If there is one thing this year has taught me, it is that inspiration needs hope and patience to grow.
When the Covid clouds rolled in in February and we began to see the writing on the wall, I vacillated between panic and motivation. Then all my customers started cancelling their weddings and it was panic for the win.
I thought, I will pivot.
I will put my creativity to a different use. I began to teach free online art classes to help my fellow parents cope. Hundreds of families all over the world participated. That made me happy.
Then “distance learning” began for my daughters and suddenly they needed me full time. In a blink I had gone from full time artist to full time tech support, teacher, and snack provider, just like mothers everywhere. Nobody is ordering ketubahs anyway, I thought to myself, so this is life now.
I had worked so hard to realize my dream of being a working artist, and like so many of my fellow small business owners, I wondered, is this how it ends?
Slowly, but surely, under the siege of bad news, worry, and demands on my attention, my bandwidth ran out. I didn’t even glance up from the screen when my Muse snuck out the door. Who has time for her anyway, I thought.
But without my Muse around, things got worse.
I went through the motions of life, made the meals, read the bedtime stories, but I had checked out. Desperate for feeling anything other than despondence, I demanded that she come back now. Come back, I told her. I’ll try! But, turns out that my Muse doesn’t work that way. She is fragile, and finicky, and high maintenance. She needs to be seduced.
I tried to make the conditions right for her, to tempt her back. I went off social media. I stopped checking the news. I got noise cancelling headphones. I tried meditating. I tried running. I tried taking the pressure off of myself and not touching my art supplies at all. I learned to put out my kids snacks in advance to limit distractions. But there was no sign of her.
As an artist, I am used to going big. I don’t mean just working large, I mean bold colors, thick strokes, fast motions. I dive gleefully into my inspiration, coming out tired and out of breath on the other side. But the beating that is 2020 was sucking me dry and none of my normal strategies worked. I hated everything I tried to paint. The floor of my studio became more and more cluttered with discarded paintings.
That is how, amid the chaos, I discovered that sometimes to do something big, you have to go small.
I went back to basics. I first started experimenting with colored pencils after teaching with them during the art classes for kids. Working with a tiny little pencil point is a slow process. Very, very slow. It is meticulous and tedious and I found that it was just what the doctor ordered.
One inch of paper at a time, I began to lure my Muse back to me.
I spent hours bent into a pretzel on the floor, drowning out the kid noises and my husband’s zoom meetings. I turned to the masters. Museums and galleries are still off-limits in Los Angeles, so I poured over my art books, just like I used to back in art school. I drew on the genius of Lucian Freud, Egon Schiele, Alice Neel, and Chuck Close for inspiration.
I focused on details: textures, contours, and shadows.
I experimented with the material. I found that high quality colored pencils are more similar to oil paint than to graphite pencils.You can mix colors just like you do when painting! At first I worked small. Could I complete one highly detailed 8 X 8 inch piece and not have the urge to throw it away? I could! And then slowly, I started to expand, all while focusing on very small areas. One tiny pencil stroke after another, I began to pull myself out of the numbness. Every now and then, I would look up to see my Muse peaking in.
This year has been incredibly hard for everyone. So much loss. So much pain. So much loneliness, and fear, and chaos. And it is not over. But. After the plague, comes the Renaissance.
It is still a struggle, but I am incredibly grateful that my Muse is back in the studio on most days now. I have never been so proud to announce that I finally have a new collection of original pieces coming together.
This collection is deeply personal. It is quiet, intimate even. And so far, it is entirely in colored pencil!
I can’t wait to introduce you to her. More (including release date) coming soon. As always, subscribers to my Collector's List will get first dibs on all original paintings, 24 hours before they go live. Make sure to sign up here. Stay tuned, my friends. Thanks for being on this journey with me.