Thursday, May 10, 2012

Putting in the Time: Part 2

Sometimes pain can lead us to new places that we didn't imagine, or never thought possible. My path so far has been a jagged and winding one. As a little girl, the only constant life dream that I can really recall wanting to be when I grew up,  was to be a mom. I always imagined one child (this may be an only child syndrome...) We would live in a big city, go for lots of walks, play as a family, and be happy.

There are times you just can't fulfill your life plan. It would turn out after over a year of trying, and taking fertility medications, that I would have unexplained infertility and a blocked fallopian tube and hardly never any ovulation. The next step was invitro. Something that for personal reasons, I did not want to go through. During the course of this, I was working in day care. I quit as I really got into the deepest and darkest part of the infertility experience. Fate had nixed my life plan for me. 

Next came working for a couple of collection agencies. You can imaging how creatively (un)inspiring that is. When I wasn't feeling nasty towards people who simply just didn't want to pay their bills, I was feeling HORRIBLE for the ones who wanted to but couldn't. Dealing with medical collection is even more awful. Not a lot of creating during this period at all.

By this time, my husband was far enough along in his career of computer programming that I had the option to go school. As I've told you, I chose the WRONG career. What I didn't tell you, is that I chose it, because I was afraid to go to a "real" college for fine art studies. I had applied my senior year of high school (1995) and been rejected due to poor grades. (Poor grades in everything but art, English and literature.) So, I feared being rejected again and went with the "easy" school.

After realizing a graphic design career was not going to happen, I began to throw myself into fiber art more. I got a studio in the arts district in Minneapolis. I was excited to be part of Art-a-Whirl, the district's huge studio art crawl. I was there for two years, and sold hardly a thing during either of the sales, or the fall sales. I heard a lot of "oh...those are just quilts" as the potential customers would walk further on toward the "real" artists.

Crap. I'd done it again. I had chosen a difficult path. I feared that I had chosen a "faux art". I've been working through this for years now. I'm finally starting to make some realizations though.

It can be nearly impossible to examine yourself objectively and ask yourself the hard questions. "Why isn't this working out for me?" "Why do I fail at everything I do?" "Where am I supposed to go?" "Why won't anyone buy my art work?" But they are questions that need to be asked.

My husband was spending a lot of time commuting for his job. Enough so, that we decided when we wanted a bigger house than our very small 1925 home, and that we would move to "the other side of the cities". So, we moved to the west side. We bought a home with a studio big enough for my machines and supplies. Big enough for teaching classes in. With a view of the wetland preserve. I began to create immediately. My first series was about the view out my window. It was in fact, the first time I had ever worked in a series.

My new city has an art crawl in the fall. I've participated twice. However, when it came time to apply this year, I felt an immediate and unexplained hesitation. The past two years that I have taken part, I have spent a good deal of time/money preparing and sold very little in comparison. That's a small part of my resistance. Another deciding factor for me, was the post-show blues. It happens to me every time I do an art crawl. Afterwards I can't create, sometimes for months. Part of it is the sadness from feeling like I didn't "do well" because I hardly sold anything. The other part, is that it almost feels like my studio has been violated. It feels disrupted. The energy is off. Something. (This might be an introvert issue.)

But after journaling for the past couple weeks, and working through things I have realized that I think I am just not ready. I don't think I have been ready. It's not that I don't think I make beautiful and inspiring pieces, some of mine fit that bill, I think.

It's more that I am not "there" yet. I had the epiphany that I hadn't "put in the time". I have some good skill sets; things I learned in graphic design about design principles and concepts and technical skills for quilting. Those are great things, and things that I need. However, I am missing the studio hours. The time put in creating. Learning about myself. Studying and finding MY style.

I should have realized that at the beginning of this year, when I set one of my goals to spend at least 20-30 hours in the studio a week. I should have realized fully then, that I if I am going to make this my full time job then that is what I need to do. I need to put in the time in my studio - creating! Growing. I need to be creating as much as I can possibly eek out of myself!

I also need to be open to mentorships. I've always been a very independent and strong willed person. (Peer pressure never worked on me, because I simply did not like being told what to do no matter who it was telling me!) But now, I realize I need advice from people who are making their way through the art world with fiber art. I also need advice and guidance from painters, weaver, sculptors who are in the art world.

So that is where I am. Sitting in the realization that I need to grow up, do the work, and ask for help. It's easy to say, "I want to be an artist", to want to sell your work, to want people to want to see your work, to want to have galleries want to show it, etc. It's easy to say, but it takes work and time to do it. That is what I am going to do this year. I am going to put in the time to work on my art, stretch myself, make myself get in the studio even when I don't want to sometimes. It's what I need to do to continue this path as an artist.

If you read this far, thank you! And I would love to hear your thoughts on putting in the time!


Debra Svedberg said...

You go girl! There's a lot of leaps of faith right in that post already. Just keep leaping!

Laurie Brainerd said...

I'm hearing a detachment from defining your success by the number of sales that you achieve. That is a very healthy step.

I think there is something to the 10,000 hour rule, which directly speaks to your putting in the time.

And I'm reminded of one of one of my favorite art parables. The one where there were two classes of potters. The first class was told that they were going to be graded on just one project at the end of the semester. And the other class was told they would be graded on the weight of their work. It was the second class that produced the most amazing work by the end of the semester, because it didn't matter how good it was. They just made A LOT of work.

You are on your way, Stepanie Forsyth!