I spent a lovely afternoon catching up with a friend I first met almost 17 years ago. Wow. It’s weird to think that anything in my life today has a 17 year history attached to it…but no bitching about growing old here. (As a wise person once pointed out: it’s better than the alternative.) It was great. She’s in an inspiringly happy space in life & fostering her creativity in many forms, which spurred me to pick up with one version of my own that I have been inexplicably neglecting lately: I started knitting a hat. If you have a Ravelry account, you can view the pattern here. I’ll probably make mine a little longer…because I have a huge head.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on this identity I’ve always had of myself as an artist. In adulthood, I invariably feel like I come up short in the area of action & production. Part of that is the curse of perfectionism which often leads to a complete abandonment of effort. But there’s a big chunk of validity in there too. After graduating from art school, I essentially hung up my smock, so to speak, with a little bit of relief. Art can be exhausting. It is never done & you can’t always control its schedule. It has to come to you to some extent. And it’s not just creative problem solving – it’s also creative problem creating. I think for a time after I finished my undergrad degree I really sought work that had simple, defined parameters – a to-do pile & a done pile & a bimonthly paycheck with the same amount every time. And because my artistic practice in college had involved large open studios, expensive equipment, and high-maintenance media to which I no longer had access, I stopped thinking of myself as an artist, & largely stopped creating anything at all.
But the trouble is that you can’t make yourself not an artist if you are one. Back in college, one day as I was dressing my loom, my fibers professor sat down next to me & out of the blue said “You have the soul of an artist. I can tell.” She may have just been batty (& I say that with love), but it always stuck with me. At some point I started to realize that the less I tended to that part of me, the more frustrated & unsatisfied I felt. In fact that may be why this blog has been reborn for the last three New Year’s in a row – the recognition that I need to (re-)start somewhere.
Coinciding with my most successful attempt so far at rebuilding a regular creative practice via this blog, it was wonderful to reconnect with a friend who knew me way back in the days when we would spend our high school lunch hours in the painting studio. She also went into an art program for undergrad & echoed some parts of my story, too, which made me feel less a pariah for having given up for a time afterward. And seeing all the exciting things she’s working on now & balancing with the realities of adulthood also helped minimize my own mental hurdle of getting back into a practice. I don’t have to have a show at the Whitney to reclaim a mode in which it feels valid to call myself an artist & a maker again. I plug away at this here & cast on a hat there & little by little I can reclaim that part of my identity I may have been too much a perfectionist to sustain before.
If you’re reading: Thank you, friend. Looking forward to hanging out again soon!