It’s live! My show is up in Boston. Check it out the above piece and others any time this month: Fiore’s Bakery, 55 South Street, Jamaica Plain.
Balancing career and expressing creativity.
It’s been a thoughtful winter.
I’m making new work and have a solo show in Boston for the month of May. Most of the new work (including the above) are small collaged pieces on paper. See my portfolio for a few more.
This week, I realized the time is now. The time is now to stop being anti-racist and start acting anti-racist. The time is now to care for our neighbors. The time is now to put the love you have, in whatever form and however imperfect, out into the world.
I’ve been struggling with the-gap-between-creativity-and-making-art since I graduated from Hampshire College six years ago. My job as a student and artist back then was to create, so I did. However, procrastination and perfectionism have since become major barriers to getting work done, or even starting it.
My friend Sarah recently mentioned the Ira Glass quote about producing work, finding momentum, and eventually overcoming the doubt, even if the work is terrible for a while. Evelyn From The Internets has a great reflection on this:
Here’s the quote:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” –Ira Glass
The effort I put into the space between my desire to create and actually putting the brush to the canvas (or any variety of creative endeavors) is not serving me. My career is in higher education, not art, so I’ve been putting off this art thing that I love and am not terribly confident in anymore. The urge to create doesn’t disappear, though; it gets buried further and further down where it’s more difficult to find. And this week, given the circumstances, these excuses that were so good before don’t hold up anymore.
So what’s your thing and what are you doing about it? I would love for us to keep each other accountable. The time is now.
In the movie Almost Famous, Penny Lane has a great line about finding solace in art: “if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Whether it’s music, visual art, movies, or books, art experiences have the potential to connect with us on a visceral level. It can transport us. It can help us practice compassion for ourselves and others. This is true of seeing art for the first time, but I find it to be much stronger when I see art I know well.
So what is this ‘familiar art’? For me, it’s a museum that I know so well that it feels like a friend’s living room. It’s an artist’s work that creates a special – and at the same time ordinary – space whether I’m seeing it in Boston or Paris or on a library floor in an art book. It’s taking the shortest route through a gallery, ignoring a bunch of other wonderful paintings, to see that one piece I always visit.
Dropping into the familiar can be a meditative experience. There are constants and differences with each new interaction. Sometimes the art is the same and I bring a new perspective; other times a new exhibition is unpredictably distinct in a place I thought I knew. For me, it’s similar to stepping onto the yoga mat.
How do you start this ‘relationship with art’ if you don’t yet have one? By showing up, observing what resonates with you, and returning to it again and again. Where do you go? See if your neighborhood has a gallery. Maybe the library has a rotating exhibit. If you live in a city or travel to one, there are endless kinds of museums to explore. In Boston, there’s public art throughout the city.
Art should be free and more easily accessible, but you can still find free art. I am fortunate to have free access to a few museums through my job. Check your library or community center to see if you can find free passes. There are also free days at museums. In Boston:
- ICA: Thursdays 5-9pm
- MFA: Wednesdays 4-10pm
- Harvard Museum of Natural History: Sundays 9am-noon (for MA residents)
Different experiences fill people’s souls in various ways. For me, art is a good place to start. What is it for you?
Interdisciplinary study in any subject has the potential to provide new perspectives, inform processes, and adjust priorities.
I love art, but as a mixed media painter who is also a full-time higher education administrator, I sometimes struggle to prioritize creativity; painting doesn’t pay the bills, it requires time to set-up, space where I can be messy, and dedication to consistently return to the work.
When I began my first pottery class in January 2015, I learned that throwing on the wheel was more technical than I anticipated and the clay much more temperamental. In my first four classes, I made two very small and very heavy bowls. I also decided to never try pottery again; it was too hard and not very enjoyable.
A full year later, in February 2016, I signed up for a semester-long class in the same studio with a different teacher. I attended my weekly 2 ½-hour class, learned new techniques, and scheduled independent studio time outside class. Sometimes I would eat lunch at my desk, run over to the studio, and spend a quick 30 minutes of lunch trimming a pot or glazing a cup. In other words, I put in the hours. The consistency and dedication began to pay off. Five months into the process, I’m consistently surprising myself.
For those who are unfamiliar with the process of creating a wheel-thrown piece, here are the basics. In my studio where the kiln runs every few days, the above process can take 3-6 weeks:
- Throw something on the wheel
- Allow to dry for a few days
- Bisque fire in kiln
- Final fire in kiln
So what does pottery teach me about painting? Pottery reminds me that it takes time to become even slightly skilled at a new activity. On the surface this is an obvious lesson, but think back to the last time you tried something completely new: learning a new language, trying a new physical activity, or making a new friend. It’s easy to rely on activities in our comfort zones. For me, 2D art is comfortable; 3D art is in stretch territory. By embracing that I knew nothing about pottery, I allowed myself to fail, put in the hours to get better, and celebrate small wins. Imagine the possibilities if we apply these principles and techniques with something that’s already comfortable? If I embraced failure, commitment, and recognizing success at work, for example, I would be a much more effective leader and team member.
Furthermore, throwing on the wheel reminds me how crucial space and time are to my creative process:
- Space = the physical place where I create and the mental space to focus on it
- Time = consistent times in my schedule devoted solely to art
I paint with acrylics, often using a watercolor-like application, and incorporate materials such as graphite, paper, or thread. As the paint requires time to dry between layers (just as the stages of clay work require time) I paint three or four pieces simultaneously. By committing to this process, I am eager to see what I create and how my painting experience may change.