Saturday, April 20, 2013

Autumn Break

Last week felt like a week from some science fiction novel about life in a modern, urban-saturated world.  From horrifying world events being posted minute by minute on the web, to having my debit card sucked into the machine and confiscated because I suddenly couldn't remember my pin number (I still can't remember it.  It is like it was erased from my brain), to David's skin infection coming back, the world seemed like Koioniskatski? - life out of balance.

For my part, I blame hormones and hours spent alone hunched over a drawing pad or searching internet images for everything from traditional Japanese Mol designs, to color pallets, to 1960s models striking absurd poses.  Switching from that brain mode to practical, pragmatic details can be wrenching.  Also, I wasn't interacting with people, either on Skype or in real-life, so I went a little spacey.

I have been on break from school which gives me  time to slow down a little bit. The weather has finally turned cold and the rain was so fierce this morning that the streets were flooding and the sky was black most of the day.  David and I were going to go away for the week-end but we couldn't make up our minds where we wanted to go, then we couldn't get tickets, so we are not going anywhere.   It's  just as well.  It gives me more time to catch up on all my school assignments and to procrastinate drinking tea and reading Facebook.  At some point, we will go to Hobart or Adelaide, but not this time.

Anyway, I have gotten a lot of drawing and painting done, and I have organized two of my portfolios. I did a painting for a fabric design that I was really pleased with.  The basic look of it and the colors were just what I had envisioned so it felt good to know that I could actually manifest an idea.
some sketches

the colors don't look that good in the photo 

I also went out for a glass of wine with one of my class mates last wednesday.  She is a French woman who has worked in the fashion industry in France but relocated to Australia and is working on getting re-established here.  We had a really nice time sipping wine at The White Horse, and chatting about school, Sydney, and life.  (Coincidentally,  a guy was playing the stand up base and singing french jazz classics like La Vie en Rose, while we there).

Another thing that got me out of my pajamas was our date with Nicole and her gang to meet her younger sister who is visiting from NYC.  The gathering was at a basement bar in the city called Uncle Ming's.  It was described as reminiscent of a 1920's Chinese opium bar.  The atmosphere was actually quite cozy and fun.  There was no smoking (of any kind) going on, but the drinks were yummy and the decor was clever and artfully done.  As the evening went on, it got louder and the music was turned up, so we had to shout, but I still managed to have several good conversations.  I even managed to talk to Nicole and her sister just before we left.
Uncle Ming's

We took a cab home through damp streets and I watched the blur of street signs and traffic lights.  I didn't feel happy or sad, just distracted and ever-so-slightly like Mary Tyler Moore at the beginning of her show thinking I might just make it after all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Shadow and Light

Last Wednesday I came home from school in the evening and cried my eyes out.  I was a little surprised by the intensity of my emotions at first, but later when I thought about it, it made sense.  I had had a disappointing, frustrating day, also, I was a little sleep deprived, but there was more to it than that.

I had just spent two happy weeks with one of my best friends in the world.  Lisa made the big trip down with her daughter and we had spent hours and hours talking about life and art (what else is there?).  We went to beaches and bakeries and gardens, but mostly we looked at art and the artistic nature of the city in architecture, shop windows, and even gutters.  We were mostly on the same wavelength, but a great thing about our relationship is that we have the ability to tell the other person an opposing viewpoint without confrontation.  We take advice from each other, or we have a laugh and reject it, but it is all without judgement or conflict.

It was so special to have her here.

The house felt empty and I cried a little bit when they left.  They left on Easter which was also my sister Peggy's birthday, and one day past the anniversary of her death.  It has been more than a decade and I still feel the same frustration, despair, and sadness over the loss of her.  I have a slightly bigger view of life and death and the world now which allows me some retreat from those emotions, but she is still gone, and I still miss her.

It was also the same week as the anniversary of the death of our dear friend Joel who died suddenly last year.  David was gone to Los Angeles during that week so he was able to share a drink with friends and colleagues to honor him.  David came home exhausted and upset because he had contracted a staff infection on his nose while he was gone.   It was not his best trip.

Through all this, I was obsessed with getting my school work done.  I had been working on a Pop Art brief for about three weeks, getting inspirations, developing ideas in artwork, and organizing possible themes and projects.  I also had my painting work and all my other classes to keep up with.  Everywhere I looked I saw pop art influences - it is everywhere.  I kept thinking "how can I make it uniquely mine"?  By Easter afternoon I had all my materials and my to do list.  It was due on Tuesday so everything was winding up.  I took over the kitchen table and worked for about 12 hours.  Then I worked for about another 9 or 10 hours on Monday (we had the day off for what is known as Easter Monday).  I was a little let down when I showed it to the teacher.  She said mine was good but she didn't really get excited about it.  Lot's of people didn't show up, a few people hadn't finished, or they had but they hadn't understood the project and had done it wrong.

Then on Wednesday I went into the print room to do my final print of my sunglasses design.  It was going to be a two color and I had decided to do mint and peach on beige.  I wasn't happy with the last two color runs that I had done and I was determined to get this one right.  Long story short - I had to pick different colors and I was really frustrated and dissatisfied with it.  By the time I got home with my pile of mediocre fabric, I just collapsed and sobbed.

It wasn't that the fabric was so bad, it was just that I had an idea, I tried to manifest it, and it fell short.  I don't know why, but on an emotional level, this whole design program, for me, feels like a risk.  I feel like I am putting myself out there, baring my soul to a world that I don't really know, and subjecting myself to the possibility of ridicule and rejection.  That sounds dramatic, and the adult side of me says "don't be silly; other people don't matter; you have to take risks; mistakes are how we learn; blah, blah blah!" But the rest of me is getting exhausted by the exercise.

I am not going to quit.  I am still thrilled to be doing it.  I love the work and my classes.  I am learning and hopefully growing everyday.  I love coming up with new ideas, and I like a lot of what I produce.  I have already come some ways from where I started.  That all exists along side the struggles, confusion, insecurities, and doubt.  It takes me a fair amount of energy to fight against the part of me that says "I don't want to get out of bed today; I will never succeed; my work is out of touch with the rest of the world."
Lisa at the White Rabbit gallery

So: missing friend, death of sister, sick husband, completion of a big project, frustration with creative process - all equal a big emotional breakdown and release.  I didn't put it all together till a few days later, but it released some endorphins at the time and helped me sleep.

Everyone talks about being happy.  What does it mean?  Choose to be happy.  Always put  your best foot forward.  Smile even if it is a fake smile.  Say that you can do something and that you are happy with your work even if it is not true.

I can see the benefit of this trick.  I can see that it can have a positive effect.  But it bothers me that people are so easily swayed, that they choose this simple, false posturing over true, complex humanity.  I am not saying that negativity is the way (although I love Woody Allen's comment about life being divided between the horrible and the miserable!).  I just think that it is easier, richer, and truer to acknowledge the whole spectrum of thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

I loved the talk by Patti Smith where she talks about life being good and bad, happiness and pain.  I also love the quote about true humanity being the willingness to play on in the face of sure defeat.  I love the Jungian concept of the shadow self and that it takes all parts to make a whole person.  I think we all need a good cry sometimes and I am glad that it comes easily for me when I need it.