Today I worked in my studio. Finally. After almost 2 1/2 months of living here I decided to turn my back on the unorganized mess of boxes and just create. I put in a CD that Kristine sent me a few months ago and CRANKED it. It's a compilation of some of her favorite songs that she titled "Brighter Day"--and, oh...it did brighten my day! I listened closely, even more closely than before...and I feel like I learned things about her on a deeper level. There is something wonderfully personal about getting to know someone through their music.. Today, Kristine, a fellow artist, felt near to my heart. As I created, I felt the presence of many of my closest blogging friends. I felt, quite simply...love. And it was wonderful.
Before today I had not painted since August, right before Vinny and I moved. The last thing I painted was a portrait of Tara Dawn and her sister. I was thankful that she asked me to do it, because if she hadn't I would have let life get in the way. Life was busy then. But, then again, when isn't it?
These days I haven't been "letting" myself paint. I say this because, at some point, I made the decision that what I really need to do is focus on my thesis. I promised myself that I wouldn't get carried away by any big painting projects until I finished the thesis. One thing I know about myself is that I tend to focus my creative energy on only one thing at a time. If I'm writing, I'm writing. If I'm doing ceramics, I'm doing ceramics. If I'm painting, I'm painting. I've always wanted my creative endeavors to overlap, but I'm rarely able to do so successfully. So I made this promise to myself because, damnit, I want to finish this thesis and be done with grad school.
I've been feeling good about the amount of writing I've been doing lately. And I feel good about this renewed sense of commitment I have with writing. I use a different part of my brain for writing than I do for painting. I feel my writing brain becoming stronger and more flexible. It feels wonderful, liberating, like there were doves caught in some sort of mental muck that needed to be set free. But my recent dedication to writing has been at the great expense of painting.
I go to coffee shops nearly every day--and all of the coffee shops I frequent display work by local artists. Each time, I literally have to stop myself from asking if they have any upcoming openings when I could show my work. It nearly leaps right out of my mouth before I make a conscious effort to hold my tongue while I mentally remind myself that I need to finish my thesis first!
The ill-formed logic is obvious, I'm sure. But I've been maintaining this attitude for several months now. Meanwhile, my paint brushes have been collecting dust...and a part of my heart, too.
The other day at work something happened to jolt me out of my militant mind-set towards art and writing. When I was hired at the bookstore they asked if I would be willing to do artwork for the store. We will soon be doing a new window display for the holiday season and I, of course, was happy to volunteer my time to paint the window. Then, because the owner had never seen my work, he changed his mind. Instead, he asked me to bring in some samples of my work. He was unsure of me. It made me feel like a total nobody, but I understand (having standards is a good thing). The next day I brought in the samples. He was impressed and advised me to show my work somewhere--as though this was a new idea.
First of all, let me just say that he is a very nice man, a good boss, and has been friendly to me since the very beginning. Secondly, he meant those words purely as a compliment.
But, I'll tell you, it bothered me. Because the thing is that he doesn't know that I have exhibited my work. Actually, until I moved, I was having shows on a regular basis. I felt like he thought I was inexperienced and, well, this bothered me. A lot. Not because of him, but because, at that moment, I realized that in the past 2 1/2 months I have grown dangerously distant from my artwork.
That was Saturday. Since then I've been trying to make sense of where I need to be right now in terms of writing and in terms of painting. There's a part of me that wonders if maybe it was just my ego that flared up at his comment. There's another, more important, part of me that wonders if my painting-heart is gasping for air and trying desperately to get my attention.
Today I worked in my studio. And it felt good. More than good--I was giddy, ridiculously giddy. I could barely contain myself. There's a full length mirror in the studio and I found myself dancing in front of it (don't laugh!). I was smiling so big that I barely recognized myself. I sang and talked to myself and then got to work...but not before turning up the music just a little bit more. I was in full-blown ecstatic glory. And this carried on for several hours.
In that time, I painted and played around with new ideas for shows in my head. I tend to work in series and, when the ideas really take hold, they have the potential to take over my life for months at a time.
I'm not sure my heart has ever felt pulled, so persistently, in different directions. Right now I have taffy heart. For now I can only say that I will try my best to honor the most sacred parts of myself--both painting and writing.
My life needs to move forward. And right now there are strings holding me to commitments that I need to fulfill. Finishing my Masters is important to me. Continuing to paint is also important. It is difficult to know how to proceed.