Handsome Husband and I have been taking short jaunts around the county lately, designed mostly to get out of the house when we're feeling frustrated by grey skies and arctic winds. The balmy weather of spring has a nasty habit of falling on weekdays, or in microbursts between snow storms.
In preparation for our outings I grab hat, coat, mittens, boots - and camera.
A couple of years ago I created a series of paintings titled One Square Mile. Twenty paintings, the subject matter taken from a single square mile near my home, each piece a square foot in size. That collection of paintings made a wonderful exhibit hanging together in one place, kind of like postcards from home.
I'm still taking time from actually writing something. I am not, however, taking time away from my easel.
Beset by cabin fever, Handsome Husband and I hopped in the car and took a ride last week east of town. As we headed out on gravel roads we passed over an old creek bed that seemed to exude the potential of spring.
The conversation involved an aspiring artist, and she was looking for advice about getting started in the mysterious world of the Professional Artist. The look of disappointment in the eyes of my companion was surprising. “You see it as a job?” she said with eyebrows knitted in worry. It was as if I had told her there was no Santa Claus. I had just told her that I, as Artist, did not wear a special cape and matching beret. Ouch.
Obviously the words that describe what I do daily are not the words she expected to hear regarding the romantic life of an artist. She was expecting to hear about midnight visits from the Muse and her sister, Inspiration. She was hoping to hear about the fascinating conversations we artists have over tea at the local sidewalk café, and how cool we look in our berets.
What I meant when I used the word job to describe my routine is that it is just that, a routine. I don’t wait for a funnel of fairy dust to pour inspiration down upon my shoulders and onto my magic paintbrush. My job as a painter is to go to work every day, just like millions of others who leave their cozy beds and tie on matching shoes to spend time at a desk or cubicle - or easel. We show up because that’s how the work gets started. Being an artist is a steady and continuous process. We don’t succeed due to dreams or vague inspirational moments or tea-time chats, but in the routine of showing up and working things out. Daily, weekly, yearly.
Inspiration, that sacred being we love to whisper about and hope for, happens to those who are ready for it. They don’t hand out trophies to marathoners who only think about running.
And the muse? It’s the routine of preparation and habit that lays down the path for the muse to follow to your doorstep. The more tended the path is, the easier it is for the muse to find you.
Lest you think I am a miserable drudge toiling with calloused hands and a hardened soul, believe me, I believe that a creative pursuit is the best possible way to spend a life. I love what I do, including the routine. And especially the inspiration. When Inspiration stops by for a quick chat and ends up staying awhile, I have been known to laugh out loud in sheer delight. I get to paint purple shadows and warm yellow suns and yes, I can wear a beret whenever I want. (I do not, however, own a cape.) Being an artist is my job, and it’s the best job ever.
If you think you’re ready, come on along. Bring your beret.
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
Is this week 3 of my self imposed exile? I've lost track.
Way back in the summer of 2009 I embarked on a Painting-a-day-for-100-days project with my friend Mavis. We agreed to paint a 5x7 painting of whatever was visible from a highway, one every day for 100 days. Gosh, it sounded like fun.
Reading over those posts now, I'm impressed with the seemingly simple lessons that came with what ended up being an extremely challenging project.
I got not only 100 paintings, but some pretty practical experience in, well, click the links and see for yourself.