I had lunch with one of my artist friends yesterday, and I realized after talking to her that I need to shift my thinking towards my art. I’ve been in denial about this, but I am finally letting myself confront the hard fact that over the past few months, my studio practice has become distressingly unpleasant. Lately it feels like I’ve had to focus all of my energy on everything but the art: meeting deadlines, exhibition logistics, making professional connections, publicity, etc. It’s gotten to the point where I’m distracted by so many external responsibilities that I don’t even enjoy the art making process. I’ve let the tasks outside of the studio ruin the experience of creating.
My friend said that another artist she knew recently did a solo exhibition that turned out to be a highly taxing experience. She said that this artist poured in months of work in the studio, had to make a huge financial investment to frame the work, and did substantial marketing and publicity. In the end, the artist said that it was extremely demoralizing to have dedicated such an immense amount of time and money into an endeavor that basically didn’t garner any concrete results. Other than being another line on her resume, her career didn’t make any noticeable progress, and none of the money she invested into the exhibition came back in the form of sales. I know from experience that unfortunately, this is a very common experience for many working artists.
If there’s no financial return, and no visible career advancement, what is left? Do we just have to keep treading water so we don’t disappear? My artist friend said that ultimately, you have to be able to derive your own joy and satisfaction from the experience of making the art. Otherwise, you’ll just be bleeding time and money, which frequently leads to bitterness and resentment.
That’s what I want back, that feeling of being so completely immersed in the art making process that it feels like nothing else in the world matters. I want to have studio sessions where I forget to be hungry and focus exclusively on the moment I’m in. I had a professor who used to say “if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.” I still don’t know what my next project will be, but whatever it is, I want to enjoy myself again.
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