Living the Artist's Life: My Spring 2011 Residency


Here it is March already and I haven't written about the wonderful gift of a week to paint. Just paint. No day job. No ugly commute. Just paint, and me and a lovely short walk from the artist's house to the Annmarie Arts Center...

Sunday: Dropped off my groceries and light luggage, then unloaded the gear. I felt like Dexter, wrapping tables and floors in plastic and drop cloths. Being a pretty shy gal, it was awkward at first to start 'doing my thing' in front of people. Cherished private rituals turned inside-out for all to see. The idea of the Living Gallery is that the process is the product. The act is the art. There weren't many visitors throughout the week, but the majority of the conversations I did have were great. A 6-year-old with his wonderful grandparents showing me his drawings of the sculptures outside. Many people thinking I worked in oils or encaustic from the looks of my work instead of that red-headed stepchild acrylics.

Monday: Many of the canvases were marked up with charcoal. My personal challenges were to 1) explore blue, mix it better, use it more; 2) learn better how to dole out my paint for less waste but enough to make the amount of mixed colors I need in one session; 3) better understand my process--it can be so intuitive I lose the 'how' while losing myself; and 4) play around with a few new directions tempting me. It was a good, full day. A bit draining but solid.

Tuesday: Time has slowed down considerably. No Internet. No TV. No highway noises outside my window in the early morning hours. I'm slowing down too, in my head, with less monkey mind and scattered thoughts. I get a bittersweet glimpse of who I would really be if I were an artist full-time. I'm soaking things in--the crisp smell of winter air, the way the light from the huge windows hits my palette, and how I feel inside, really calm, as if I can wait for things to happen and not have to cram a painting session into 1 hour at night. I resolved to not regret that this is not my reality and instead think of this week as a gift.

Wednesday: The artist house is very cool. Simple. There are neat murals. Staying there reinforces the simplicity I'm feeling. It's very cold outside, and my joints are on fire. Painting stalls out a bit today, and I worry that I've bitten off too much. Self-doubt hits me like a brick wall but I get back on track, one small goal at a time.

Thursday: I'm feeling really good about the work I've done so far, but as a whole, the pieces don't seem too related. I start rushing a bit. Then at lunch I take a leisurely walk around the sculpture garden, my first since I arrived. One raised, spiraling walkway bears messages for the observant. Memory is a form of renewal, it offers a second chance. You never know how much you've done until you look back.  Since my work relies heavily on my memories, the words resonate, almost physically. I feel so lucky to be here, fully engaged in the moment. Even though I'm the only one there, I feel surrounded by friends from my past and I vow (once again) to reconnect and let people know how much they have meant to me. The afternoon painting goes well, though not quite in the directions I had expected. I let the paintings take me where they want me to go, a willing passenger.

Friday: My last day. I've been thinking more about my total inability to understand the language of math although its formulas are like a code I desperately want to crack. I am finishing up A Beautiful Gravity. It's a different work for me--the text is visible. It's a love poem. Even though I can't grasp math and physics, I know what it's like to fall. To lose your grip on something solid.

If you're an artist, particularly if you work full-time at a day job, look for a short-term residency where you can give yourself the gift of time and interact with other artists. Lose yourself. You never know where you'll land.

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