Living a creative life requires two opposing forces, freedom and discipline. The freedom part comes easily to me, although I can’t take much credit as it agrees with my natural state of being. Any discipline I possess has been hard fought and won.
There are many types of discipline required by artists, the most important being the practice of showing up consistently, regardless of whether or not you feel like it. Another helpful discipline is a cut throat ability to set aside pieces (I call them one-offs) that don’t fit within the “body of work.” These are anomalies of sorts, worth doing, but don’t advance the artist’s larger undertaking. Some disciplines are vital, such as protecting your studio hours; others are minor, like cleaning your paint brushes before they die a premature death.
Another discipline has to do with time. I’m talking about the long, slow burn of a single project executed over many years. This particular discipline allows for the building of something substantial out of a multitude of small parts.
I’ve inadvertently done this. My “In the Mirror” series began in 2013 as a single drawing, sketched from my bed in a foreign hotel. At the time, I had no idea this signified the beginning of a series as well as ten years living in Asia. Since that day, I’ve done around 200 pieces, all with the common elements of place, mirror, and of course…me.
This brings me to yet another discipline, that of establishing limitations, or “rules.” My mentor called this “freedom within a harness.” For this series, I must work on site. Draw on hotel stationary (this lasted approximately three drawings as hotels do not provide stationary anymore). I am not allowed to move any furniture, especially the mirror. The challenge is to create a strong composition no matter what the physical situation. Unfortunately, the only mirror available is quite often in the toilet area, resulting in a multitude of painted sinks, tiled walls, and many potties. I have heard friends refer to my “bathroom series” on more than one occasion.
I’ve gotten very good at plumbing.
Ten years in and I’m attempting to find, categorize, alphabetize, name, and otherwise reign in this baby. The work is all over the place in terms of digital files, and all over the world in terms of physical location. There are several dozen pieces designated UNKNOWN, although I can usually guess the continent at least. I am scouring my computer, hard drives, calendars, Agoda history, and website in hopes of putting together a coherent accounting. My big sister Rita is helping me create a spread sheet, a process I am finding oddly satisfying. Just when I think I’m getting close, I find another image stuck in a sketchbook, forgotten.
You may be asking, what’s the point? And that’s a perfectly good question. For starters, the series is a visual record of the last ten years of my life. As a person largely incapable of remembering dates, seeing a chronology emerge feels like a handrail as time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future. Many of the paintings have significant stories and vivid memories that are replaying in my head and playing out on my keyboard. It’s a creative gold mine. I want to isolate and consider just the black and white pieces, then the Chiang Dao mini-series, compare the Ocean City drawings, and count the loos. And I must admit, reviewing all this work makes me feel damn proud of myself.
Check out the entire series here by clicking here.
And stay tuned.