Sunday, April 3, 2011

A sublime moment in the studio

I admit; sometimes, I get fed up with a life devoted to making art.

My friends’ kids right out of college make twice as much money a year as I do, and they get a pension and health insurance.

I save every penny I earn to buy art supplies. Things that others buy because they want them or because they need them -- a car, a couch, a washing machine, a trip -- are off my list, since that's the only way I can afford the materials to make my art.

I don’t even tell new people I meet – at a party or when I go to the dentist – that I’m a painter, because they either think I mean that I paint houses, or else they think I make landscape paintings to sell at gift shops. Instead I tell them I teach art, even though that’s what I do for a living, but it’s not my “real” career.

Sometimes I get frustrated and wish I was a plumber or an accountant. Something normal and average and easy to define.

But then I have moments in the studio, like I did just now, and I thank God that I am an artist.

I just had a sublime couple of hours of painting. Yes, I had to check the clock to see how long I’d actually been in the studio, because time had ceased to exist.

It was just me and the paint and the canvas. I knew generally what I wanted to say, and of course my years of training and practice came into play for technical issues such as how to mix certain colors or how thickly to apply the paint. But the painting itself was telling me clearly how to deviate from what I already knew, telling me exactly what to do, and I followed.

Reach for a bigger brush. More of this color here. Blend here. OK, now stop. Touch up the bottom edge. Now that section is dry; go back over it with this color.

It was a magical experience that no amount of money, adulation, or anything else of this earth could touch.

When I was finished, I knew I had made something Important and Valuable (at least, to me). It was a painting that only I could have made, that only someone with my exact experience and ability could have assembled. My own personal muse was with me, and it all came together.

It’s nice to have a cool-looking piece of canvas wrapped around four wooden stretcher bars as something tangible to show that I had this experience. But what really matters is that in my mind and heart, I know I had the experience. I felt it.

It’s times like these that make every minute of sacrifice in the rest of my life worthwhile. My lifestyle, while perhaps weird or Spartan to the rest of the world, makes it possible for me to have these gifts of creativity in the studio.


Leslie Avon Miller said...

I now accounts and plumbers who say they love their jobs. But they don't have those times in the studio!

CMC said...

Wonderful... Thumbs up for artists and our magical moments.

Diane McGregor said...

Wow, so beautifully said Catherine! Hooray for those moments!

Catherine Carter said...

You're right, Leslie! Agreed, Cheryl! Thank you, Diane!

tinthimble said...


Stephanie Clayton said...

"sometimes, I get fed up with a life devoted to making art." You've said what most of us often feel but don't usually admit. The life of an artist is a tough road but one we're compelled to follow; for we know the rewards are worth the sacrifice.

It's those sublime moments which keep us painting.

Thanks for a beautifully written post.