On Balance

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Through a generous summer grant, I spent my summer learning some new techniques in book making and paper making in Italy. I also absorbed centuries of art as I walked through the Uffizi, the Borghese, the Vatican, St. Peter’s, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It was an amazing experience– inspiring, educational, brilliant! Still, I’m not making any art of my own upon my return. I think seeing all of that mastery has somewhat stupefied me. I came back with visions of new paintings and hand-bound books– sketches, lots of photo references. Why can’t I start anything? I continue to sketch, and stare at my new book sewing frame, but I’m stuck. I know, I should be inspired, but…

Partly I’m out of studio time because school has begun. This means that I am using my energy doing the other thing I love –and that’s teaching other people how to make art. The start up to the school year always takes a lot of time and commitment to do it properly with long days and a readjustment to getting up and going to bed earlier. My students are eager, talented, fun! I don’t mind helping these people learn drawing and painting. Some of them go on to study art in some of the most prestigious programs in the country—and I am proud of this accomplishment.

But, my ideas sit in my sketchbooks waiting to be realized.

When I get to the weekends I’ve got to get the groceries and see family and take care of things around the house as well as prep my lessons for the next school week. Art ends up being something I might get to do – later. (Oh, I might as well put exercise in the same category. Zero. That’s also not good for me.) I ordered a book called “The Well-Balanced Teacher,” but I haven’t had any time to read it!

I think I also have a problem with focus. I currently want to do some fabric-related pieces incorporating printmaking, bind some hand-made books to sell at the holidays, make watercolor paintings using reference photos from Italy, and make a series of artworks to help save shelter animals. When I get into the studio, the overwhelming nature of what I’d like to undertake stops me because I don’t know what I should start first.

So no art. I’ve nearly given up. Am I just tired? Making excuses? Maybe I don’t care enough about my own art?

That’s why I’m posting this blog– I’m looking for ways that other people find balance and carve out time in their studios. What works for you? How do you find balance? What advice can you give about focus? How do you maintain your inspiration and energy in your art practice?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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2 responses »

  1. You’ve really hit the nail on the head. In fact, take out the part about Italy, and this blog post might as well have been written by me, or any artist who teaches (or teacher who is an artist). If you can figure out this balance thing, you will have solved a challenge as big as the riddle of the Sphinx.

    Bottom line: you have to make time for your art, and you have to respect your art (and yourself as an artist) enough so that you don’t feel guilty pushing some things away to create art. It sounds a lot easier than it is. But, when I feel guilty about writing when I could be working in the yard, or cleaning out the attic, I have to tell myself, “I’m a writer. That’s what I do.” Of course, it helps if you carve out time to work in the yard and clean out the attic so that these things aren’t neglected. A lot of my writing time is in the summer when I’m not teaching,but I have the kids with me all day. I used to feel guilty writing and not playing with my kids until I made sure I had struck a balance (there’s that word again) and spent time with them SO THAT I could spend time writing.

    Another helpful thing for me is deadlines. Do I write a play when the mood strikes? Almost never. Do I write a play when a theatre is interested in seeing something new and they need it by a certain day? Always.

    I understand now why people attend colonies and retreats. Dedicated time to create AND a deadline (this retreat is over in 2 days, and I NEED to have something done by the end!) Sounds like Heaven.

    But DAILY devotion for your art? That’s a tough one. Lots of folks I know use other methods such as scheduling time each day or week to create. Some writers I know get up an extra hour earlier each day to write. But scheduled creativity never worked for me. I can’t write just because it is 5:00. (Now, drinking just because it is 5:00 is a different story)

    I think balance is one of those things that we will all strive to achieve, and although we will get better and better at it, it is never perfect.

    If you figure it out, please let me know. Oh, and put me down for one or two of those hand-made books for the holidays. They will make great gifts for my fellow writers. When will they be available?

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