There are times when I pine for my youthful days spent working at a local deli / fish market where my tasks were organized and specific week to week, month to month. The only big change being relative to what fish was in season. In some ways, it was the happiest job I can ever recall as my coworkers were more than decent and the work was relatively interesting and enjoyable. Would I trade it for the current job I have making art? Certainly not. A more stress free existence is something I would trade for and maybe it’s more attainable than it seems but right now, life is running on stress and caffeine.
To say money has been tight during this economically challenged summer is a truism of magnificent proportion. I don’t teach during the summer so my modest but steady teaching stipend dries up for three months and I rely on savings and also potential art sales to fill in that gap. Car troubles ate up the savings before summer even started and painting sales have been absolutely non existent so the money influx has trickled to a stop. I have never had a summer act so stubbornly. I do have the backstop of a teaching job that starts in September so while things are challenging there is an end in sight. But it does cause a daily stress that accumulates like dust choking a flat surface.
A funny thing happens to artists when outside stress builds, especially the financial kind, and while I have read of it in the history books, I never believed it to be true. Art making gets EASIER in times of financial strife. Logically, it actually makes sense. If you make art that people want, then you need to continue to make that art as people expect it and that puts great stress on your process. If you make something that people don’t want because they have no income to afford it then you are freed to make whatever you want! Honestly, as the summer has gotten hotter and the stress outside my studio rose with the temperature I found myself enjoying making art more and more. I cant exactly explain it but making art has become a release of sorts that doesn’t have any external or, by choice, internal pressure on it to be anything extra special or important. (I have intentionally taken a lighter approach in my own existential thinking this summer – thank god!) In fact, the past few weeks I have combined my love of old Star Wars figures with my current love of making paintings and the resulting paintings are turning out pretty cool! I never would have tried something so completely different if I was having a “normal” summer. Hooray for a poor economy!
I guess life does find a way to seek balance and it’s our job to see how that balance occurs. I remember times when the art went poorly and life was fun and entertaining. And also times when art and life took on the same shades of gray. That art is glowing and life is dull is just the reality of the moment and surely, most assuredly, it will change again.
And I’ll be surprised at that as well….