Hey ho world. So it’s been a little while since I’ve written anything on this blog. And until very recently, it had been a little while since I had made it into the studio as well.
I thought I would share a little bit about these facts. In doing so my intention is not to excuse or explain, as that would imply some measure of wrongdoing. Instead I hope to shed some light on my reality some of the time and the impact it has on my creative process.
I am going to start with a sticky note I recently rediscovered while rummaging around for something else. It reads as follows:
Please Select only two (2) of the following options:
- Take care of physical and mental health (exercise, eat, sleep, go to appointments with medical professionals for various chronic health issues etc)
- Pay bills & sport “productive member of society badge” (featuring ‘having an acceptable personal narrative for small talk’)
Pursue & honour creative practice
After a gruelling year on some personal and professional levels, by the time fall rolled around I recognized that I was on survival mode. High functioning survival mode. Invisible survival mode. Between starting my own business, falling into a depressive episode, and encountering a number of unexpected physical health issues, undergoing surgery….well anyway. It was a lot.
Having packed up my summer studio, I realized that something had to give, and chose to leave it in storage until I could face the idea of next steps.
So from September until now, I have aimed to be 100% there for my students. And as much as I could manage, I tried to prioritize self-care and compassion as well- eating, sleeping & moving my body regularly. I scrounged into the depths of my withered and depleted internal resources and gave it my all. And although I was resentful at how incredibly difficult these things were, for the first time in my life I accepted it as being enough for now. It can be easy to fear that our situations define our identity. But now more than ever I assert that rate of production cannot, and will never, define me as an artist despite the pressures of the fast-paced, content-saturated insatiable monster that is social media.
Refusing to let the guilt of ‘not being in the studio’ overtake me during this period of depression had some interesting results. The 9×11 black, hardcover sketchbook (my sketchbook of choice for over a decade) felt ominous and hungry to be filled with meaningful entries. This became a pressure to deliver something I felt was completely beyond my capabilities of the time. And although it was completely arbitrary and self-constructed, this pressure was overwhelming. Because of this, I decided my sketchbook, a former refuge, would also be best put away in storage.
At times where I could not make it out of bed, I started to doodle and write on these ¼ page sticky notes or scraps of printer paper. It usually occupied me, if nothing else. Sometimes it even helped me find the energy to do other things.
Currently I have a large envelope stuffed to the brim with such scraps and thoughts. I don’t know if anything will come of it, and it doesn’t really matter, because there was massive personal value in the process. Many show some distorted, poisonous thinking that overtook my brain and body and filled me with a kind of noxious self-destructive sludge. For fear of encouraging copy-cats or normalizing some unhealthy stuff, most of those will probably be put to rest. But there were some ‘sad-comix’ that contained hope. Although executed roughly, I decided to share one of them on the blog because it speaks so truly to my experience. It’s called ‘Gravel
Body’ and you can find it here.
I think this past (six-month episode of struggle?) was the first time I was able to see some value to these ‘forced production gaps’ that life has thrust upon me and many others. Even when I was in the midst of it. In another note from November 2017 I wrote the following:
- A) Time it takes to generate idea: 15-20 sec
- B) Time it takes to rough write or sketch out idea (to honour it for my own private records & further reflection): 45 min – 3++ hours
- C) From idea to public sharing: up to 10+ years
Why the gap from A to C? Some important considerations:
- D) Incubation/subconscious development
- E) Conscious development (research, discussion, iterations)
- F) Further life experiences continue to shape and refine original idea
- G) Conflict between Art Production, Health & paying bills/productive member of society Badge
- H) Time required for Art Production
H is actually the most minor challenge, as making art within a flow= methodical, just requires space, time & energy.
G is the greatest challenge of all, although it sometimes has the hidden benefit of feeding D through F.
I really see this in my current series of portraits in string, as the original concept for this started to graze the pages of my sketchbook in 2009-2010. Almost a decade has passed since then, and only now is the project coming into being. However, during those years I gained knowledge and experience. I got a psych degree. I broke my heart a couple times, loved and grieved. Failed. Learned. Failed again. Learned some more. I listened to calls in the night as a listener on a crisis line. I became a teacher. All of those experiences have breathed a life and a depth of meaning into my creative work that simply wouldn’t have been possible back then.
So for now, I am slowly coming back to life, moving into a new studio space, working on some exciting collaborations. It has been about a month now since I have felt well enough to be more ‘myself’. I know this period of wellness will pass just like everything else. But I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can & appreciate it all the while.
If you want to catch the ‘active artist’ Maren while she lasts, you can catch me at the end of the month (March 27th) at the Shaw Conference Centre’s 2and Annual art night, where I’ll be showing some stuff and saying hello.
I even made some sweet new business cards for the occasion!
My artwork and I might also be making a guest appearance at a live improv talk show so please stay tuned for more details on that….