01 March 2006

Working in Chaos

Finally, February is over. I've never liked the month and this year it ended with a number of messes. Not only was it cold and rainy and I was sort of sick, but hubby had more truck and D-O-G troubles, my car insurance company changed my policy, and we now have squirrels digging tunnels under the retaining wall. None of these are major problems, but when grouped together they do sometimes seem overwhleming to me. Yes, I know life is messy, but I usually assume that everyone else's is much nicer.

It's the underlying assumption, namely that an artist must have no external problems to freely create, which can paralyze an artist. If I were to wait until everything was calm and well-ordered with the bills all paid and everything 'happy' before I did my art, I would get nothing done. There's always something to worry about or distract me. At one point, I did only work when I felt like it, which meant I really didn't get a lot done, but now, I try to work no matter what else is going on. (I may bitch about all the non-art stuff to do, but I still do the art.) A number of artists I know are caught in this "I only work when I'm inspired" thinking and they always wonder how I get so much done. Maybe because I work when I'm less than inspired?

What really changed the situation for me was money. I know, artists are suppose to passionately create with no concern for money, but hey, I'm addicted to 3 meals a day and a roof over my head! A couple of years ago, my husband's truck blew the engine. It cost us about $25,000, which we had to put on credit cards. While we were struggling to avoid bankrupcy, it dawned on me that I couldn't be selfish and only work when I felt like it. We just couldn't afford that attitude, so I started to try to work everyday, no matter what. After some time, I could see the amount of work I was getting done and the small, but significant amount of money I was bringing in was really helping. From that time on, I have tried to work some each day. Presently, I've set up a goal of 3 hours per day of actually doing art and for most days, I easily reach my goal.

Now, this doesn't mean I don't take a day or more off, here and there. Like the other day, when I thought I was getting sick, I figured I would lose less time overall by resting for one day than getting really sick and losing a week. And on days when I just don't feel like working on a portrait, I set them asside and work on a still life or sculpture or even a woodblock print. (This is one huge advantage of doing multiple media!)

Anyway, despite being less than 100% yesterday, I did manage to finish off a portrait. For some reason, I don't get many commissions for people in pastel -- lots of pets, but not people -- so when I do have one, they make me nervous. But I really think this one came out quite well!

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