Monday, April 17, 2017

Shifting Gears

A little over 2 years ago, I closed the gallery portion of my business and moved to a new studio and workshop space. I longed for a schedule that allowed for more time for painting both in studio and on location plus I had projects in my head that had been there for years. The change of pace went a little differently than I expected.

After 17 years owning Schroeder Studio Gallery in Old Towne Orange which had all the vibrancy and parking problems inherent to that sort of environment, I moved a scant 3 miles away to a quiet center where businesses are destinations for their customers. It is adjacent to a city park where ducks and geese gather on the pond. I got exactly what I desired, a space large enough for 12 students yet small enough for my own use as a studio. It is on a ground floor with lots of available parking. There is abundant space on walls for hanging paintings. I was sure I could jump right in to the schedule I longed for - uninterrupted hours for contemplative painting. Imagine my surprise when that didn’t happen for quite awhile.

With this distance of time, I think I understand what happened to my well laid plans. First, I was exhausted from the move, both mentally and emotionally. The new space had required attention since it had been vacant for years. So in one space I was letting go of display pieces no longer needed and in the new studio I needed painting and furniture storage. In addition I was working on a plan for the arrangement of the furniture I was taking with me. There was NO sketching or painting going on for several weeks. After the move I think I was so tired that I just needed time to be and get accustomed to my new environment.

I was embarking on a new adventure where a different approach was necessary and that took me a good amount of time to accomplish. I spent my first weeks in the studio planning workshops, contacting and communicating with guest instructors and organizing my new space.

What I didn’t factor in was that my history had been one of support for others, not the single minded pursuit of art. In fact my high school art teacher had told my Mom that I might be too social for the solitary life of an artist. I listened to that so I earned a teaching credential in college, one with a speciality in art. After I taught for a few years, my children arrived and when they were in school I often taught in their classrooms. Even though I was painting seriously with noted watercolorists, my main hats were teacher, wife, mother, and then gallery owner. All along I was very aware of those I was charged with helping. It definitely fit my personality - I adore teaching and representing wonderful artists was pure joy. I am much more comfortable promoting others rather than myself. 

But here I was, being busy in all the ways that didn’t support my painting goals - working on the business of art first and trying to paint in the afternoon. That didn’t work so well. So, what did I do? First was remembering that I am my best creative self if the artwork comes at the beginning of the day, not at the end. It DOES take energy to paint as contrary as that idea is when you are largely quiet while doing that. I needed that to change so I gave myself an assignment. First thing in the morning, I began doing a series of figures done in pencil and white gouache in a gray sketchbook. I have dozens of photos of people taken all over the world which was perfect subject matter. That began a change in habit pattern. I was moving in the right direction.

My next goal was to review images in sketchbooks. I began by finishing some that were not quite complete. Then I reviewed several which were not to my liking and judged them as a design problem. I use those corrections when I teach a workshop called, “Keeping a Watercolor Journal.”

Then I decided to do a full sheet watercolor of my grand daughter in a fairly constant pose - deep in a book, snuggled beneath a comforter. That was prompted by a weekend when I had my three grandchildren and I got a photo that I knew would make a nice painting. I worked on that every day for a month or more by the time you count the studies for both her face and the comforter.

Once I completed all of the above, I was “reprogrammed!” I put the most important stuff at the beginning of the day and the necessary at the end. I am at the studio or painting on location 5 days a week most of the time. I’ve always had more ideas than time and now I have the luxury of enough time to go after some of those goals. So it’s all worked as I had envisioned, just slower than I had expected.

This post is due to those artists who have shared with me their own struggles to find time to paint. As I commented on this experience of “shifting gears”in recent demonstrations for art groups I was encouraged to write this post. So here it is, it is my wish that it helps someone else!

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