An Artist’s Best Friend
First of a series illustrating a story told to me by a co-worker way back when,
Oil pastel on paper, approximately 8 x 8” / 20.32 x 20.32 cm, ca 2005
Today, I was hanging out with my beloved cousin, my most beloved sister and my future brother-in-law, and we were having coffee at this fancy coffee place. They were connoisseurs, and me, I couldn't tell the difference between a bottled Starbucks frap and a five-buck 3-in-1 ^_^
Unlike aficionados like Junes, Bassints and Chito-kun, I regard coffee as a means to an end, not the end ^_^
But their discussion of everybody’s favourite brew reminded me of…
… this video game I was playing some months ago, which I couldn't resist (because who can resist furry forest creatures <3) ~ in this game, you are a forest creature who's just opened a restaurant (in well, the forest).
Whilst serving the random rabbits, deer and so on walking in I remember this badger who was meant to be an artist (you know, complete with beret ^o^). He ordered some coffee and called it the 'artist's crutch'. I don't know, I kind of found it funny. Not sure if I have a screenshot of that somewhere… oh I do!
No copyright infringement intended, just sharing ^_^; Funny, though, desho? XD
Anyhow I don't play that game anymore~ too stressful. (I play mainly to relax x have fun, not to worry about whether my restaurant is making money or not, buying enough stoves and dining tables, or whether there's a weasel or someone stealing stuff from the diners ^o^;)
But it did make me think, a bit ~ because, well the truth is, I've been falling horrifically behind on my *painting factorying* for my show in August. (Then again, I'm forever falling horrifically behind on these things </3) And I'm starting to wonder whether it's time I should *be cruel* to myself again, because, well, that's the only real way I know how to get results, on time.
Butbut see, I know that I can't (physically or mentally or both) do that anymore. I'm going to be 50 soon and that's probably suicide. Butbutbut, age is just a number? Bilbo Baggins had his great adventure at 50, after all (and Gandalf counting his Maia years was pushing 11,000).
Maybe thinking out loud in this month's post will help me figure things out. And maybe make you think a bit if you happen to have the same (beastly) habit/s or are thinking of doing the same ~ also as a means to an end, you understand.
See, I never really learned to like coffee.
I knew my dad drank it, when I was a kid, like for work, but I didn't really know why. (He still does but not as much anymore.) Iono, I found it bitter, I guess, and like *discount chocolate*, lol.
If I had to stay up, like for school and when I started painting after hours, I always used to be able to get by on loud music alone. Well, I was a lot younger.
Then one day, one of my brothers introduced me to energy drinks. I was 29.
It’s kind of like, if Alka Seltzer and Mountain Dew had a baby ^o^;
That first enerdrink he introduced me to was called Extra Joss ~ they still make it, I believe, like you can buy it in the supermarket. Basically it's a little packet of powder and you mix it in water. I remember when I was working at the bank, I had a boss who took it with hot water in a teacup (so it looked like she was having coffee) ^_^.
Anyhow once I'd gotten started on it, it was so hard to go back. My best friend told me I was addicted. I didn't think so, and I forced myself to paint without sometimes just to prove to myself that I didn't need it to produce things. It's just it's so much easier to work when you're juiced up. You're wide awake and super lucid, and you can work for hours and hours and hours.
I think I’ve mentioned this artist on the jillablog once whose work I admire very much, who told me he'd done Extra Joss and didn't sleep for a week. I could just imagine what he was able to create during that one week! He said he totally felt like $#!7 and crashed after that ~ but for me, who cares? Small price to pay for results.
Art is super results-oriented, you know. Again, if I may quote S telling W, 'It's no good to anybody in your head.'
Before long I found myself spending copious amounts of money on these additional 'art materials' and trying to get by on as little sleep as possible ~ sleep was the enemy! A real time-waster. I'd heard (quite wrongly, as it turns out) that even Dali thought it was a waste of time, which is why he got his rest with that whole chair and spoon set-up.
So this was a typical stash for me (I think I was working on Pistá, at the time)
which would probably last, oh, a few weeks, maybe? I at least tried not to drink it all at once haha
Needless to say, as I got older, two hours' sleep a night became three…
…then four; five-minute naps became 10, then 15, then 20...
Then one day, the enerdrinks, or coffee (or enerdrinks AND coffee) just weren't working anymore. It wasn't a healthy lifestyle, I grant you ~ but what did that matter to me as long as I got all the paintings done on time x I got the show on the road? Hardly anything was more important to me than getting it all done, the best I could in the time I had.
Needless to say again, I felt awful. I hit the ER once or twice, haha. Everybody knows these things are bad for you; but see that wasn't the point.
Because as the years (of me doing this) went by, things got a little scary. I guess they tend to when you work by yourself in the dead of night and all that junk is burning a hole in your insides and you've got this still, small voice in your head:
Urchin, Acrylic on Paper, 2007
Everything you're making now is shit anyway.
You've got some nerve exhibiting trash in public.
Why are you killing yourself for work nobody thinks is any good anyway.
You know, the usual LOL
I've said it before and I'll say it again ~ art is a mind game. I can say, unaffectedly, you have to be pretty damn strong-minded and strong-willed to play this game. Anyway, I'm not going to, talk about this any further ^_^
But I guess, you can only *use yourself up too freely* only for so long. And with time, I came to learn that burnout was very real. Indeed, other people get affected, i.e. you become a(n even bigger) pain in the sleeping bag to them.
