I had an art show last night.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a painter. Lately I write more than I paint and find more comfort in it, and less pressure. Probably because I was trained as a painter and not a writer. I write with total freedom and it is fantastically liberating.
I’ve discussed the creative process a few times here and it continues to fascinate me. One artist friend who had two paintings in my show, hadn’t painted or shown in over 3 years (or more). He has struggled with painters block for a long time and it probably didn’t help that his artist friends were hammering him to start again. When an artist doesn’t produce (anything…even a scribble) it is like living without oxygen. The kind of depression that sets in is so heavy, such a quagmire of thoughts and emotions that it is almost impossible to escape.
I know that when I’ve not painted in a long time, I get weird. That is the best word for it, just weird. It’s as though I’m walking around wondering what I’ve done with my keys or wallet. Something is so off and missing but I can’t figure out what it is. When I finally force myself into the studio, I go into a sort of panic – like going to the DMV or the Federal building…or the library. A feeling so overwhelming a sort of paralysis sets in and sometimes the only thing to do is turn around and get the hell out. Of course that just makes things worse.
My process (that seems to work) has usually been to go into the studio and ignore all paints and brushes but begin to clean. I convince myself that the only way I will be able to create anything is if my space is organized. The cleaning gets my juices flowing and any cleaning fluid I use starts to remind me of linseed oil or turpentine and an empty canvas or innocent bit of paper starts screaming for me. And eventually I find myself slopping the paint around and having a good time. Now don’t get me wrong – it isn’t easy once it begins but it is a release from the perplexing prison of my brain.
Like any kind of job, on some level it has to be a discipline. It can start as a “have to” and end in a “glad to”. Once the Miles Davis is grooving and perhaps a bit of vino for courage, I get lost in the meditation that is painting. Finished for the day, I am back to my “normal” self. Like Lon Chaney Junior.
For me, suffering for my art is like every cliché you hear about artists, but I’d say the worst part was putting myself on display – not the work. I may hate putting my work up for all to see but putting myself up for all to see is so difficult that I simply have to ignore all inner turmoil and go for it. It reminds me of jumping into the cold ocean. I know how cold it is going to be, with or without wetsuit, but I do it anyway. Once in, my body temperature acclimated; I’m a fish.
So tight black dress, heels and gratitude carried me through the night. I looked around the room at old friends, new friends, strangers, my wacky family and found the support I needed.
Also, the little red dot’s saying “sold” helped ease the anxiety enormously.