Hudson Residency // Experiments in Blue

08/25/15

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Friends, I am finishing up my residency here at Drop Forge and Tool this weekend, and culminating it with a small one-night-only exhibition. If you are the area, I hope you will stop by. All works will be for sale. Below is some of the work I have made while I have been here (and you can view much more here on Instagram).

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Have a great Tuesday and hope to see you this weekend at the open studio.

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Hudson Residency // On Getting What I Didn’t Expect

08/24/15

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Imagine this: you are a busy illustrator or mom or lawyer or landscaper or photographer or fill in the ___. Or maybe you already are one, so you don’t have to imagine. Someone tells you that you get to go away by yourself from your busy life and work for three weeks and do the thing you love most. You are so excited and not at all scared. You count the days till you leave. This is going to be the best thing ever. You can picture yourself so relaxed and doing that thing you love in your own private house. You will make your own schedule, eat what and when you want, listen to your music, sleep in, get some rest, have easy days doing this thing you love more than anything. It will be the opposite of your regular regimented busy life. It will be blissful.

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The day arrives and you get to that place. At first, it’s so exciting. Your heart is filled with feelings about the anticipation of all this time to do the thing you love. But then each day you are there doing the thing you love most, alone in your thoughts, you start to feel anxious. All the stuff you are able to distract yourself from thinking about in your regular busy life begins running laps in your brain. The nice relaxed experience of being alone and doing the thing you love is still nice, for sure, and mostly you are having a good time, but it’s harder to relax and enjoy it than you expected, mostly because of the thoughts running laps. In fact, you didn’t think it was going to be hard at all, so all of this comes as a surprise.

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At first you just try to avoid the thoughts running laps in your brain — for example, all the things about your life you dread every day but typically make no effort to change, that person whose feelings you may have hurt two months ago, those super embarrassing things you said at that social gathering back in May, that workload you need to return to at the end of the three weeks. The avoiding actually makes the anxiety worse, and so after two weeks of denial you finally stop avoiding. You write the nagging thoughts down. You ask them, “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?” And you listen to what they have to say. And you commit to not ignoring them as much in the future. Maybe you will even make some changes today or when you get back to your regular life based on what they have told you.

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And then you feel a little better, and then, oddly, you realize that the anxiety you have felt here is more of a gift than any bliss you imagined you would feel. Because listening to it is making you realize all kinds of important things — things you need to change, things you need to let go of, things that you thought mattered but really don’t, things you thought didn’t matter but really do.

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This, my friends, is pretty much the story of my residency here in Hudson. Sure, I have made a lot of art (a bunch of which is pictured here), and I feel grateful to have had that channel. I have made lots of work that is different than what I have made before, and perhaps some of that process has actually been aided by the internal dissonance I’ve been experiencing here. One thing I’ve realized is that I need to make personal work like I need to breathe (and not just in my sketchbook) — my sense of creative agency and motivation as an artist depends on it. But I’ve also realized a lot of other things that I’ve been in denial about. And I’ve committed not to be in denial about them. And that means making some hard choices & changes when I get back home in a week. But I do think that giving up some things will serve other good things, including my sense of presence and equanimity (which I spoke of recently in this first blog post from Hudson last week), and also my relationships to the people in my life who I love. Ultimately we all have to choose what makes us happiest, even at the expense of a client list, money and recognition.

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I’ve written before about befriending & relaxing into fear and embracing emptiness. The feelings I’m experiencing are not new to me. I work hard at being present in my everyday life, and yet I’m still so not present. It took me two weeks of fighting to finally listen to my fear and anxiety while I was here. Maybe I was just so hell bent on feeling blissful and relaxed that I just didn’t expect to feel any fear or emptiness at all. This experience was going to be different.

But it wasn’t. You can’t escape it, not even on an artist residency. Especially on an artist residency.

On that note, I’m off to be alone with my thoughts.

Have a great Monday, friends!

 

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Hudson Residency // On the Passage of Time

08/17/15

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“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.” Edgar Allen Poe

I can hardly believe it. It’s already day six already here at my residency at Drop, Forge and Tool in Hudson, NY. If you are like, “What? Why is Lisa in Hudson NY?” — you can read more about why I’m here in this previous post.

I have spent most of the last several days making stuff, experimenting mostly, mark making, lots of cutting and reconstructing, messing things up and then putting them back together again. I’ve spent some really lovely social time with Katharine and Michael and their friends, which is great (I am an introvert who loves small gatherings of interesting people). One day I walked all around historic Hudson by myself and found lovely antique and artsy shops. Here are some of the treasures I picked up:

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There is a luxury in this time. I get to do what I want, when I want, and for as long as I want. I get to listen to music and audiobooks for hours on end while I cut, paste and draw. I get to go for walks through town (or not, depending on how I feel). I get to stop and read or watch a documentary. I get to stay up till 1 a.m. or sleep in without an alarm. I don’t have to worry about finishing or not finishing. And it has been really, truly amazing.

This is precisely what I have been dreaming about for months now. I have been fantasizing about this time with little or no pressure to deliver or do client work or keep a specific schedule. But now that I am here and in this time, I am experiencing a certain anxiety.

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I mentioned to my wife Clay yesterday that I woke up feeling anxious. “Why did you feel anxious?” she asked. “I think when I wake up, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities,” I said. “The world is my oyster here. And sometimes I don’t even know where to begin each day.” I am used to having very specific assignments or deadlines. “But then,” I said, “eventually I sit down and just start using my hands and it begins to flow. By the afternoon I am rapt in whatever I am doing and cannot seem to pull myself away.”

I also think that a bit of the anxiety comes from knowing that while I have three weeks here, the time is finite, so I’ve been slightly preoccupied with the passage of time. It’s like I want to hold it and never let it go. I’ve caught myself looking at the time at around mid-afternoon each day and exclaiming to myself, “Oh no! the day is ending!” as a tiny wave of panic ripples through my chest.

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Subsequently, since I have so much of it, I have been thinking a lot about time in general while I am here — how I spend it normally, my general preoccupation with properly “managing” it, this idea of time being “precious” or not, this idea of never feeling like I have enough of it (even while I am here on this luxurious residency).

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It is not lost on me that being a person now who enjoys the passage of time, who wants more time, who wants longer days, is actually a good thing. I spent many years in my 20’s and 30’s as a very depressed person — someone who could not wait for the day to end and who had no motivation to do anything with the time I did have. When I remember those years, I become instantly grateful for who I have become and for my life and passions.

On that note, I am off to enjoy (and attempt to be present with) my big, unstructured, beautiful day.

Hope you have a great Monday, friends!

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August Hudson Residency

08/13/15

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{Most of the work I make while I am here will include some blue // testing out blues yesterday}

Every once and awhile an opportunity comes my way that makes me really, really excited and happens at exactly the right time. Last year, I was asked by Katharine and Michael who run Drop Forge and Tool to come to Hudson, New York to do an artist residency in their space. I jumped at the opportunity, and after months and months of anticipation, I am finally here!

While I am here, I will be leave behind my client work, my book projects and my business. While I am here, I will be creating a new body of work — mostly abstract drawings and paintings, and some collage and print making. I’m not exactly sure yet because I am going to just take my time and experiment!

In the world of art and illustration, we call this kind of artwork “personal work” — which really means making art for art’s sake, work driven by personal inspiration & interests (and not work commissioned and art directed by a client).

In 2010, my illustration career began to take off. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time working for illustration clients and writing and illustrating books for publishers. I love that work a lot (and feel lucky to do it), but after five years of nonstop work and deadlines, I am experiencing really intense burn out.

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{Sunflowers in a giant flower garden I visited yesterday in Hudson}

I am so excited to relax, experiment in the studio there and sleep in a little bit too. Three weeks isn’t a long period of time, but this residency feels like a gift.  I’ll be documenting what I make and my adventures in Hudson on Instagram and every few days here on my blog if you would like to follow along.

Oh, and for those of you within driving distance of Hudson, at the end of August, I will have an open studio exhibit with everything I’ve created this month (RSVP on Facebook here). I’ll also be doing a book event in Hudson, which you can learn more about here.

Have a great Thursday, friends!

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