Our bodies are ecosystems, we live within them and are intrinsically connected to the one around us. I think that what this points to is that much like the ebb and flow of seasonal change, our bodies, minds and thus creative expression follows a cycle too. For a long time the belief that part of being an artist is being able to produce high quality work ninety percent of the time, hung over me like an unspoken weight. I have come to feel that the idea that creative productivity is linear or can follow the pattern of a nine to five job is a myth. Creativity is a natural resource, it can be depleted, exhausted and needs time to recover when is has been used. Much like a forest, if you only cut down trees and fail to plant more, one day the woodland will be gone.
New ideas, journeys and explorations usually begin with a sudden glimpse, or line of text or musical note that sparks into something new and exciting. However, these moments are rare and they don't occur instantly after you finish a project or piece of work. However, it is very easy to feel unproductive when not always creating, we are raised with the notion that we are defined by our output, when we are all so much more than that. Over the last year I have learnt the value of trusting my own flow and pace. I have discovered just how vital rest, different activities and breaks from work are, in order to truly have a sustainable pace. So maybe the best place to begin is with the allotment I took on with a friend last year.
What does growing tomatoes and sunflowers have to do with painting? Put simply nothing at all and everything at the same time. Spending time away from art, growing fruit and veg and learning new things allows me to enter into an entirely different, very hands on mindset that is quite abstract from the more conceptual realm of creativity. But following the rhythm of the seasons and growing crops throughout the year, seeing change and evolution at work is always so inspiring. I find myself taking photographs of almost everything that blooms and grows. Having these plants to care for also creates a sense of purpose, having things to do that are fulfilling when I am not feeling creative or inspired.
I compared creativity to a forest earlier, where one has to plant trees as well as fell them. The allotment, along with other activities is part of cultivating these new trees. Music and playing the piano, doodling, jigsaws, cooking and houseplants, all things I love to do and have found are a sanctuary when I can't find inspiration. Over the last year I have learned that just because I love to make art, doesn't mean It should always be my main activity. I found that a month could go by where I did more gardening and walking than anything else and then suddenly a spark came and I made ten paintings in the next month. At first it was very hard to follow this kind of path as I still felt the need to follow the routine and ritual that a school day follows. I still struggle sometimes to allow myself to stop pushing to make art when it clearly isn't happening, but it has become so much easier as I have come to recognise this rise and fall in pace.
I suppose that the point to this post is that these past months have been a lesson in trust, trusting that I am still an artist when I take a break and trusting the rhythms that underpin my creativity. It has been a lesson in knowing myself better, when I am standing in my own way or allowing imaginary notions of how artists work to govern my day. If there was any key thing I would say to someone self-directing their work, it would be to allow themselves to step back and stop more often. I have found that times of rest and pause seem to be the gestation period for some of the most creative and exciting new ideas we have.