What does an artist do when life’s ups and downs and convolution take place and are unavoidable interruptions to one’s creative flow and productivity? A wedge is stuck in the works and nothing the artist can do will make it go away without being negligent to the care of another or of oneself or whatever it is that must get done during the time one would be painting, drawing, sculpting photographing, et al. This is what has happened in my life recently. My spouse had major surgery and I had to run back and forth to the distant hospital for visits and there were and are the doctor visits too, and then the aftercare, including specialty food shopping and getting medical supplies and pharmaceutical supplies and I have been cooking (something I have avoided for years, even though I used to enjoy it and attended a course at the Culinary Institute at one point). All of this takes time and energy away from concentrating on creation and execution of the painting I have been dedicated to finishing.
What could I do? I had been my mother’s primary caregiver, as my siblings wanted no part of it and threw wrenches in the works (seemingly on purpose), and my output was reduced.
It has been happening again; not the interference by jealous, vulturous family members, but by the emergency surgery and aftermath. Now my spouse is up and walking around and even drove to do errands, after just getting home on Monday late afternoon. Wow! Amazing progress. But I must do errands more distant and I must replace appliances that broke down with age and built in obsolescence. I don’t talk about my health, and won’t but I need to rest a lot and take naps. My body wants to shuts down around 3 PM. I won’t say more about it here in a public forum.
My point is the frustration an artist, like me feels, being shackled with other responsibilities when the urge to paint, to create and to promote and copyright one’s work results in despair.
The way I handle it is to accept that I have no choice,because of the sensitive caring person I am and have to be, or my conscience will eat me alive. I will always do the “right thing” and yet being an artist is somewhat narcissistic. It requires passionate resolve not to give up. Art is my life now. Therefore, I must take a diversion and adapt to change, find another means of artistic expression or alter my timeline.
I have never been a highly organized, pro-scheduling, neat freak type person. A type that I’d refer to as “anal-retentive”. My mother wasn’t either. We always had too much clutter, lots of papers and lists of things to do and ideas, quotes, things said, and more on scraps of paper and pads all over the place.I do have the self-discipline to keep a journal, which I have done religiously every day since I stopped teaching in 2009.Hopefully, someday when I am a famous artist and writer, the journals will be unearthed and published. (I can dream.) The iPhone helps to take notes now, and iCal aids in keeping appointments and checking on one’s schedule. But what was I, sometimes scatterbrained, creative going to do? Well, it wasn’t possible to stop the craving to paint, so, I grabbed one of the mini canvases stacked up and got started. I have returned to my mini paintings at the kitchen table, and contemplating pen and ink doodle drawings,while on care duty. These are small items, and the gallery VP where my work is shown has advised me to go big, much bigger. I can only do what is possible now. (I see the virtues of drawing and pen and ink. They can be spontaneous, require little space, less mess and are easily transportable and costs less to mat and frame). I am working on the 30×40″ canvas of an abstract I am passionately engaged with, but I have to do it in one to two hour maximum spurts, with interruptions inevitable.It takes longer to finish the painting, and yet at least it isn’t on long-term hold.
I understand now why my artist mother expressed frustration, when she had to drive her children to various lessons and to visit friends, and cook and clean for the family. It was even harder when she returned to school to finish her college degree (in Art Education) and taught p/t and later worked for our father in his advertising firm. Fortunately, her mother (our beloved grandmother) was living with us at the time, which made it easier to leave us. She would find time, taking a class with this artist or that one on a day designated for it, she had to be disciplined to do so. And, unlike me, she drew all the time — people. In the doctors’ offices, patients waiting were prime models, meetings, classrooms, everywhere there were live models and inanimate ones.Nothing stopped her. I wish I had that same dedication to drawing. Instead I draw abstracts, and I have been practicing drawing people again in a studio session with a live model once a week (which I don’t think is often enough). It is frustrating to me that I have a condition that depletes my energy and causes pain, and that I have unanticipated time and energy zapping obligations.
Unfettered time is necessary, for the comfort of freedom to hear the faint call of the muse.
In my experience, one must not put aside one’s own passionate self-expression for too long, or it will be forgotten on the shelf. That is the case with my first drafts of novels, quite good ones. I put then and a second poetry book project, aside during periods of work and schooling and as caregiver. I became the mother. The patient in my life, the loves of my life, while living are all too important and a priority. I am telling you as someone who made that choice, and am doing it again– beware of your own needs. If you go down, how effective can you be with them? Do not neglect your creative output, it is healing. It helps — just as therapy would to lift you up and give you hope. What you are feeling will be expressed in your work,and may be the best work you will ever do! Angst, suffering, frustration, anger, love, connecting with spirit, all of it prompts great artistic creations. Go for it!