Lazy bones sleepin’ in the sun how you think you gonna get your day’s work done
You’ll never get your day’s work done sleepin’ in the noonday sun
Lazy bones sleepin’ in the shade how you gonna get your corn meal made
You’ll never get your corn meal made sleepin’ in the noonday shade
I’ve always valued fallow periods as essential for fertile work, but I’ve often wondered if a daily practice could help me find a thread through both stages in my art practice. This seems particularly relevant now.
I was once advised by a drawing mentor to maintain a practice as well as a Practice. The intention was to develop a strategy that maintains contact with the studio during less productive stages. I am (maybe for the first time) consciously heeding her advice. I’ve also started to analyze my understanding of work in the context of the studio and judgments of productivity.
I’m fortunate in having had many mentors—some brief, several ongoing—through my entry into this strange world of art practice. Their advice was in so many ways valuable and propelling. Much of it hinged on the charge to “get in your studio every day.”
This has failed me during the periods where I struggle most—researching, working while employed, while away, while happy, while unhappy, while inspired by other ares of my life, working in the unknown, working on the unknown—which as it turns out amounts to much of my life. A limited understanding of daily “studio” work has taunted me, its guilt-inducing approach resulting in no work. So like so much in my life right now—thanks Eyelevel—I’m going to re-frame, rather than reject that advice:
Get in your studio every day
Be in your studio every day
Be in your practice every day
With this re-framed, I finally see parallels in other advice I’ve received.
Are you walking?
Are you reading?
This will lead to something (in response to my obsessively writing out recipes)
practice versus Practice
Give yourself credit and space
This is all part of your practice, and it is all filtered through you
Your various work (artist, writer, curator) isn’t separate, and the hierarchy is limiting
Creative energy takes many forms
There is no such thing as art
We produce work in certain circumstances
How we move through the world informs our practices
We connect people, surround ourselves with people, multi-task
Gather a group of your peers to support and discuss ideas
Gather a group of your peers to support in the administration of your practice
Both literary and experiential research are valid
The difference in language is evident. I want to be sure to give airtime to the other voice of my collective mentors. The voice that doesn’t promote daily studio work, but rather, proposes other ways of maintaining contact with practice—because this is ultimately the common thread among all of them.
Be in your practice every day
Stay present in your practice.
If fallow periods are followed by bursts of making, then maybe I have been staying connected after all. If this is case, then these connections can be nurtured. Now that’s a new strategy.
Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.
― Mavis Gallant, Paris Stories
Mavis Gallant has died, at the age of 91. In hearing this news, I couldn’t help but think about reading in Paris. It is one of the parts of my life in Europe that I miss the most.
Book vendors on the Seine, bookstores on every corner, books whose covers are simply text because it is the content that readers are after, haunting writers’ past haunts, writing in cafes beneath photos of them writing, reading in parks, carrying books in our bags, flirtatious bookstore owners, the smell of libraries that still contain paper, hearing lectures about translation strategies, finding a photo in a book by a Nova Scotian author at a now-closed bookstore.
I’m working to get back into reading―tricking myself with grippy fiction then moving quickly into a classic before I lose the habit; prominently placing books in all of the places in my house where I might find myself inclined to peruse a phrase or two; picking up theory for a few pages; tackling essays rather than books; buying beautiful matte magazines; luxuriating over a single poem; carving out reading time.
Soon, I’ll add reading in parks to that strategy. It won’t be the Jardins de Luxembourg or Place de Vosges but it will be green and spacious. I think this week I’ll pick up my collection of Mavis Gallant stories, open it to one of her Paris stories, and start there.
I’ve been invited to speak, along with two of my peers, to students from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Wednesday 12 February 2014, 5:30 to 7pm
at the Anna Leonowens Gallery
Halifax, Nova Scotia
What’s life after Art School? Get schooled by local professional artists Andrew Hunt, Bethany Riordan Butterworth, and Katie Belcher as they share their experiences about the opportunities and challenges in a professional life of art, craft, and design.