Make Art That Doesn’t Matter
A year ago, I was painting on an easel in a dark corner of my bedroom, in front of my dresser, with old sheets on the ground to protect my landlord’s carpet… tiptoeing between drying canvases on my way in and out. Art requires space. Our office learned that when we moved from the Mission, and I learned it when I gained some space and fitted out my art studio, filled with natural north light. I’m lucky to have this space in a city so dense, but it didn’t come without its sacrifices. In order to justify said sacrifices, I created my Art Night.
I just picked up Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and it is reaffirming that many creative types throughout history are like me, creatures of habit. A brief glance at my iPhone calendar would unveil the plethora of mundane tasks and appointments I create in order to keep things moving smoothly. In between the important things, I schedule the little things – laundry, exercise, one-week reminders for birthdays that require gifts or cards (seriously try that, it’ll make you seem so prepared and thoughtful). They all have equal weight in there, and that is the only reason I’m wearing clean clothes to work today. And, for the past year, my calendar has included a weekly reoccurring appointment called “Art Night.”
Art Night is where I can work through some minor obsessions; results include some dreadful pieces that belong nowhere, and some better stuff that finds its place in my apartment, the apartments of my friends (I’ve resolved to make all of my gifts this year… and I’m successful about 90% of the time) and the chance, habit-supporting commissioned piece. The Night is allowing me the time to problem-solve and strategize without deadlines or consequence. It’s never been the way I work; I’m challenging myself to find opportunities within incompleteness, and striving to “finish” work that is just awful, and hopeless. It’s good for me, I guess.
Being the way I am, the calendar appointment was necessary to allot time for the self-serving and anti-social undertaking. I make up for it by occasionally inviting friends to join me, and by blasting my Instagram followers with my progress. Sharing my art virtually provides the social factor I crave after a long evening to myself. Plus, I get to connect with other artists and makers I’ve met through school or along the way, gain the instant-gratification every #millennial obviously needs (I’m not even going to fight that point), and create an accessible chronicle of my recent work.
As design professionals, we spend most of our time striving to make art that matters (thanks, CCA!). But for one night a week, I get unfocussed, and gladly make art that doesn’t matter. It’s still too early to tell if this is working to make me a better designer, thinker, person. But for now, it’s simply a ritual; a challenging escape that I’ve grown to appreciate.
Special thanks to the geniuses behind syncing calendars, my old roommate for moving out, and Flax Art Store for being on my way home and always carrying that random supply I just learned I need (I’ll miss you guys).