Image from the Internet
When I first moved to Manhattan I was without a studio for three years. In some ways, they were the happiest three years of my life. SoHo was the center of the universe then, and Saturdays were full of artists like myself making the rounds of galleries on Thompson, West Broadway, Wooster, Greene, Mercer, Broadway, and up and down the "ladder" of streets from Houston to Canal. On Sundays I went to the museums. Best of all, I was freed from the routine of sending out those packages with $50 worth of slides that rarely came back to me. I didn't miss that ongoing exercise in rejection. No, I didn't miss that at all.
Though I was tethered to a nine-to-five job, I loved having evenings, weekends, and vacations to myself, with the freedom to spend art supply money on things like taxis and dinner out. And with the money I wasn't spending on studio rent, I went to Italy. Three times in those three years.
I was aware I was living the artist's version of the Rumspringa, that time when Amish youth leave home to explore the world. But while I was livin' large, a tiny twinge of displacement was busy growing into a very big sense of—how to describe it?—feeling not fully myself. I was looking at a lot of art but I wasn't making any. I wasn't quite me. Yeah, yeah, I kept a sketchbook, did some life drawing, and took a lot of photographs, but I wasn't filling the hole.
When I finally got my studio in Union Square and set to painting, I returned to myself. I never felt better! You know that feeling: working alone in the studio, conjuring images out of nothing but firing neurons and some pigmented goo.
At the same time, I never felt worse. That Rumspringa freedom flew out my fifth-floor studio window, just as money angst and rejection came skulking back in through the door. With the lease I'd signed, I knew that tens of thousands of dollars would be plowed into a 450-square-foot space over the ensuing years, with weekends, evenings and vacations spent not in Italy, or at the beach or sleeping late at home on Sunday morning, but in the studio making the most of a second 40-hour work week. La croce e la delizia, the burden and the pleasure, rolled into one.
With few exceptions, the material life of an artist is all uphill. You know what I mean. So, these are some questions for you today:
. Do you ever think about giving up artmaking?
. What keeps you from doing so?
. Have you ever gone for a long period without making art?
. What made you come back?
. Have you given it up and not looked back?
. Or do you look back with longing?
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