Sunday, March 29, 2020

Stumbling through uncertain times by maintaining a creative practice

It is nearly a year and a half since my last post
Since that time, I have lived through the decline and death of a beloved parent, but I have also rebounded in the studio with renewed vitality. A more vibrant palette has emerged in my paintings, and my drawings have moved past stillness and control and entered a space filled with spontaneity. Until a few weeks ago, I was busy in the studio, preparing for my next solo exhibit of paintings, looking forward to showing a series drawings, and starting the process of curating a group show.  

But now....  everything has changed
We stand surrounded by uncertainty.  All routines have been paused, and for far too many people what was routine will never return.    Since there is no clear path to follow, we try to find ways to stumble through this uncertain time. We try to hold fast to what is familiar and feels safe, while allowing for the possibility / probability that there are moments when we will be in free fall.  How might we regain our footing? Will we regain our footing? No one can say. For many, the uncertainty is terrifying.

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As a visual artist, I’m familiar with spending long hours in social isolation stumbling around in the studio.  It is my way of getting lost so I can uncover where the work wants to take me. Although stumbling out in the world can be perilous, stumbling in the studio is not a place that scares me.

Since it is no longer sensible or safe for me to make the daily trek to my studio, I cannot sit surrounded by my paintings and drawings to contemplate where the work is heading.  Now confined to my apartment, I’ve set up a small workspace where I can draw.  While I can maintain my studio practice to some extent, the changes in my workspace along with the swirling uncertainty outside have disrupted the path I was on. 

The first 8 drawings in this post are from one notebook of approximately 70 pages. 
The entire notebook (8.5 x 5.5") was completed over several hours on March 27, 2020.  
The drawings are not presented in the order they appear in the notebook.
Charcoal, graphite, oil pastel. 

I am stumbling as I begin drawing in my home workspace. However, I feel safe despite the uncertainty of the process. 
I have experienced this many times before, although the current circumstances are completely different. Of course, while some of the mark-making in these notebooks reflects vocabulary I have been using for the past year,  there are many pages that bring me to unfamiliar places.  But I feel safe because I know that allowing myself to get lost will help me find my way. I know that the vocabulary I have developed over decades of practice will keep me grounded, even as I may break from it. I know that I can allow myself to go into free fall because if I keep going, page after page after page, I will uncover what wants to be said in the work. I may reach that place in a few days or a few weeks, or not for several months. But I keep going because it keeps me grounded. 

In this way, for a few hours spent in quiet isolation each day, I can take comfort surrounded by boxes of charcoal, conté crayons, and oil pastels, along with a stack of blank notebooks.  It will help me stay anchored until I have no choice but to return to stumbling through the crisis we all face.

Several pages from the same notebook. 

Several drawings completed in the weeks before I began working from home in mid-March.  
Graphite and oil pastel.