A while ago someone said to me that they thought that a lot of my work was about balance. I thought it was an interesting comment, and an insightful one too. I do think that balanceis very important in painting and drawing in a number of ways. The balance of the values is perhaps oneof the most important, in fact its been something of an obsession of mine for some time now. Composition isan obvious one. Even if the composition is deliberately unbalanced, it’s still about balance.
There are more general ways that the concept of balance is relevant too. Finding a balance between reproducingexactly what we see and the needs of the picture, for example, or the balance between technique and feeling. Buttoday I’m thinking about balance from an entirely different point of view, because this past week I lostmine.
I don’t mean I fell over in the street, or even at the ice rink (although I did actually, and it hurt). Butsomewhere around the middle of last week I reached a state of what I can only call exhaustion.
The week startedout well enough with a good early start on Monday. I didn’t get any drawing done in the morning session but I wasn’ttoo concerend since I still had the rest of the week. On Tuesdays Michelle and I now have an ice skating lessonat 6:30AM, which means getting up at 4:30 to catch the half five train. So far so good. Wednesday I was up earlyagain and did a little drawing in the morning and the usual session on the train on the way to work.Wednesday nights we had our usual ice skating session after work, and that’s when the trouble started.
Rushing straight off tothe ice rink after work without eating was the first mistake. Realising I was getting dehydrated whilst skating and not doinganything about it was the second. Not eating when I got home (due to being too tired) was the fourth, and the fifthwas still getting up a 5AM on Thursday and trying to do some drawing before work. By the time I got to work on Thursdaymorning, I’d already had it. Somehow I forced my way through the day and then still got up early on Friday to(unsuccessfully) try and catchup on the morning drawing sessions I’d missed. Bad move. By Friday night I had taken on a zombie-like demeanour andwas incapable of any conversation apart from irritable grunts.
I’ve always had a slight tendency towards obsessiveness, as do most of the painters I know. I’ve always thought ofit as a good thing, but I wonder of it can be our undoing sometimes too. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop. At the beginning ofthis month when I posted about my return to work, there were a few comments which veryhelpfully advised me to know my limits, and accept that I was going to have to progress more slowly. Those comments seem quiteprophetic looking back at them now and I really should have listened more. They were right. The upshot is that I’vebeen too tired to do anything this weekend despite sleeping like I was in training for the sleeping Olympics. By trying toforce myself to keep working I’ve actually lost time.
There’s obviously a lesson I need to learn here about balancing my job with drawing practice. Of course, I could give up ice skatingbut I’m not going to because that’s about balance too. It’s the only thing that Michelle and I do together, and she’s more importantto me than either my job or painting. And if I didn’t get at least some exercise I’d be spending my entire life eithersitting in front of a computer or an easel. Not a very balanced life.
So what’s the answer? Well, for this next week I’m going to ease right off and just do a bit of drawing on the commute, at leastuntil I start to come round again. Then I’ll up my practice time again slowly and see how it goes. And I’m going to make sure Ieat better and have more nutritious lunches. Boiled eggs, nuts and fruit are on the menu for this week.
But I can’t pretend I’m not frustrated about it. After almost a year of painting and drawing almost full time it’s proving to bea lot harder to adjust than I thought it would be. It’s not the 9-5, I’ve surprised myself by adjusting to that very quickly. Afterall, I was already working more hours at the easel than I am at my desk now. And I like my job. What’s getting to me is how little drawing andpainting I’m doing. It scares me because at some point in the distant future I want to return to painting full time, and thisweek, for instance, I only managed just over five hours drawing.
I’m sure that some of you reading this are well acquainted with this frustration, those of you that have jobs and familiesand are still trying to paint. If it’s any comfort, I now feel your pain, and anyone who manages to keep their dreams goingin the midst of other commitments and demands on their time has my eternal respect and admiration.
As you might have guessed, there’s not much to post this week; just another Sargent copy. I was planningto do the usual and finish this one off sight size before I posted, but perhaps this way it’s more honest. This is the sum totalof what I managed to get done this week, unfinished, mistakes and all. But it’s better than nothing, and at least if I manage to getsomething done I’m still moving forwards, however slowly. And the dream is still alive.
Posted 22nd March 2009
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