My Experiences

November 12th, 2008

Many years ago I started out as an artist when a young boy, drawing as I pleased with colored pencils on the smooth cardboards that came back with my dad’s pressed shirts.

The visual experience is great! How I used to like playing with a magnifying glass: Focus it against a blank wall of our living room so I could see the perfect reverse image of the bright window scene from the opposite wall! This was real! And my drawings gave me even more satisfaction: Did they make a new real world for me?

I am not an artist now, but I hope I can recapture my childhood enthusiasm for drawing. What is the secret that I unlearned?


The Priorities of the Artist

November 11th, 2008

This post is about ways to stay inspired and in motion during the rainy season. There are, of course, advantages to the rainy season. One is that the rain can keep us inside, requiring each of us to assess our daily actions; it becomes evident when we are ignoring art-making when we occupy our time with other tasks around the house.

 Many female artists report the baking of hundreds of cookies, the perfection of the bathroom mirrors, and many other modes of procrastination that are somehow linked with gender oppresion. I’m sure male artists have myriad ways of avoiding work as well. And what about when art gets in the way of art? Does anyone have the experience of penning a short story as a way of avoiding creating the painting that must be painted? Or, playing the guitar (and sounding awful) as a way of avoiding editing a book? My personal favorites are planning the garden, looking for eggs beneath the chickens, and at times looking under logs for slugs to feed the chickens as if they can’t do it themselves. All the while, I think about drawing chickens.

How do we have the right priorities as artists, especially when we are living in an expensive society that requires most of us to work at least 40 hours per week in order to stay afloat? Even if we are big enough to accept the debts that society bridles us with by the time we exit undergrad, and we have the tenacious attitude that the American artist must have, we must still find the time. Even if our attitude is positive, and we are able to find a level of consciousness suitable for artistic creation, how do we use our time most wisely? How do we avoid self-defeat through focusing on what we aren’t good at, or aren’t ready to pursue?

In this society, artists must have time alone to think and experience our own true natures. We must have time to play alone, and to remember that we HAVE selves worthy of time and consideration. Only through being in touch with our own nature can we produce anything unique. From a Marxist perspective, we must find the space in our day to resist the constant badgering of the capitalist society so that we can breathe a human air and think human thoughts. From a feminist perspective, we must find the time in our day to release ourselves from our gendered lives so that our true selves can emerge and be expressive in ways that will ultimately liberate other women. From a green perspective, we must find time in our day to think creatively about art-making that is either non-destructive of the natural environment, or that speaks to the powers that be about the destruction of the natural environment. From a modern psychology perspective, we must find time in our day to get in touch with ourselves and use art as a means of emotional expression. From a spiritualist perspective, we must pray and ask our higher power to assist us by guiding our artistic process, our mode of expression, and at times the paint brush itself.

 While each of these interpretations of philosophies has a seed of truth, finding our priorities as artists could also be as simple as making a list of what we feel is important. If I were to make a list today, it would read:

1. Bring giant easil up from basement/bring all paints up from basement.

2. Continue working on jewelry.

a. get some ready to sell before Christmas.

b. contact people who may be interested in hosting a jewelry show.

c. find ways to display more expensive collection/cheaper collection.

2. Bring up drawing paper/markers/pens/pastels/colored pencils…maybe do this before number one.

3. Work on painting that is enlarged version of smaller painting.

4. Work on a series of black and white drawings that water color. You are imagining drawings with a great deal of rhythm.

5. Try to finish short story. Type it. Finish it. Submit it.

6. Work on editing book. Just go chapter by chapter. Go ahead and delete entire last two chapters fearlessly. They are in the way, and they suck. You will be better without them.

7. When January comes around, do not purchase new special box for T.V. Let T.V. go for next year.

 I would love to how other people make priorities as artists.


 Susan Bartley


January 28th, 2008

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