San Diego – Perhaps it was the weekend filled with discussions with other colleague and seeing other instructors exploring their art in a variety of directions and thinking about the sometime conflicting sometime coincidental directions of art and social comment/documentary work. Perhaps it was chatting with photographers and vendors both at the conference and later at the Photo Expo. Perhaps it was aided by the fact that I am first and foremost a photographer and have not DONE any photography, even illustration work for my latest project, in far, far, far too long. Perhaps it is accumulated frustration over the lack of resource support at school or the recent election where it looked like a good portion of the country woke up but this State of California proved to be completely mired in its entitlement mentality that has bankrupted the treasury and, if not stopped and reversed immediately will be a disaster of unprecedented proportions for a State. Maybe… maybe… But the more I think on it the more convinced I am that those things are at best catalysts but not likely instigators in my internal little drama.
Instead I think it actually has been a gradual accumulation of things over months which I denied or ignored, like a slow building squall that sneaks up on the unwary and all of a sudden the storm is upon them. Or like a puppy that is a cute little slippers destroyer until one day you look and suddenly it is a real DOG, the changes have been forming for some time. Whatever, due to an unfortunate snub to a friend, (for which I belatedly and probably inadequately apologized) I realized that some sort of sea change is happening internally with me and is probably centered on my vision for my art work and the uncertainty as to where it is headed but with the absolute certainty that it is changing and I cannot get my mind or fingers around it. And that makes me a little crazier than normal.
What makes me the craziest is not that I cannot pinpoint any cause; it is that other than to describe the fog and internal chaos to hopefully explain any abnormal behavior on my part (hard as that might be to tell) I have zero idea where the destination is. I’ve been seeing images forming in my mind that range from slight variations of normal to some that while I might have done an individual example here and there over the years have never done a body of work like that. I’m also conflicted because in preparing my ‘data sheet’ project on how to display photo prints on canvas, I’ve discovered all of the reasons in the world not to do it including the lack of archivability of the final image; yet perhaps something from back in my initial painting days is waking up, and the idea of doing some big canvases is opening up some image options I’ve never even conceived of before.
To anyone out there I’ve been short with recently I do apologize. Creative spirits are the worst to put up with because they are nearly constantly in a state of flux even at their calmest moments and then, periodically, especially as they are birthing some new vision for their work, can be bizarre at best and intolerable at worst. It has often been observed — and I think accurately — that artists are probably closet manic-depressives but who escape confinement because they have a socially acceptable outlet for the emotional mountains and valleys. We can also be, as i was once called, “emotional vampires” who take up a lot of space and energy. For artists those vision birthing pains are times both wonderful in their excitement and potential and terrifying as they take you out of your normal comfort level and skill set into unknown territory. A real internal adventure into creative Terra Incognito for our psyches. Perhaps due to that it occupies a huge portion of one’s thinking and other things tend to float off into space. I cannot shirk the students’ needs and indeed that side of my creativity needs them and could no more abandon them than i would voluntarily quit breathing. But it does mean other things get shorter and shorter attention.
That is incredibly dangerous to one’s relationships as my divorce stands in clear and shameful example. For anyone out there who is not an artist let me warn you: be very wary of relationships with them as you will be asked to tolerate the most blatant examples of being apparently taken for granted. To the artist it is not true and in fact they care very much and rely heavily on that emotional support, but their minds and spirits are incapable of overtly expressing that at times such as when a project is on fire or when, like now for me, they are evolving to some new plateau of work. As was once said to me, “…even when you are home you are not at home.”
After my divorce I swore I had learned my lesson and would never again ignore those things important to me (outside of my art work) and that I had learned the two real rules: (1.) Show Up and (2.) Pay Attention. But I was lying to myself and expressing wishful thinking that has no connection whatsoever to the reality of what I am. I can try, and will, but the likelihood is, if history and experience provide any insight, I will not be totally successful. And the really awful thing is I will not even be aware of it as my attention goes almost entirely into the effort of focussing my internal lens on the new vision as it slowly starts to evolve and come into better view.
Back when i was married, I would have divorced myself if I could. And if I could do it now I would file the papers on myself today. Patience is not one of my primary virtues. OK, it is not even on my list of potential virtues. I am glad that next week is a small break (Thanksgiving) but, more importantly, that in another month we will have our long break when I can perhaps pile gear in a vehicle and go out to meet this new vision head on and then get back to the business of simply following it and regaining the rest of my so-called life.
So before I get some well intentioned input on dealing with depression let me assure you, I am not in the slightest depressed. In fact in many ways I find such times as these to be among the most exciting because they also tend to lead to the greatest spurts of creative growth. I just want to give those around me a “heads up” so they can try to understand and not take anything personally or be hurt if I seem to have a whole new set of walls up. Perhaps, on the other hand, it requires that I remove stones from one set of walls to build these. That has some potential upsides and downsides; as we grow toward some things it unfortunately happens that we sometimes grow apart from others. But wherever it goes is wherever it goes. If I were an engineer perhaps i could control it or at least be interested in controlling it. It is, however, part and parcel as to why being around artists is so maddening at the same time it can be so interesting.