Dealing with Fallow Periods as an Artist (and Some New Drawings, Too)

Lately, I’m in a bit of a rut, artistically speaking. I do not have as much time to work every day. And I am bored with the results when I do sit down to work. I find myself wishing there were more colors in the spectrum, more textures and marks in nature to discover, because it seems my mind has worn out all of them.

I think about art all day long. Thanks to my job in a library serving a diverse community, I get to foster creativity and art-making as part of my job. Am I spending too much time thinking about and not making art? I would always rather be making art than just about anything else. And yet, when I am at home with free time, I have to fight the urge to avoid my studio because by then the stakes have become so high, I have a hard time facing the possibility of failure and disappointment.

It’s an old struggle, I know, but it feels very personal when you are going through it.

When I feel this way, googling artist quotes is a nice pastime:

“The object of art is not to reproduce reality but to create a reality of the same intensity” -Alberto Giacometti

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” – Georgia O’Keefe

“Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing.” – Marc Chagall

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” – Marc Chagall

That last one is especially relevant to me. I have a habit of over thinking everything.

Fortunately, I’m involved with a new project, which seems to have got the juices flowing. In December, I will be part of an exhibition centered around the well-known Dada poem “Ursonate,” by Kurt Schwitters. You can hear it here. It is not in German or in any recognizable language because it is Dada, and “Dada is nothing,” as the Dadaists said. Dada was in part an absurd response to Victorian and Edwardian pomp, sentimentality, glorifying the myth of the past, and social mores. They also hit back at the prettiness of impressionism and all the other things that felt like lies coming out of the first World War in Europe.

Absurdity does deliver relief, when reading the news every day feels like an exercise in mental and spiritual endurance.

Anyway, I’ve started slow in addressing this piece. I simply sat down one recent morning to draw as I listened to the poem. As usual, I also ended up doing a good bit of tearing and adding water media, as well. Here are the results.

The bits of text reflect things on my mind as I read world events and confront this “post truth” world we supposedly live in, and thinking about what advice the Dadaists would give us. “Post-truthism” seems like it would be a Dada concept, and maybe it would be. Perhaps it is our inheritance. But then again, we’ve seen all of this before, haven’t we? Europe certainly has. The rise of myth-making, idealized (read:toxic) views of masculinity, constructing reality the way you like it, especially in ways that disadvantage other “tribes” to advance your own. Hatred of the other. Isolationism. Maybe technology changes the experience of it, but humanity has been through all of this before.

I don’t know if the end results of this project will look much like its beginnings. From working on other exhibits centered around one idea, I know the place I start out is usually far away from the place I end up, so we will see where that is.

In writing all of this, however, I realize while my work has been a struggle lately, my ideas have been nicely stewing.


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