It feels like something needs to change. And that’s after everything changed for me. If there’s one thing moving is good for, it’s taking over every other concern in your life with its alarm bells and insistent stress.
It’s easy to separate professional and personal lives, and day job from artistic practice, but you really only have one life. It flows with time, always moving forward, not giving a damn about our attempts to compartmentalize and section it off. It’s useful to organize time that way, don’t get me wrong. But ultimately it all runs together and is affected by every other part of a life.
So, when you feel restless, that things have stagnated, that wheels are spinning in place, it’s good to remind yourself to slow down and just keep working. There’s just one downside: you can get lazy and stop altogether. Careful of that. It’s easy to put off the stuff you’re supposed to be doing.
When I say “old,” I mean in contemporary art terms. 4 years on YouTube is decades of art history realtime. But I couldn’t stop watching this Sterling Ruby short, even when sharing it for someone else to check out. It’s visceral sculpture that gets to the heart of issues I’ve struggled with: what does gesture mean when the artist’s hand is subjugated to digitization, control, and technology that represents with ever greater range and expression? Why do physical work at all? Here’s one answer, and it’s mesmerizing to watch.
As a bonus, I didn’t come to the video first, I was amazed by this new article in Architectural Digest describing Ruby’s massive L.A. studio space, somewhere amid the industrial warehouses a few miles below downtown.
Look, after all, maybe your day is at night. I think to qualify, it has to be something you’d rather do less than the other thing you wish could support you. This is why I think a lot of us spend time putting it down, telling other people it’s not what we really do.
But I think this isn’t being kind. This isn’t fair to the job. If you imagine it’s a person with feelings, they’re going to be hurt. On the other hand, if we don’t get something happening with the thing-we’d-rather-be-doing soon, we’re going to be hurt. I’m trying out a different way of thinking about it.
Rather than resent my day job for taking me away from art, I’m trying to think of it as partner to creation. Maybe there’s an element of that in the job, but I’d say usually there isn’t much. But focus on those little aspects—as well as on the things that make it different from art—make it easier to go to work every day. My job isn’t my enemy, it’s my partner-in-crime, secretly enabling me to work on projects that I’m not ready to ask for money for.
If you find yourself hating your job, it could be time to hunt for a better one, but if you’re just wishing you could spend the time working on the creative stuff, maybe this framing can help. I’ll try to remember to post a follow-up in a while.
It seems like we get put down for carrying on a brief obsession with something, but it can be a reason to get familiar with something new or to experience something familiar with new eyes and ears.
My current is above, of course. The bass sound is gorgeously full, the slapback echo on the vocal is almost haunting, but still charming, and the melody and lyrics themselves are fun and earwormy. I hear something new almost ever re-listen, which is amazing. Now. How to apply this obsession to something I’m doing.
I took this photo for other purposes. But I’ve been staring at it, wondering if there’s a message to be extracted. Exit and entrance are the same opening. It’s the same size and appearance for both, nothing is different except which side you use.
Is art the same? Existence? Work, consumerism, relationships, comedy, water? I’m not sure. We can only interpret for ourselves and keep moving forward. If it means it’s time to turn around and go out the way we came, we’re still working on the journey, and still not giving up.
We have dreams of making a lot of money with our work, most of us. Those are easy fantasies. Harder is to look in the opposite direction.
What your work is worth is, really, a balance between the most anyone would pay and the least. Which, let’s face it, is nothing, even assuming both ends of the scale are occupied by people who want your thing. But just as art is a gift to you, it’s also one you can decide to make.
Consider that, rather than lowball a piece or store it away, you could give it to someone—a person—who will value it as a precious gift, rather than squeezing the thing for pennies because you have a hard time getting the dollars.
Sometimes gifting is a choice of high value, not lowest possible profit.
Not all instances—and certainly not in art—lend themselves to quick decisions, but most often, forging ahead with decisions and paths is the best.
Hesitation and too much thinking about choices and potential outcomes can easily spiral inward in a disappointing and never-ending lack of finishing. Gut feeling doesn’t always work, but it does get you started.
It was asking for it. I think my point was going to be that the thing(s) right in front of you are fine subjects to draw. It’s not enough to learn it once, you have to keep at it. As in, daily or near-daily practice.
It’s not much like riding a bike, honestly. It’s like going to the gym. And, unfortunately for my ego, I think my drawing muscles are pretty atrophied. Back to the gym.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.