Last October, a friend showed me a book by an oil painter whose work I didn’t know. My heart flipped when I looked at the gorgeous layers, all effervescent color and pattern. My mind leapt back to glorious days immersed in surface design. Days when that’s all I did because nothing else had happened to me yet. I was bankrupt and a single mother.
The images in the book stuck to my mind like glue. I planned a December studio retreat for my artist self. I didn’t want to copy what I’d seen. I wanted to be inspired. I felt on the brink of a shift in how I thought about my work, and a deep desire to manifest an important “next step” in my artist’s quest.
December came and went. No work time. Life intervened. A holiday trip I’d not foreseen. A work schedule that ramped up instead of down. My younger artist self might have despaired. But not now. Deep breath. Let’s see about January.
January rolled by. After all, there were classes to prepare. February brought students and lessons and plenty of studio time teaching and sharing. A wonderful studio tour for my students. But no work time for me. Grrr.
March? More of the same. Great students and good times. But no studio time for Jane. And as you may have heard, extended periods of no studio time for Jane makes her a crazy person. Maybe not on the outside, but the Jane on the inside is increasingly restless.
My last group of darling students flew off into the wild blue on Saturday, March 11. And Saturday, March 11, I began. Set up the tables. Brought out the bins of vintage quilt blocks. Fusible interfacing. A Bible from 1876. One of my students poked her head into the studio to say a last good-bye. “You’re working already!” Carol exclaimed, and I thought, “Wow. I am.”
Today is March 19. With two pieces completed, I haven’t been this excited in a long, long time. Those months of not working, and only thinking were worth it. I didn’t see it, but deep inside whatever was percolating was picking up steam.
It’s not all new process. Vintage quilt blocks– the base I’ve been using for four years? Still the foundation. Spackling? Still a component. But gold leaf and acrylic glazing rock. Tedious to lay out 250 six inch blocks of gold leaf at a time? I began to analyze how calming it felt. Coaxing the gold leaf into place becomes a meditation. These are the slowest processes I’ve ever used. It feels absolutely right.
I’m sharing the second piece completed to date. As yet un-named. This work will be shown in a pop-up exhibition at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, in June. Also at the Hardesty Art Center in September, and next year in West Palm Beach, Fl. So I’ve got my work cut out for me.
The takeaway? While we’d often rather have it the other way around, commitments that keep us from studio work aren’t necessarily bad. All that rumination time was good for me. The key is refusing to be discouraged or resentful or to believe momentum has been lost. It’s like a runner who bounces from foot to foot at a stoplight and then launches when the light turns green. The important thing is to hold the vision. And when the curtains of time waft apart, jump into that slide of open space and get moving. My intuitive mind already knew what to do. I bet yours would, too.