Sunday, October 11, 2009

Relearning the Patience of Art

I sat down the other day to work on a painting. I’ve been playing with flying creatures and insects a lot in the few chances I’ve had to paint over the last year or two and I decided to do some paintings for Aed’s room of various colored insects. This particular one was going to be of ants. I hunkered down and got started and found I really liked the direction things were heading.

All too quickly though, things went sour. I got impatient and wanted to keep progressing, even though I knew in my gut that if I picked up my brush to make that next move I was digging myself into a pit of disrepair. I wanted to feel the smooth satisfaction of a full paint brush surrendering it’s color to the paper one more time.. and I pushed it too far.

And now I hate it. And I’m disappointed. And I don’t want to keep working on it.

I remember in my first semester of college learning the lesson that art takes time. One of my first classes, a project that was due right around Thanksgiving. At least half the class was not finished with their projects on the day they were due. I was amongst them which was exceedingly uncharacteristic of me and I was genuinely heartbroken at my poor time management. I just hadn’t expected it to take me so long! Our professor was really disappointed in us and frustrated that so few of us had given the project the time it needed.

I remember a little later in college over the course of a semester, acquiring the ability to be patient with my projects. Not just recognizing that I need to give them time, but willingly and happily giving them that time, and loving being able to have that focus. I think this is where things came together for me to be a successful artist. Perhaps the time when I ‘came into my own’ and really began to know in a deeper part of me that I was an artist. That it was as much a part of my make-up as the fact that I am female, or that I have ten toes. I lived in my world of visual stimulation and I knew myself and was comfortable with myself.

Then I graduated. I moved to a different country. I faced challenges that I never anticipated. And I painted. And I thought. I thought a lot. And then I got a day job to go along with my work from home and suddenly my world was computers and clicking and typing and staring into backlit screens for hours and hours and hours every day. It was utterly numbing. It sucked me dry of desire for creativity, of the ability to see and appreciate the world around me in the way I had spent the last four and a half years cultivating. It brought about a lot of tears from the numbness as a yearned to know who I was again. I am organic, I am not electronic. I could not thrive in being who I am when my hands were constantly clicking instead of grasping and working, my eyes burning instead of soaking things in.

And I lost that patience. I lost that confidence in knowing who I was as an artist, as a person. I didn’t want to do things that took time or thought or effort. I wanted to be able to click ‘undo’ when I made a mistake. The world that paid the bills was overpowering and suffocating the world in which I found life and breath and depth.

So now I am learning again. I am learning once again things that I knew and lost in the course of life. It is frustrating and humbling to have to relearn, to feel inadequate as an artist, to feel like the people around me don’t really know who I am. To have to take the time to understand myself in a way that used to come so naturally.

I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to make the time to really engage this world as an artist again, but here I am, back to the basics. I am hopeful. And I am grateful.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Very insightful reflections.

  2. SO good to read this today. My songwriting takes time as well... rushing through a song means having a crappy song.
    rinse & repeat