They say the true artist has to create. The artist has no choice. Artists speak of being virtually driven to the studio. One, or two days away from their artistic endeavors and by the third day they are almost mad.
My response to time away from the studio is a little different. I can handle not painting for slightly longer than three days. I can go for about a month. There are lots of ways to rationalize this absence and I have found them all. Do any of these sound familiar:
#1 “Taking a Break”
I am taking “a break” from manic creativity.
#2 “Studio Clean Up”
This is actually pretty necessary for me every now and then. However, if I’m still cleaning after three days, it’s cleanliness “next to avoidance”, not “godliness.”
#3 “Studying and Absorbing”
Visiting museums and intense review of all art magazines and books, including “Elle Decor” (you never know what painting may be hanging in Travolta’s Bedroom).
#4 “Broadening Horizons”
Hey, it’s creative writing.
#6 “Establishing Goals”
This last act of avoidance comes towards the end of the infamous month, because, frankly, by now it’s all getting a little scary.
Admittedly, I cannot function without creating something for more than, well, about three days: writing, knitting, woodcuts (creative band-aid application), or at least a computer graphic design project. When I’m not painting, my cooking (another creative outlet) also improves. New vegetables, spices and herbs are discovered, to the delight of my husband and the dismay of my son.
However, at the end of a month of paint deprivation it can get quite nasty. My mind starts filling up with thoughts. Not, unfortunately, beautiful painting visions, but random, junk-food kind of thoughts. Concentration becomes difficult, and it feels as though the world is in my head. The “flakey-artist” syndrome attacks full blast. This distraction is actually quite real. Just ask my family, who will repeat questions several times before I “hear” them. My deaf ear is not intentional; it’s just that my brain seems overly crowded.
There are deep ironies in the Dance of Avoidance. Firstly, I love to paint and when I’m not painting I’m always thinking about painting, and I pretty much only want to paint. So why on earth would I want to avoid painting?
Secondly, the longer I sidestep my studio, the harder it is to stand in front of that easel and begin again. And I’m fully aware of this painful process every time that I break away from painting.
I don’t have good answers as to why the Dance of Avoidance seems to overtake us all at some point. I think it has something to do with the universe working in opposites: “What’s seems hard is easy, and what seems easy is hard.” (It’s true, just think about it!) These breaks may also be a “re-fueling” of sorts. The artist may be absorbing new material, colors, textures, emotions, or approaching a shift in subject matter.
I do know this about the Dance. If you truly want to be a full time artist, you have to stay on the Dance Floor. If you look back at my “Rationalization” list you will see that actually everything on it is related to creativity. Everything keeps me in that Creative Ballroom. A day cleaning the studio is still in my “Job Description,” and even knitting is keeping those creative juices flowing. (Actually, I strongly believe in “cross-training” creatively, but that’s another post!)
As I write this post, my month of painting drought is coming to an end and all of the above rationalizations have been checked off and now written about. There is nothing left to do. I can avoid the white canvas no longer. The palette and brushes beckon. I know the first paintings will be difficult and messy, but the work will get easier as I proceed. My crowded thoughts must be released as I begin again on the artist’s journey.
Madness is averted once again.