Art: Show Up

A diptych titled "Hide" and "Seek" that I am currently working on.
“Make a space and show up every day. Get in the studio. Sit down at the dining room table. Clear off the coffee table. Pull out the journal or a small piece of drawing paper when you have five minutes, when you’re watching TV, and when there’s nothing else to do. Show up at the page, the canvas, the hunk of clay, or the pile of fabric. You must be present to win, so show up.”

This is advice that I wrote a year and a half ago in “Eric’s Rules”, and I am amazed at how often I do not show up and keep myself from the studio, the work, the journal. But then I am amazed at how much art I DO make over the course of several months. I guess that I have built in a variety of ways to show up and make art, but I feel like I could do more, especially given my propensity to veg out in front of the TV or distract myself with a variety of electronic devices.

So what are those little habits that I have in place now that allow me to make art? How do I cultivate those habits into a sustainable practice that is balanced with other parts of my life?

The journal is probably the biggest way that I show up and make art. It keeps me engaged in the process and habit of making, and often I find that I work on other pieces of art as I allow wet pages to dry. Regrettably, I don’t always work in my journal, and it often stays tucked in my bag for weeks, especially during hectic times. I need to pull it out more so that I can constantly stay engaged.

Finding five or ten minutes here and there is another way that I cultivate the artmaking habit whether it’s working in the journal or on wall art. Those brief moments add up over time. I don’t need hours of uninterrupted time in the studio, though that’s always nice. I can work at school when I have a few minutes, I can work during the commercials of a TV show, and I can add a few lines or shapes to pieces and pages instead of reaching for those electronic gadgets.

Working small is a third habit. Making small and portable art means that I can work on it anywhere, and I can quickly tuck it into the journal or small folder as a means of taking it with me. I can also relegate the messier media to the studio or the art classroom, and use the cleaner, drier media in the house or at the coffee shop. Having a small stash of easily portable materials makes the studio portable. Small work also is less daunting than large work. It’s too easy to say, “I don’t have time to do that huge painting I want to do.” I work a lot on pieces that art 11”x14” or smaller.

Multitasking is yet another way to make art a part of my life. Now I’m not a great multitasker, and if I am watching a movie or TV show that I haven’t seen before, I need to devote my energy to it because I miss so much. But with shows and movies that I have seen before, I can easily work on my art as the TV blares in the background. My wife and I watch some DVD’s again and again, so this is a very viable strategy. I need to find other times where multitasking can work.

My final strategy (which I need to be better at) is to schedule time, to make an appointment. I find that when I sign up for a class that meets each week, it gives me a structured time each week to make art. I get so much accomplished. So, I need to schedule time for making art even when I don’t have a class. I need to find two or three times a week where I can go into the studio for a set amount of time. I really need to say to myself that from this time to that time on a certain day of the week is studio time, and I really need to stick to it. I show up for work everyday. When I was part of the gallery, I showed up for my scheduled shifts. I need to do it with my studio work as well, schedule an appointment with my work.

My goal isn’t to make art 24/7, but to strike a balance with the rest of my life where I’m not overindulging in any one thing. I feel like I’m getting there.