And with even more time (also I guess, because I was older by then), I figured out that it was better to pace yourself so you didn't fizzle out before you got to the finish line. After all, if you died before you were able to finish all the pieces, what would become of your show.
I think one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was 'it's not laziness, it's self-care'. (Yeah okay whatever ~ so maybe I haven't quite learned that yet lol.)
So now I'm thinking, maybe, I need to rethink the way I play this game.
I'm older now, I need to accept that, and even my parents say there comes a time when 'mind over matter' just won't cut it. When you're spent, you're spent, and you'll literally sleep an entire day whether you will or no (that happened to me last week or so, and for Reverie's sake I hope that doesn't happen again, at least until the ingress).
Even now, I confess, I don't know if I'm making excuses or just facing facts! ^O^;
But I'm thinking, maybe, I should produce things at my own pace instead of chasing whatever exhibition date I’m able to book. Then again, I guess I've already been so long-conditioned to be deadline-driven that I'm simply a lot less productive without a deadline hanging over me like some sword of Damocles.
I did try a few years back, honest. I was a lot more relaxed, but I was, well, unhappy because I wasn't producing as much. I felt lazy and useless cos I was painting less, haha. I guess I know how that must sound, but there you go.
Roll, 36 x 48" / 91.44 x 121.92 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013
In any case, I don't have as much experience with alcohol: a long story involving a weekend away with my art school classmates at the Tagaytay pied-à-terre we used to have made me swear (a literal oath) off booze back when I was 27 or so. But I honestly couldn't imagine myself drinking to help me paint.
I hear old man Vincent chugged a lot of absinthe, and we all know what he created; if it weren't for that oath, maybe I should've gone the same route ^^;
In any case again, I think I'd like to end this post on a positive note ^_^
Because there are (legal!) alternatives to silver and blue cans and other caffeinated drinks, that I know of ^_^ And, which I admit, may not be (at least for me) as effective? But may at least, help you get the job done (and go the distance, until the ingress (virtual or otherwise).
1. One is Apple Juice (Apple Juice Flood ^_^). I hear this is nature's energy drink; I have no science to back this up.
Mango Jubilee, 20.75 x 28.75" / 52.705 x 73.025 cm, Acrylic and Oil Pastel on Paper, 2016
Personally I think mango juice is more potent, especially if you get it from where I'm from because we have the best mangoes in the world, bar none. ('Excuse me, but, we all have patriotic feelings of some kind.') They say it's the sugar. I don't know about the apple juice.
2. Another is Potato Chips. I know this other artist (who incidentally had very graciously let me attempt her likeness in two of the pieces I made for Aviary) who says junk food is how she stays up to work.
Here’s one of those pieces, Reshuffler, 36 x 24” / 60.96 x 91.44cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019
Personally I never used to like eating and working at the same time, especially when I'm working on paper (and when it's canvas I worry about crumbs mixing with the paint) ~ I'm talking about solid food, you understand, and not drinks (which I have to worry about dunking the odd brush in if it's parked too close to the rinse water ^o^;).
But now that I'm working a night shift (for my day job lol) I think I'm beginning to see the value in it (and turning a blind eye to the extra weight I must be putting on because of it ^0^;)
3. Still another is good, old-fashioned movement. I'm not going to say 'exercise', because I feel a tad hypocritical suggesting it because I don't, really ~ I mean, I know I should? But I admit it's one of the first things to go when I'm in the painting factory and I feel I'm running short on time ~
Here’s what I used to do back when I had barely more than enough room for one chair (although now I still only have one chair lol) ~ again, no copyright transgression intended, you’ll find the source in the pic ^^;
Also, whenever I did manage to move when I was painting I did it more for stress management than staying up. I will say, however, that even just getting up for a bit and walking around (even just to the bathroom for a quick pee or splashing your face with water) will do the trick ~ although I have to say, the effect may not last for very long.
4. You might also try a short video or video game break, preferably something violen~erm, I mean, lively or action-packed ^_^ > like that video game I was telling you about at the beginning of this post.
Doesn't seem very action-packed (versus one where people yell ‘Hadouken!’), you say?
Why don't you try taking orders and cooking and serving a roomful of rabbits and deer who keep streaming in while passing out flyers and taking payments and... ^_^
But anyway I caution you in using this method to stay awake whilst you work because it could very easily turn into a time waster ~ in which case, you might as well sleep.
Of course you don't have to take my word for it…
… as there's a gaggle of Google results from far more authoritative sources that can help you out.
Miss that old kettle, was first of a series I’d *worked to death* huhu ~not sure now whether it was
coffee or cocoa in this; either way at least it’s not something that came in a can? ^^;
For now, even as I try to work out how I might overcome my current burning temptation to buy a case (or ten ^^;) of silver-and-blue cans, allow me to wrap up with a wish for you:
May you achieve everything you want to with your practice, in the healthiest and most effective way possible. ^_~**
Because while I believe your art is worth dying for (I legit believe this!), the fact remains ~ you can't paint nuffin' if yer dead ^O^***
* Interested in any of the pieces in this post?
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.
2/27/2022 01:55:58 am
Oh Jill! I'm so glad you have scaled back on the energy drinks. Like you I couldn't get by without caffeine but I had to give it up due to digestive problems. It's always hard to find the time to create when working full time, I admire you for staying so productive! Another great blog post!
2/28/2022 03:22:16 am
Super super thank you Melissa <3 It's always so comforting to know you're not alone experiencing stuff like this ^_^; I really appreciate your taking the time to check out my posts (> ^-^)>
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