As an artist who is also a young professional and a graduate student, I'm used to hearing both others and myself commiserate about trying to find the time and space to do art. Eight foot tall oil paintings just aren't plausible in a small, rented apartment on the outskirts of Boston when you work two and a half jobs. I realized this before going into my new life and started working on smaller pieces, but even so, my painting output has trickled down to a small and inconsistent flow.
And yet I don't feel any lack of creativity. There are many reasons for this, but I struck on one in particular while I was writing in my nightly journal (which I will have to go back to after the completion of this blog post). For the past couple years I've joked that I am my best art piece. To the extent that if I got a tattoo, which is still in the list of possibilities, I would want it to be my artist signature so that I would have signed said best piece of art. I always approached this half-jokingly and semi-seriously. My current definition of art is "an object or idea to which a person devotes time, thought, and energy." If this is true, than I am indeed an art piece, as are you.
As I was writing tonight, I realized that this metaphor can be applied in another way. I've noticed that when I do a creative act, the whole picture often overwhelms me. For example, if I try and draw a face and it looks like a deformed melon. But when I try and draw the specific curves and lines, ignoring the fact that they will make a face when they come together, at first it looks disjointed and wrong. If I push past that and continue to focus on the lines, then after x amount of time I have an art piece.
My life is like a drawing. If I try and create the whole thing in one broad stroke, it takes on life's version of a deformed melon, ungainly, overwhelming, and downright discouraging. However, if I separate out the elements, focusing on the way the blue dots meet the red squiggles throughout the piece, trying to highlight a path for eye movement, or bring balance to the overall composition, then I make progress. It's then that I can do work intently, step back and marvel at my success, and then dive back in.
Of course, sometimes when I take a step back it looks just as bad as it did when I started. This happens in my life too. I spend all my time focusing on my folk songs only to realize that my technical skills as a classical pianist have all but disappeared. But sometimes, when I spend all my time developing myself as an art teacher and start wondering if I've left behind my painter self, I step back and realize that because the teacher part of my "life art" is stronger, myself as a person overall is stronger. What I've been focusing on contributes to the balance of the overall composition of my life.
With this reassuring thought in mind, I'll turn back to my journal and continue writing about the wonderful class I taught today on figure drawing while my paintings shiver in the corner, my guitars sigh in their cases, and my book continues to sleep on my desktop. But soon it will be their turn, because to create a wonderful art piece you have to pay attention to every detail.