Friday, December 12, 2008
To Do or Not To Do
It seems much that I read these days on artist blogs and Twitter is about getting organized, marketing and the all important To Do list. Its natural I suppose with the year coming to a close and the anticipation/anxiety about what the new year will bring for working artists. But, as usual, I seem to be swimming against the tide-or at least paddling in the opposite direction. This post is about one artist's fight against the tyranny of the To Do list.
First a disclaimer. I have been writing and using To Do lists for many years. In my previous life, they were indispensable. I still use them, although I try to compartmentalize them as much as possible. I have even perfected the art of the Honey Do list according to my husband. Unlike some artists, getting into the left side of my brain has never been a problem for me- its getting out of it that's tricky. In fact, one might say it took me almost twenty years to get out, and I'm not going back!
Truthfully, when I became a full time artist, I tackled my lists with new ambition. In fact, To Do lists were much more my comfort zone than the studio was. My analytical, problem solving background and training put to use in service of my art career- what could be better??!! So in those years, I taught workshops and participated in plein air events and other shows all over the country, wrote and published articles, built a 1200 name mailing list from scratch (and this was before blogging was even a twinkle in my eye), started a plein air group that grew into a 250 member state wide organization, organized a huge plein air invitational at a prestigious gallery in Santa Fe, and oh, did I forget to mention...... painted full time. But, the more I did, the more I began to feel completely disconnected from my real work- painting. My painting became more about show deadlines and submissions than about building a cohesive body of work. Finally a series of gut wrenching events forced me to take stock and to make significant changes in just about every area of my life. And that was a good thing....
What I know now, is that my work requires large amounts of R&D- research and development. This means for me, lots of reading, thinking, looking at and noticing things, and most importantly, just painting. I allow myself to wander around, both outside and in the studio, and in my head. The shift in both the technical and aesthetic focus of my work over the last 18 months has been, for the most part, completely the product of simply following a thread of thought and visual ideas and finding a technique which would best express those ideas- without a preconceived notion of where it might take me. Goal oriented thinking or activities simply won't get me where I want to go in the studio. So if it takes me ten minutes to walk the fifty yards from my studio to the house in late afternoon because I am watching the light flicker behind the trees or if I pull off the road on the way to town to see the clouds move across the horizon- its more important to my work as an artist than a check mark on my list ever can or should be.