I didn’t want to be an artist. Artists sat around waiting for inspiration.
There were other reasons.
But waiting for “inspiration” was lazy, and an annoying way to be. Regular people are out there getting real things done, such as putting on a serious administrative outfit and going to a meeting.
This idea of artists being vague and unproductive cost me a good deal.
For starters, two wrongheaded academic degrees, which I spent knitting in class, sitting in cafes trying to find hearth in hit and miss conversation, and staring out the window.
See above. Not so productive.
Trying to not be an artist, I painted on the sly. It made me sane. I did it the way other people smoke; guiltily spending money on materials, slipping it in between classes, apologizing that I wasn’t doing something useful.
“The time I spend out of the studio is just as important as the time I spend in the studio,” sculptor Russell Barron told me.
A decade ago.
Funny how a comment can push you around inside, then stick like Velcro.
And be a relief.
In our culture, we measure our worth for hours on the job. Which is nice because you can control that.
That is also how I wreck an inspired painting.
“I’m SO busy” is an indicator of our value.
Increasingly, I balk.
Fallow fields, with the vague promise of better yields next year, are precarious. With a few lines on their faces, experienced farmers might see their unplanted fields as a testament of their hard-won wisdom.
I’m so good at turning up in the studio daily, but I often can’t cope with the fact that two hours fresh on Monday morning were worth more than 12 hours on a Friday.
I watch my painting students cringe at the lack of control, the thought of spending money on materials and not having a masterpiece to show for it.
I struggle to explain how that might be shooting yourself in the foot. The value of turning up, sometimes even not turning up…it’s tricky.
Sitting in a café this morning, I wonder about what percentage of time surgeons spend cutting flesh.
A fight with your spouse, an insult to your technique, or being on your feet on hour 17, surely not all surgeries are equally elegant?
And who wants to talk about their unskilled work, or acknowledge what builds the foundation for the good stuff?
When a brain surgeon told Margaret Atwood that he would be a writer when he retired, she is rumoured to have quipped “When I retire I am going to be a brain surgeon.”.
But also holding her craft with esteem.
Finding your medium, honing technique, shaping the inner dialogue, we refine daily habits that support our best work. For better or worse, it takes decades.
All in the face of the augmenting passion for overnight success.
Clients ask me “How long did it take you to paint that?”.
I answer warmly, but accurately, “A lifetime.”
Rosemary Leach is an artist based in Almonte and part of The Ten Collective, which will be exhibiting Saturday March 31st & Sunday April 1st at the MIssissippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte.