This morning I was reading the New York Times and I came across an article, “With ‘Stay Lit,’ Writers Persevere in a Hostile World.” One of the writers mentioned in the article is Russell Rowland, who recently wrote an essay about continuing to write, despite difficult circumstances, disappointments, and failures. Both of these articles are about professional writers, but I found the content to be just as relevant to my experience as a visual artist. One of my favorite excerpts from Rowland’s essay is below:
“But the desire to write, it seems, is a sickness for which there is no cure. Except writing.”
I feel the same way about making visual art. As time goes on, I find that I am asking myself more and more why I do this to myself. Lately it seems like being creative has become a compulsion that I resent a lot of the time. I can’t help but think that I would be a happier, healthier person if I didn’t have this drive to create.
You would think that with more years of experience that working as an artist gets easier, but in my experience it just seems to be getting harder. I was talking to one of my former students the other day, and we were discussing the difference between working in art school and working professionally. When I was an art student, I worked hellish hours, with much more intensity than I ever do today. I did marathon work sessions that lasted 8-10 hours into the morning hours. Today I rarely get to work more than 3 hours at a time because of constraints in my schedule. Yet somehow, those hellish hours were easier. Art school was like running a 2 minute sprint where you run as fast as you possibly can, can’t even pause to think, but then you finish and get to take a solid break before starting up again. Now, I feel like I’m on a treadmill that won’t turn off. The treadmill is not going very fast, and I finally have time to think, but there are no breaks and pacing myself is critical to survival.