I was going to begin this studio update by saying something to the effect of, ‘Well, my darlings, autumn isn’t just upon us, but it is decidedly here.’ As I poured myself a second mug of coffee, however, and glanced out the window at the cold, drizzly day, I sighed. No, winter, winter, my darlings is very much upon us.
We have had more than a few unseasonably warm days here in the Buffalo area. And, even though I know these little gifts have come to us courtesy of climate change, I have been grateful for them. They’ve meant more time outside, more time on bike rides, more time playing in the park, just… more time. I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder most years, but this year I am finding the anticipatory anxiety a bit more intense. Last year was especially hard for me, and although I keep reminding myself of how much has changed and evolved since then, (none the least of which being increasing and adjusting my meds for PTSD) I still worry about sliding into depression and insomnia.
I have so many tools available to me now, though, and something I have been thinking a lot about lately, is how much making some kind of art every single day has been an amazing tool for my mental health. Collaging, drawing, painting, doodling, crafting with the kids; it’s all been so good for my brain. At the start of October, I decided to translate some of my sketchbook doodles to illustrations in my Etsy shop. Encouraged by my best friend and fellow artist Christine Banna, I’ve let these doodles and drawings stay playful, silly, reflective of my actual stressed and goobery personality. It’s been a lot of fun to incorporate this kind of work into my daily routine.
Several years ago, I made what felt like a stark decision to commit to 30 minutes of digital illustrating every day. Otherwise I was spending 10+ hour work days on admin, order fulfillment and business development. I was no longer an artist. 30 whole minutes of digital illustration work every single day! I felt guilty at first! To think of that now is wild to me. Digital illustration is the cornerstone of my entire business. Of course I need to dedicate daily time to that kind of work. But, then it felt like, if I’m doing something I like then surely it isn’t work, and I should be doing it in my “free time”?? Right? Of course not.
Now, I have fully integrated around the practice of 30 minutes of daily digital illustrating. Many days I do more than 30 minutes if I can squeeze it in. I don’t feel guilty or conflicted: this is simply part of my job.
It’s been occurring to me, since I started this series of Emotional Birds, that I get to forge the same parameters and boundaries around traditional art making. What if I also commit to 30 minutes of traditional media every day? Or an hour every other day? How would that feel?
After reading The Artists’ Way, I started doing morning pages, and have kept up with the practice. It’s been immensely helpful and today was my 105th entry. ‘What if I started drawing and painting every single day?’ I asked myself in my morning pages today. An artist I have been following on Instagram for years makes a new 6x6” gouache painting every single day and sells the originals. That sounds simultaneously blissful and like a heap ton of pressure.
But, since I have gotten back into the habit of drawing and painting more, my skills have rapidly improved and I found myself postulating, perhaps I could complete a painting every… other day? Every few days? What if, just like digital illustrating, this just becomes an essential part of my job. I simply have to draw or paint every day. Maybe I will make some of the originals available for purchase, maybe some of them will get scanned for further digital work, who knows? But I think that if traditional media has been so good for my brain, and brought so much joy to my life, it’s something I want to commit to engaging with every single day.
So, here I am, on the very last day of October, staring down the oncoming depths of winter, armed with my paint brushes, my overflowing piles of collage materials, my many sketchbooks, (not to mention my SSRI, therapy sessions and support system) and I am feeling, perhaps not quite ready, but at least getting there.
What I’ve been reading: Upstream, Mary Oliver
What I’ve been listening to: Plants, Crumb The Band
What I’ve been watching: Over The Garden Wall