling experience. Something so gross, so general. Why can’t it be more romantic? Yet the trashcan is what it is – a simple form in need of your awareness and attention at this moment in time.”
Time to revisit the bare bones as Georgia O’Keeffe might have put it.
About a week ago, I made pancakes for the family (yes, it happens sometimes). After I ate, I cleaned up like I remembered my dad doing after he finished baking. As the goodies baked – usually oatmeal cookies for our school lunches – he’d put the dry ingredients away and wash the dishes (no dishwasher in my childhood home), leaving the kitchen clear and ready for the next meal-making adventure.
What’s that got to do with studio practice? Well, it got me to thinking: what if I put things away when I finished using them – I mean more than just putting some plastic wrap on my palette and turning off the lights? What if I spent more time cleaning or clearing a little every time I went to the studio? Wouldn’t it be easier to start new projects and even create more space to dream?
And all those little things I’ve acquired over the years that just take up space – do I really need them? Earlier this summer, I donated a lot of stuff and I have more things I want to clear out of my closet. But I want to get my studio under some kind of control – it’s vital to have a clear space for the next adventure.