Thursday, December 10, 2009

Work vs Play

When I tell people I’m an artist most of them seem to have this vision of me standing at an easel all day following my muse. I was thinking this morning about how most folks really don’t understand the difference between creating art for fun and creating art for a business. I love what I do, but contrary to what most people think, I don’t get to paint all the time and I don’t get to paint whatever I want to, and I can’t always do it when I’m in the mood and feeling inspired.
For instance, about two weeks ago I was scurrying about trying to ship holiday orders, and make enough stock for Pike Place Market as well as all my wholesale orders and in the midst of that mayhem realized that my 2010 catalog needed to go to print by mid December in order to have it in time for the winter wholesale shows.
Uh-oh.
So here I was in the middle of the busiest season of the year and I had to find time to paint. Not only to paint, but also to come up with new ideas. And not only did I have to do this in a rush when I was already overloaded (my own fault, of course) but I had to paint what I think will sell, not what I felt like painting. For me that kind of creating is not as much fun, not as inspiring or relaxing and not as rewarding.
It means compromise.
Such as:
Because I hadn’t planned ahead, I had to fit it in at night after working all day making the gears of my business run smoothly. This meant dragging myself back into the studio after dinner when I’d rather be reading my book, out for a drink with friends or just sitting by the fire with the cats.
And then there’s the creative compromise. For instance: I have been resisting the Angel alarm clock request for years. (I believe I wrote about it here not that long ago) Call me a scrooge, but I just can’t deal with sugary sweet cute stuff like angels and unicorns. But I finally gave in this week and decided to do it. And the bowling wall clock? Not my thing really, but I’ve had a lot of requests so I had to get over myself and do it.
Now, the Lizard and the T-Rex were more fun.
And the Dinner Dog wall clock, I loved doing this one.
The little bird magnets and the leaves were fun, too. But the bowling magnets and the skiing magnets? Not so much. Still, I did them – they were on the list and I have to listen to my customers and buyers if I want to make a living.

Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE what I do. I know this job is about as cushy as they come. I don’t have to risk my life in the coalmines, or sit in a cubicle or answer to anyone else in any way. I can take Facebook breaks and listen to podcasts while I work. I feel absolutely blessed and lucky to be making a living with my art. I say thank you every day. Really. Out loud.

But sometimes I almost forget how much I love painting and long for the days when I did it for that love. When I could drift off into my right brain and feel that meditative, spiritual sense of relaxation and expression that comes from creating from that pure place. If you’re an artist you know that feeling.

So, come January I’m going to dedicate a few days off to painting just for fun, just for me. To remind myself how and why I do what I do and feel that surge of creativity run through my veins again. It's the addiction to that drug that got me where I am today, and I'm long overdue for my next dose.

2 comments:

Greg said...

Great post, Pam. I'm glad you decided to put some work into it. As someone who has to pay a high price every single day for NOT being someone who can shuffle priorities to do my music like you do with your art, you gave me a lot to reflect on. And I'm especially glad that you are scheduling a few days to get in "the zone" and connect with what made you want to do art in the first place... good luck with that.

Joline said...

Keep telling it like it is, Pam. I too have to make a special effort to carve out and defend any time spent on the kind of art-making that feeds my soul. On the other hand, like you, I am blessed and thankful to be making my living from my hands, even if making what sells is a compromise.