It may surprise anyone who knows what a big part of my life art is, and always has been, that I often think about quitting. Not only do I think about it, I do it. I close the drapes that hang at the bottom of the stairs, keeping the heat down in my living spaces. Sometimes they stay that way for days. I give my attention to my outside job, and to other things that interest me. I think about issues of health and fitness; I read; I spend extra time with the dogs; I write. Now and then, I make popcorn, and over-indulge in Netflix offerings.
I think about what life would be like if I gave up on art. What would I be, if I were not an artist? I’d still be a mother, grandmother, sister and friend. I’d still be a walker, a reader, a writer, a gardener, a baker, a cook, a good worker and an exceptional employee. I might come home from work without even thinking about how to fit studio time into my evening, around other duties and obligations. Maybe I’d keep a tidier house. And finish the dozens of household projects that wait for me.
Art fills my life. It takes up every spare bit of time, and mental and physical space. It rarely shows a profit; art supplies are expensive. The matting and framing necessary for display further adds to the cost. The business end of being an artist is not something I like, and I’m not good at it. So, my art career creeps along slowly and steadily. It will never make me rich; it will never make me famous.
Possibly, if I quit, I’d finally reupholster the green vinyl and duct tape footstool (ugly, yes, but attached to so many memories) that came to me from the old family farmhouse. Maybe I’d spend my evenings just sitting in the armchair, my feet propped up on the footstool, a little dog beside me, a book open in my lap. I could entertain again, invite friends over, play games. Maybe I could clear out the studio, and turn it into a guest room. Then, I’d have space as well as time for company. What a life!
Eventually, though, I pull open the curtains, loop them up to either side, and let the heat go up to the small rooms above. Before long, I climb the stairs. I wander in to the studio. First, just to look around, then to organize a little bit, maybe to sit and spend some time. Finally, I start shuffling collage materials around, playing with colors and shapes. I pull out papers, and paints and trays of other materials. And then I’m committed: dipping in to polymers with my bare hands, pulling out colors, dropping one brush after another into the jar of mud-colored water.
When I finally emerge, it will take a half hour just to get my hands clean. The dogs will let me know they resent the lack of attention. I may be late in starting dinner, or in cleaning up the kitchen. I might have to rush right out the door, in order to get a walk in before dark. It might be so late, it will be impossible get a full night’s sleep. No matter. I’ll be feeling energized, satisfied and fulfilled. Because, you see, art fills my life.
“A journalist once asked me, “With the onslaught of bad news and endless needs — how do you not quit?” I said: “Oh, I do quit! Quitting is my favorite. Every day I quit. Every single day.” I wake up and I care the most amount. And then — at some point — I put it all away and melt into my people and my couch and food and nothingness. And I care not at all. I forget it all. Then I go to sleep and wake up and begin again. Begin and quit every day! Only way to survive. Embrace quitting as a spiritual practice, loves.” ~G. Doyle