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Re: discipline



Dear Friends, and Leil

        Iíve been wanting to write since Leil posted her question about
discipline and scheduling, but itís taken me a while to set aside the
time to do it. It was very helpful to hear the different ways of
handling time. Ití s a constant unresolved question for me. I donít have
any answers but I do have some thoughts.
        Deadlines are my main tool for getting things done. I sometimes try to
make my own artificial ones, but nothing gets me cracking like a real
deadline. I do think that some people are deadline people and some are
not. Last week my son and a friend entered a project in a National
History Day competition (kind of like a Science fair for history.) They
were working in my studio until 3:30 Am the night before and I was in
there cheering them on and keeping them focused. His friendís mother was
appalled and said she would have been ready to kill them. I rather
enjoyed myself and felt quite at home. On the other hand, I find it very
difficult to set aside a certain amount of time each day for a certain
activity.
        My struggle is always to find time for my artwork in the midst of
teaching and writing/ publishing endeavors. Iíve always had to do
something in addition to art to make money and Iíve always used exhibits
as the way to get me working. For Leil, since you are in Jordan (still I
think?), you may not have access to as many opportunities as I do. One
thought is that there are some book swaps online and that might be a
good way to set a deadline. In the past, I exhibited at cooperative art
association galleries and now I try for college and university
galleries. I do find that itís easier to make the time to work if I have
a project going along. People often talk about the fear of a blank piece
of paper or canvas and I think itís true. Itís hard to overcome inertia
and get going and for that, some kind of daily time set aside for art
probably works well. I have a hard time with that and tend to prefer
bigger chunks of time. A day for this, a week for that, if I can manage
it. I tend to work in a series so once I get started it has a momentum.
But to let you know how much a struggle it is for me to make time, I am
still working on the Spirit Book series I started in 1991. I now have a
deadline to finish it- for a solo show in November. For this, I must
make time on a daily or almost daily basis to get it done in time. There
is a lot of detailed handwork in the books and a page can take a couple
of hours.
        What I find difficult is finding the balance between the different
aspects of my life and not taking on too much, so that I am either
frantic or working all the time. My artwork production took a sharp
decline after an exhibit in a gorgeous college gallery in 1995. Inspired
by the space, I decided to stretch myself and did a huge piece, along
with the rest. It was made up of 12 wooden box frames that were covered
with binders board and contained accordion folds in quarter circles with
xerox imagery, thread and beads. It formed three circles and was 12í
long and 4í high when assembled. In the process, I had boxes all over my
studio and living room. I couldnít let my kids in the studio for fear
theyíd mess something up, we couldnít sit on our couch because it was
covered with boxes, etc. It was a great feeling to see it on the wall,
but the whole experience was so exhausting and overwhelming that I
didnít produce a new piece for almost two years. It took a lot out of me
and my family. And the returns did not come near matching the efforts. I
sent out slides and info to curators and received a few kind letters.
Other than the good feeling of seeing the work in the gallery, that was
it. I also realized that the large piece was problematic. Its size makes
it more of a public art piece- itíd be too big for most homes- and itís
surface would be too fragile and unprotected for most public places.
Right now itís in two pieces wrapped in quilts in my studio. Iíd like to
find a home for it, but am unclear about too many things to pursue it.
        Although I spent a little time experimenting in those 2 years, I worked
very little on art. I was surprised that I did not miss it more. I find
the teaching and writing much more satisfying than I thought I would. I
am still using my creativity, but there is a small 5 to 10% that is
still hungry for the totally private expression of my own work. In the
past I think I have felt a kind of desperation in relation to my art.
Because I never made money at it or any of the related endeavors that
were supposed to make money, I didnít feel successful at all. I was
pouring all of my insecurity and looking for affirmation into my work. I
had something to prove- that I wasnít wasting my time and that I really
was a valuable person. Societyís pressure to be judged by ability to
make money got to me. Also, I think as a woman, I was uncomfortable
being so dependent on my husband. I appreciated so much his willingness
to support me in my efforts but I also wanted to be a woman who could
take care of herself. Now that I actually make decent money, I feel very
different. I donít need to prove anything, I do the artwork out of
pleasure rather than desperation, and itís easier to put aside pleasure
than desperation.
        I also find a big difference between my artwork and my teaching related
activities in relation to my kids. The art pulls me away from them. Itís
work I create very much in my own space. Itís an interior thing and I
want to be left alone. The teaching is reaching out and sharing and itís
working with kids so my own kids can be very much a part of it. They
work with me in the studio; I go into their classrooms. Theyíre full of
ideas and advice. Itís a good fit for where I am now.
        After a few years off, I now have two exhibitions coming. This will get
me working on the art again and the only question is, will they
overwhelm me again this time? Iím trying to say, okay, cut back on your
writing and publishing plans a little to make sure you have time to do
the artwork and stay sane. We shall see. I was very interested in
Liliasí description of her artist friend who takes in lots of money but
spends a substantial amount to keep her life running smoothly and enable
herself to concentrate on her work. Thatís a model that appeals to me.
        Thanks to Leil for bringing up the topic and to all for your thoughts.
It has been helpful to me.

in good spirit,
Susan


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