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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Artist at Work.

Art is work. It is a physical, intellectual, creative act of work. It involves time, tools, technique, materials.

Artists work.

How many times have you answered a phone call while you were working, and said "I am working now. Can I call you back later?"

Usually the caller understands. But what is it that they really are understanding? That you are busy, that you are occupied with your art, that you have been interrupted, and will get back to them later? Or is there an underlying nuance that subtly defines for them what you actually do with your time?

Do they understand that not only are you working, but you are at work?  You may not commute every morning, you may not have an office within a corporate community. You may not have a "nine to five" job, but you are nevertheless at work.

My sister-in-law once commented that she wished she was an artist, that it must be nice to play with brushes and paint every day. I was too stunned to make a coherent reply, but later that evening I realized that the tools of my trade were toys to her, art was pleasant hobby to pursue at her leisure. She didn't have a clue of what it is to be an artist.

This realization compelled me to consider my Job as an Artist. I began to observe how frequently I allowed outside interruptions in my work day. If I actually had a corporate job, would I answer casual domestic phone calls and social interactions during my working hours? Would I leave work to do the laundry, to open my household mail merely because it was delivered during my work day? Would I do the grocery shopping, or run domestic errands?  Of course not.

Once, when I was undertaking the intense task of designing a book, I actually made business cards which defined me as a book designer, and listed my phone number and the notice that I was unavailable for two months. I made a similar sign on my studio door, which I kept closed. I gave them to friends and also (especially) to family. They took the hint, and I was able to get the job done. I was able to "put the book to bed" in less than two months.

People in general, but especially other artists, are attracted to the creative energy you have when you are working. There is some invisible but very real vibe that emanates from your studio. The tools and materials of your work become imbued with a creative magic. Other people who glimpse you in your studio as you are working are drawn to you, like children to fireflies. They want to be near you, to watch you, to observe the act of art making in progress. In doing so, they can actually feel the creativity happening.

Some people don't mind being on display. I myself have participated in many an open studio. But my best work happens in the solitude and silence of my studio. I don't mind showing my works in progress, but I really want to be alone when I am working on them.

I am an Artist.

Do Not Disturb.

I am At Work.