On Messing Around

03/05/14

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{A shot from my studio yesterday; some of this got painted over by the end of the day}

One of the greatest things about making art is that moment when you find you are on a roll with something: you cannot stop, and all you want to do is paint and paint {or whatever it is you do}. This moment (or this extended moment) is really pretty special, because often the opposite is true: that we are stuck or feel like we are onto nothing at all or that everything we do is unoriginal or just generally sucks.

Most of the time when we feel we are onto something potentially great, it happens because we are just messing around. We allow ourselves time to play, without external pressures, requirements or deadlines. I heard something recently (and honestly I don’t remember where I heard it) that play leads to mastery. I think this is why it must be great to go into an MFA program — to literally pay thousands of dollars to buy time to experiment and play and then to get feedback on it (so you can go back and do it over again).

As a full time working illustrator I have found that I just don’t have enough time to mess around in my studio. Lately I have been trying to change that, even if it means taking on fewer illustration jobs. I feel like I haven’t had a breakthrough or been on a good “roll” in a long, long time (even when I took the month of January off). And I think it’s mostly because I don’t have or make time to play in my studio. I truly love most of my “work” (aka illustration jobs), but I also want to push my practice so much further to break out of the habits/methods/motifs that are safe for me. But so far I haven’t felt that I could give sufficient time to both illustration work and zero pressure, playful experimentation. I always feel stretched a bit. Sometimes I feel stretched a lot.

Yesterday I made some time for play in my studio (aka, didn’t do other stuff on my list) and I hit the beginning of some kind of rollĀ  (I think?). But just as I was hitting it, I had to leave the studio to go home for dinner. Sometimes I wish I was one of those artists who sleeps at her studio, and lives and breathes “her work” (aka her personal work, not her client work). But then I think about sleeping on the tiny sofa in my studio and cooking dried ramen on the hot plate for dinner and being away from my significant other, and I think, no, I am too old for that.

I wonder sometimes if the plight of the illustrator is finding this balance between making a living making illustrations for other people/companies/publications and also keeping up with personal creativity and experimentation. Regardless, that is my plight.

Old story here, new words to describe it (aka, balancing illustration & personal work). I am determined to figure it out.

Happy Wednesday, friends.

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