Monday, November 28, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Black Friday is over and Cyber Monday is done for the most part, so now its time to start thinking about how to get back in the spirit after all of that cooking.

What? You were planning on leaving the studio closed up until after the first of the year? That’s no way to run a railroad or a business or a career.

You do think of art as your business? Sure there are plenty of rewards for those who do art for their own pleasure, but truthfully visual art, be it painting, sculpture or pottery is a social medium. It needs to be seen and to be handled or argued over. If it just sits in the closet or the studio it isn’t really being given a chance to come to life.

So closing up your studio until after Christmas and New Years is a waste of a whole month and you don’t have time for that. Any time spent away for your materials is time lost and if you have so much time that you can toss it away, you are too young to be an artist.

Yes, many young people know from the egg that they are destined to be artists. They start with crayons and move on to pencils, markers, water colors, (How anyone has ever managed to make something with those horrible tin trays we all used in school is beyond understanding. You know the ones I’m talking about? They came in a black tin box and had just a dab of pigment in eight or ten shallow trays? That’s right and you added water and within seconds the cheap paper you were required to paint on has sucked all of the moisture into one, giant, black blob?) Eventually they find or are lucky enough to be guided to great teachers and their skills are developed until they become artists.

A word here about teachers, if all you were ever exposed to were the overworked, underpaid clerks who slave in the public schools herding nasty, loud, wild and unruly children I am sorry. These folks don’t teach, they should be called Lion Tamers and given a whip and a chair. Amazingly some of them do manage to teach and some of the little terrors actually learn something in the twelve years they are sentenced to serve without hope of parole.

Even if you escape the public schools un-scared you may have been ruined for collective education. For some people, myself for example, the notion of going somewhere to sit with people I do not know and listen to someone I do not believe has skills nor talents is a fate worse than death. Now the fact is most, maybe even all, do have great skills and talents and might if I hadn’t been completely traumatized by my experiences in schools be able to knock some learning through fifty years of solid ivory. But alas, I was and they can’t.

So if you can do and if you can’t don’t disparage those who can learn in a group setting, let them be and go do something which you can do.

Finding a great teacher is a gift and when you do you should latch on to them like a lamprey and not let them go until you have vacuumed out every single shred of knowledge you can.

But say you don’t, can’t or won’t, don’t let that stop you. Many of the best and greatest artists are self-taught. My writing mentor and the finest teacher I ever encountered, Lawrence Block, (Tanner Series, Bernie Rhodenbar Series, Matt Scudder Series and many, many more), says self-taught is the ONLY way to really learn how to write. Writers write, Painters paint, Sculptors sculpt. So teach yourself. That was the way most of the great masters of earlier times learned, they served as apprentices until they were ready to go off on their own. No one to apprentice with, apprentice with yourself.

So if time is precious to you, (It has gotten a lot more precious to me, cause I didn’t know I was going to go down and it came as a complete surprise to me and it wasn’t my heart, which it probably should have been seeing as how I smoked and drank and chased after slow moving women until there weren’t any women slower than me, so winding up in the hospital was a big shock and I’ll be damned if I let another day slip by without doing something to keep what few skills I have sharp), get a move on. Don’t you dare lock up the studio. I know the kids are coming in from out of state and the Boss wants the spare room painted before they get here and then there are the Christmas lights to put up. You do know that it will take at least two days because you have to put them up, turn them on and then track down the ones that are burned out so that you can replace them and have a whole string that lights instead of just the first twenty or so?
It’s exhausting just thinking about all that has to be done in December. (I had my check up today and except for a tendency for my blood sugar to run too low I’m doing okay. Lost two pounds which is just about right on the strict diabetic diet I’m on and so I have nothing to fear…) I have one more trip to the medicos, my tooth, you know the one I cracked a while back? It has to be repaired and that will be a struggle. Do dentists ever get anything, but lumps of coal? The point is even with pain and suffering in my immediate future, I’m planning on working right up till the second Santa comes sliding down the chimney, which might be a problem cause the Boss has never let me have a house with a fireplace cause they are a bear to clean up, but the Big Guy seems to have found us anyway and never has missed us on Christmas so I’ll just keep right on working.

I am fortune’s favorite cause I never run out of things I want to do before I run out of the time to do them in. I truly believe that Writer’s Block is just what lazy writers say when they don’t want to work. I mean seriously, when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you you’re in trouble.

Fortunately I’ve never heard a painter say they have painter’s block. Face facts, no one would put up with a plumber who said, “I can’t work, I have plumber’s block.”

So since I am always brimming with ideas, try this…The Twelve Days of Christmas. Its not even December yet and you have most of the month plus this little dab of November left so why not do a Twelve Days of Christmas? That ought to keep you busy until 2012 rolls around. I mean just think, all those laying geese and swimming swans not to mention leaping lords and milking maids and don’t forget the drumming drummers or the fifing fifers by the time you get to twelve you’ll have a dozen canvases covered and be all sweaty and energized for the new year.

So get off your couch, set up the easel and start working! Calling birds wait for no man.

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