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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Value of Taking a (Big) Break

"Megan" (study)
Oil on linen - 12x9"

Have you ever considered taking a break from commercially driven work?

Have you wanted to, and come face to face with 'the voice'? You know the one..."Are you crazy? You need to make a living. You need to keep your galleries happy. You'll forget how to paint. The wheels will fall off and you'll never get things rolling again. Must keep the work coming." That voice.

I just took a 6 month sabbatical from painting for income. Actually didn't do a single painting, commercial or otherwise (other than workshop demos) from July to January. Unplanned. To a degree unexpected. And absolutely necessary. It was truly the BEST thing I've done for my art in a long time. The break from commercially motivated work is not over yet - will share more about that in a future post as I've developed some pretty strong opinions about it.

That said, the perfect opportunity to dive back into heart centered painting presented in the form of a gathering with 4 great painter friends. We arrived from different directions, traveling long distances, navigating the worst possible winter driving conditions and missed flights in order to assemble for a few days of painting live models.

We stayed in the same house and ate, drank, talked, breathed, lived art for 4 days. It was soul enriching on so many levels, and the perfect re-entry into serious painting. Both feet back into one of the most challenging kinds of painting - loved every minute of it. No judgement, no expectation, just curious looking, seeing, and reconnecting with the remarkable experience that is painting.

"Jennifer" (study)
Oil on linen - 11x14"

"Matt" (study)
Oil on linen - 12x9"

Here's what the break has made me absolutely certain of: If I am not completely captivated and engaged by a painting idea, I am no longer willing to spend time with it.

Bigger learning: Somehow in the time out I've developed the ability to notice as soon as I am getting pulled into a negative thought pattern around a painting, for any reason. (This is an extremely valuable skill that has eluded me until now, and I'm fairly certain a commitment over the last year to a mindfulness practice is largely responsible for this heightened awareness.)

I have made a choice that self-imposed negative energy around my art is no longer acceptable, and any condition that contributes to it (time constraints, other's expectations, fear, financial pressure - all of which are about attachment to outcome) is now prohibited. My intention is to allow only joyful energy into my studio space, and if I'm not doing that, then it's time to rearrange my thoughts, or change the condition.

I recently said to a good friend: "I need to find a way to get my heart back into the studio." It's becoming clearer that this is the way.

L-R: Marvelous Matt, Me, Sarah Kidner, Jean Pederson, Janice Robertson. Photo by the lovely Gaye Adams.