I am a freelance artist, historian and event planner, focusing on emotional connection to place. And I have a problem.
Most of my art commissions and historical research contracts take place in the summer - the precious, short summer. I am grateful- as a freelancer, you take the work when it comes. However, I quickly get burnt out when the horizon appears to contain no free time for my own projects.
So, I have stolen a phrase from my friend Tara Sasiadek, a fellow freelance artist and a philosopher. When her husband notices she has not given herself enough time in the studio, he tells her "You're being put in Art Jail" and send her upstairs with some tea and lunch. He keeps an eye on the dog, or runs an errand for her, to make sure she isn't distracted by daily household stuff. (What a catch, eh?)
My creative community inspires me, and reminds me that it's ok to occasionally set aside time for MY work, the passion projects that are big, long-term, or meaningful only to me. This week, in honor of this, I am putting myself in Art Jail for a week.
I'm hustling to get all my household work and business communication done in one hour each morning, and allowing myself one or two hours in the evening to work on client projects, but the rest of the day is devoted to wandering Buffalo, making art just for fun, and reinvesting in my well-being with yoga, writing, and reading.
This is a staycation focused on an investment - me.
I need renewal in order to have the energy to move forward successfully, to have the passion for projects that I'm only playing a small role in, or helping someone else achieve. I struggle with devoting precious time to myself; it feels wrong somehow. But then I remember, that my SELF is the person who has to sustain this business, and it would be wrong not to give myself some space occasionally!
Yesterday was the first day of Art Jail this week. I set out with nothing in mind but to do some urban sketching- capturing the city as it is, live on-site. I drove to Linwood Avenue, one of the most beautiful streets in Buffalo, IMHO. There are several Victorian houses I've always wanted to draw, so I decided to choose one of the narrow Stick-style homes.
Art jail, for me, also means experimentation that I don't normally give myself the time to do. Yesterday, I used colored pencil on toned paper and then Copic markers and Staedler ink pens on marker paper. I am working on being more bold in my colors, and deepening shadows. Contrast has long been a challenge for me - so that's something I'm focusing on this week as i work.
Halfway through my day, I stopped by the Freedom Wall mural which is a project of four local artists and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's public art program. My friend Edreys, one of the muralists, was working there on one of his last portraits - Harriet Tubman. The expressiveness of her face makes her an immediately recognizable figure. I felt so inspired looking at his work, and that of Julia Douglas, Chuck Tingley and John Baker.
Some of the notable portraits include Frederick Douglass, Ella Fitzgerald, Mary Burnett Talbert, William Wells Brown, MLK Jr, and Malcolm X. After a short tour, we observed the solar eclipse together using homemade contraptions and a birdwatching spotting scope. I was inspired by the beautiful portraits, and by seeing scientific and astronomical information come alive before my eyes.
My second drawing of the day was on Elmwood Avenue, a busy thoroughfare with many independent shops and restaurants. I like the unfinished feeling of this one, and the looseness. Having viewed the eclipse- I felt strange; unmoored and adrift but in a good way. I let it lead me through the rest of the afternoon.
To wander is a privilege. I will report back tomorrow morning.