I've been teaching for 3 years, and my art practice has waned. Meetings, lessons plans, lectures, grading, commuting to and from campus--getting my footing as a professor and navigating two school systems has outweighed other activities. Although I've never out right claimed, "I'M AN ARTIST!", I believe that some of my friends would describe me in that manner, and the act of creation makes time stand still, when I have time to sit down, unencumbered.
When I'm teaching, I typically start class with a drawing prompt of some sort, and provide an example. That was a small way to engage the students as well as myself, and kept my fingers nimble (except for days that it rains, like now, where my joints ache!). With the move to all online courses from the pandemic, and all online for the foreseeable future, I've had time to create, to reflect. I don't have to put pants on, or spend 2-hours commuting, or spin in my chair for office hours wondering if students will actually show up. I can have all of the applications open to be responsive while also having time, open time, to move the pencil, push the paint.
I keep bringing up time because that seems to be my biggest obstacle. If I'm not working on something in particular, having an hour to draw only enhances my anxiety. I've only got an hour so I better make it good! Why do I put that pressure on myself? If I do a 20-minute life drawing session, I can either keep doodling, or try to make something social media worthy in the remaining time. I guess I just answered my own question: social media. I really felt that if I didn't post something, and post something good on a regular basis, I wouldn't be an artist. People would think I've quit or fallen off the face of the planet. Well, maybe I have fallen now since I've retreated from the psychological warfare that is social media. Without pressure or constraints, my output has surprised me.
Around my birthday, May 4th, I finally caught up with my online transition--all 3 classes were fully setup and on autopilot. At the end of March, I really was on a week-by-week hustle with the courses, but once I got ahead, I was free. I faced another mental challenge--where to start? A million ideas all competing for completion. I can do them all. I am going to be at home until there's a vaccine. So, on my birthday, I sat down and painted all day. I didn't have a plan, no sketches to pull from or worries about making works based on a theme for a show, I just let myself go. In quarantine, with no loved ones around, and losing my childhood pets this year, I was feeling tender, so I painted 6-pet portraits. It's weird to say "pet," these are my friends, my loves. I'd like to talk more about them in a separate post about meditation and mindfulness.
My practice was reinvigorated that day. Sure, I did some self-portraits here and there, both digital and physical, but I found a system that allowed me to complete work in a timely matter, with a result that I don't hate. I am keeping it simple. Self-isolation has allowed quite a bit of time for reflection, and really wrestling with my inner-self, so I've put it on paper. It helps that I have a nice stack of cold-press paper that I've trimmed down to extend my supply so I'm not precious about making each one work. Some days I feel strong, beautiful and triumphant; others, I feel like Ophelia in the water, or Alice falling down the rabbit hole, and that is OK. I hope to write more about the works in an Ekphrastic manner as I nurture this blog.
Above you'll find 3-works in progress. I've tried to sketch out ideas as they come, so I can steer clear of my own self-imposed mental blocks. Along with self-portraits, I've been taking a magnifying lens to my life, including a fear that the world will run out of Hydroxychloroquine (which I take daily), or dealing with bumps and bruises without being able to go to the doctor. I smashed my hand pretty good, and my fingernail is still holding on to that reminder. Mementos of quarantine. A form of catharsis. Art therapy even, as I am trying to move forward with chronic illness and managing bipolar disorder. Maybe this work will speak to someone, someday. By the end of the year, I would like to collect the works and select writings into a book, another creative endevour that I do quite enjoy.