As the calendar turned another month, I revisited my original intentions for the new year. So far, I’ve done better than anticipated in my resolve to cultivate a disciplined and sustained art practice—my bedroom/studio wall is literally covered with charcoal figure drawings, my watercolor pieces are starting to look less like finger paintings and more like something you’d see in the hallway of a hospital, the 35mm/365 project is unfolding nicely, and I’ve finished sixteen handmade notebooks/journals/sketchbooks—eleven ahead of schedule.
Although things are going well, there was a rough patch. Working two part-time jobs, attending a drawing workshop and a painting class, running a one-woman mini-factory of handmade notebooks, carving out time for photography, and trying to have a social life took its toll. I came down with a cold, a product of my self-inflicted tendency towards overwork and spreading myself too thin.
It made me realize that, although I’ve been disciplined and highly productive with my art, the rate at which I’m working is obviously not sustainable. It made me recall a memory from when I was a child, where my mother tucked me under a blanket and explained that I had to choose which activities I really, really wanted to do, because I couldn’t do them all. I was stretching myself too thin, and twenty years later, I’m still trying to learn where the balance lies.
Yet despite being conscious of what I’m doing, I know I’m going to keep spreading myself thin—just hopefully not too thin. You see, it’s how I operate. Inhabiting various mediums—painting, drawing, writing, photography—can be advantageous, in that they inform one another. Sometimes when I’m painting I get an idea for a story, or a photo series, or vice versa. And feeling like a beginner in watercolors helps me appreciate my experience and background in drawing and 35mm photography. I learn where my strengths and weaknesses lie, where the discomfort is.
But most importantly, the reason why I have to do all of it and more, is that they teach me differently. When I paint and draw, I’m taught to think less, to look and feel more. With each print that comes back from the lab, I’m taught the art of patience, that there is a lot worth waiting for. The handmade journals teach me to slow down, to take things step by step, to embrace the imperfections in the covers and the spine. They allow me to slow down enough to look at the places unfolding beneath my hands.