Friday, October 18, 2013

An Experiment

Back in July, after consultations with trusted mentors, I decided to take a semester off from teaching and dedicate all my time to working in the studio. The past three months have given me the opportunity to learn how to structure my working hours and what I need to do to stay motivated and productive. Extended time alone in my studio has revealed strengths and weaknesses in my approach to art-making.

During this time, I have also been training to run my first marathon at the end of October.  Learning to run long distances has taught me new ways to manage my studio practice.  For example, to keep from getting bored while running, it is a good idea to change pace--in fact, although it seems counter-intuitive, it is helpful to speed up when boredom or tiredness hits.  Running faster for a mile or two before easing back into a slower pace makes the slower pace seem easier by comparison and gives me confidence that I'm not yet at the end of my resources. The approach of speeding up works also for me in the studio when I feel bored or tired of some activity, whether rendering form or sanding wood.  If I can get myself to work faster, to infuse my activity with energy from the whole body instead of just the wrist or elbow, my interest is often renewed and I sometimes surprise myself with just how quickly a task can be accomplished.

Perhaps the most obvious lesson from marathon training that applies to art-making is knowing that the race can be finished.  At this point in my marathon training, the farthest I have run is 22 miles.  Even though I know that, on race day, I will still have 4.2 miles more to go once I reach the 22 mile marker, I am confident that I can reach the finish line.  Although this lesson is an obvious one to apply to making art, it is a difficult one for me experience emotionally.  I struggle to believe that I can finish a new project in a way that will be successful (whatever that means!).  I am dogged by feelings of insecurity and a lack of confidence in my decisions and artistic abilities.  My hope for myself over the next few months of time alone in my studio is that I can apply my experience of running and finishing a marathon to my daily art practice, confident that, although the work is difficult and the outcome uncertain, I can finish strong.