The great thing about freelancing (otherwise known as "semi-" or "unemployment") is all the cool free time. The great thing about the current climate of employment (otherwise known as "crappy" or "mass unemployment") is that many of my friends are free and available during the day to play with me, having been laid off or being between freelance gigs.
Another great thing about the current climate of employment is that many of my laid-off pals have made this their opportunity to study interior design, cooking, photography... whatever joyful activities they had put off for their careers. We all make careers of whatever seems the most lucrative, and we go into the chosen field meaning to make hobbies of those other activities we love; but most never quite found the time for hobbies during the job-rich dotcom nineties, a time of temptation to hawk one's soul for all sorts of corporate misadventures one might never have even thought of because suddenly companies were offering huge salaries and taking whoever they could find regardless of experience.
Now those with even the greatest experience must post their resumes with the rest, and in the meantime may as well think of what they *really* want to do with their time, now that it's not in demand.
So my friends and I are the new Naughties (21st century) ladies of leisure. We have lunch, go to the museum, see movies, dye each others' hair, take yoga classes together. One friend has become active in her love of filmmaking and is making a number of documentaries. Another is working on redesigning her website and exploring certain aspects of spirituality and ritual. Yet another has enrolled in culinary school.
Lately I myself have taken up painting again, which I never found myself in love with before. Even in 9 years of art school I only painted when instructed to, and never attained a level of skill beyond "adequate." Painting is hard, and my desired medium for self-expression was always three-dimensional first, and photography second. I graduated from art school seven years ago, so all the nonsense has had time to drain out of my brain pretty well.
I no longer feel that since I have nothing to contribute to The World of Painting I ought to abstain from it; I feel free to pursue it at will. Art school teaches you that painting has a huge, long dialogue to it and if you're not going to say anything interesting, don't say anything at all. I've managed to maintain my photography as separate from art in order to feel free to explore it how I see fit, in a passionate, drooling-with-delight pursuit of the delicious potential of color and mood. Eyecandy, nothing more. Now I also feel compelled to apply this aesthetic to painting, and think nothing of it. The art world be damned!
I was thinking about my love of color, shine, texture. I once did a self-portrait of a siamese fighting fish which had my face hidden inside... the fish was in turquoise and green... so rich and gorgeous. I love siamese fighting fish (or "bettas") so much I used to keep dozens of them! They come in every color and have amazing long, drapey fins and tails like velvet curtains. They are the living incarnation of eyecandy! With this in mind as possible subject matter, I went out and bought several small canvasboards (not even real stretched canvases!). I bought books on bettas, rainbowfish, and dragonflies, with gorgeous color photos throughout. I went through each one and marked with sticky notes the pages containing images of interest. When I finished, the three or four books were each a complete fan of orange sticky notes with a book inside. I had lots of work to do.
I started the first one and realized how much I'd forgotten about painting! Oil painting offers so much opportunity for change and different sorts of painting styles. It's richly colored, deep and glossy, and forgiving; so it was my obvious choice. I spent way too long on the first painting, but it's now finished and has to dry for six months before I can varnish it. I love it!!! Now I'm about halfway through the second and have sketched the third. I'm moving more slowly than I'd like because I want to do like a hundred of these. My goal is to give them all away in the end, to family and friends. I like the idea of being creative for the sake of creativity, and not to cling to the finished artpiece like I used to, as if it were an amputated part of myself.
The last two weeks I had company in the studio in the form of two or three of these creative, beautiful women in my life who find themselves with free time and feeling like doing something new. They came over, bringing salads and pies, and we sat in the studio and ate together first, chatting and laughing together. Then we cleaned up and got out the paints. Two people sat at the table in the window and worked in acrylic; and one person joined me at my workbench, using oils.
We put on some chillout CDs and got down to it, and all became very quiet. I periodically got up from my own work to see how others were doing. One of them I knew to be an accomplished painter herself, so I admired her technique and palette but didn't spend as much time looking over her shoulder. Another was producing the single most gorgeous acrylic wash of two dragonflies I could ever imagine, and here I had never known she too had loved painting and had set it aside for "more serious" undertakings! The third, my friend Gina, a wonderful photographer and very good designer, took to painting with enthusiasm and great skill, and blew my mind the most with her acrylic portrait of her cat. Kisa's eyes had that same look of feline laziness mixed with somewhat neurotic mischief which really looked just like her!
I am enriching my own life with increased artistic undertaking, but really what enriches me most is being surrounded by such beautiful women who each exudes her own kind of creativity and intelligence and warmth. I hope this becomes a new tradition to fill my studio with creative endeavor, pies, friends, fishes, and the intoxicating scent of linseed oil.