I am suffering from the post Christmas blahs and a head cold. These two maladies have conspired to send me into a mild depression. It's one of those times where I wake up at night and start to question why I am an artist instead of a contributing member of society. Not that I haven't given 30 plus years to society and contributed my share already…but us art types don't have a steady paycheck for the most part.
The money part can be downright scary at times, like after Christmas when art types look at the state of the post-holiday coffers. The up side is like it or not, from me, most people get gifts from the studio that I take great pleasure in making for them very specifically. So far, everyone has been polite enough to express pleasure in their giftings and I haven't run into Christmas presents abandoned at Good Will -yet.
I think part of the depressed part is there is such hustle and bustle and looming deadlines before the holidays that afterwards, normal feels flat. Add to that the clean, tidy studio and the open possibilities for me: painting? Valentine's Day? Easter papier mache? Glass? Jewelry? Sometimes the choices are so wide open I feel paralzyed with joyous indecision, like the kid who has his choice of anything in the candy store and bursts into tears because he can't choose, puzzling everyone around him.
Nothing left to do now but get off my duff, stand up, put on shoes, gather up the pack (three dogs, one cat) and head for the studio. I'm sure something will demand my attention when I get there, probably the cat, but I'm hoping for inspiration.
This is where something important comes into play, something that all those who aspire to make art or make anything really, need to memorize and live by.
"Perspiration will get you through times of no inspiration." These words make bookends with, "Process will get you times of no ideas far better than ideas will get you through times of no process". Sounds simple, but its actually pretty profound when you pull the cliche apart.
Even Thoreau got into the mix, with his famous quote,"Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still." I actually have this quote scrawled on a scrap of motheaten paper pinned to the studio wall. Its been in my work spaces for almost 30 years from the day I first saw it and wrote it down. Still true too.
I am developing more patience as time goes on with younger artists who are just jumping into this pond with me. I have been known to hand them the Thoreau quote with a lecture on drawing and painting what you know, what is around you.
I recognize my younger self in them, that girl who went looking for the perfect scene to draw and found mostly frustration. I was lucky enough to have a professor whose name was Ann Lasko. She told me to draw what I knew to make my work true and real. I didn't know buildings and landscapes back then, I knew laundry and children, vegetable gardens and baskets of toys, and my dogs and cats and my housewife world.
To this day when I'm short on inspiration I go back to process. I draw what is in front of me. Shoes, piles of towels, the pots, pans, dishes, puppies, my yard, my world. When my world expanded I grew with it because I had developed my process. Now I love landscapes and buildings in my paintings, but I had to grow into them and learn them.
Guess what beginning artists, there is no magic. There is only doing the thing again and again until your brain and hands understand this is the shape of a wall, a doorknob, a dog's foot, a glass. And your first efforts will most likely be terrible until your hands and head are communicating and understand what you see/experience/draw/learn/shape. Don't give up, learn to know your own bone.
Knowing your own bone is a true thing and I think its time for me to go dig mine up and gnaw on it for a few days…