Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Return to Art Night

I've been working a lot lately. One might say, I've been getting my hustle on. Picking up any last odd job that I can, stashing up for winter like a little squirrel. And it's been great. A lot of my friends are off having summer vacations and enjoying the warm, lazy days of August, the last hurrah of summer. But I have been working. And in direct correlation to working a lot, I have been watching a lot of T.V.. Now, I don't actually have cable, and I don't watch current T.V., but after a long day's work, coming home and putting on Law and Order is about all my brain can handle. It's like as soon as I hear that theme song, Duh duh, my mind shuts down and I can start to unwind. I do not enjoy the fact that this has become my routine.

African Sunset Piggy Bank
For the past two school years, not calender years, I have worked at a middle school in Oakland. That job, drained me. As much as I enjoyed some of the kids I worked with, the Monday through Friday schedule sucked the soul from my very essence. Before working there, while I was struggling for money (but let's face it, when am I not) I was exploring talents that I had not nurtured previously. Completely landscaping our front yard, creating and tending to a vegetable garden, painting, drawing, having art nights, staying up late because as most artists will tell you, the witching hour is the creative hour. When I started working the middle school job, that part of my character was stifled. You see, there is a reason that the artist starves.

I never used to consider myself an "artist". A friend of mine, who is an exceptional painter and cartoonist, always felt uneasy calling himself an artist, although in my mind there was never any doubt that that is exactly what he is. I now realize that I am also an artist and I understand his discomfort in self-proclaiming such an idea. To identify as an artist is inherently narcisistic. When you say "I am an artist", what you are also saying is "I make cool things", or "You should like what I make" or even if you don't like it, you should respect my art, or see it's meaning. I'm beginning to realize this self assumed importance as I write. If I'm writing this, I think it's worth you reading. I've been struggling to find my own voice as a writer. Actually, that's not true at all because I write what I think and I'm not struggling to find what I think. But I have been struggling to believe that what I write is worth reading. 

What I'm realizing more and more, is that working, especially when you work a lot, or when you do work that you don't particularly enjoy, has a negative impact on the creative part of your brain. Look at the majority of people in this country. What is their nightly habit? How many people do you think are having an art night behind those drawn curtains and closed doors? After working as a door-to-door canvasser, I can comfortably assume that the majority of people spend their evenings, not curled up with a good book, or writing in their journal, but watching that old boob tube. I don't mean to knock the 9 to 5'ers. And I'm not saying that if you have a job, you are not creative. But there is not a creative, talented person out there, that I know, that would not jump at the chance to stop working for that less than impressive paycheck and focus on their art, whatever that may be. Just imagine the scale of artistic endeavour that could take place if so many struggling, starving artists weren't worried about how to pay rent.

An Homage to Anpanman
Candy Bebop, an homage to Anpanman
And so, last night, Jahsiah and I shut off those two distinct factions of the law, and set out to have an art night. Maybe the ensuing aftermath won't ever sell for $20,000 or hang in a museum anywhere, but my mind is healthier today than it has been in a long time. And today I plan on only attending one job, because let's face it, to make good art, sometimes you have to sacrifice some of that good money.

So ladies and gentlemen, I implore you, whatever else you do today, take a few minutes and draw a doodle, play an instrument, cut out a snowflake for christ's sake! But do something with the right side of your brain that you haven't done since elementary school. And I guarantee, tomorrow will be a better day.

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