While I was in residence at Zen Mountain Monastery, we had twice weekly "art practice" time. An hour set aside to work on some kind of art making - could be visual art or writing or movement or sound - centered around an idea, or ideas, drawn from Eihei Dogen's Genjokoan. After a few lame attempts at drawing for my art practice several years ago, I have mostly written poetry and made a couple of videos, including this one. The writing, in particular, has been quite fruitful and given me confidence to keep working on it. I even have a small book project cooking in the back of my mind that would combine my text embroideries with my poems. Now that I have said it out loud, maybe it will really happen.
This time around, I decided to try drawing again. The instruction was to be spontaneous and make no edits or corrections. I kept four sketchbooks around me, along with ink, water, pencils and watercolors. Perhaps most importantly, I had with me a sense that there were no mistakes: no good drawings nor any bad ones. There is always time for those kinds of determinations later. I haven't looked at the results of those sessions since getting home but, in a way, the results aren't important. The process of making the drawings was what stood out. It was lively and fun and, mostly, I wished that I had eight sketchbooks handy so I could have kept going instead of having to wait for ink to dry now and then.
Later, as I sat in my studio during one of our days off, I thought about how I have made a choice to let this spiritual practice be one of the largest driving forces in my artwork. I have had a rash of rejections to various applications in the past year as my work has changed and it has been hard not to feel like my art career has permanently stalled (and to feel bummed out about that). As I sat in my studio, it suddenly became to clear to me. When I started to put my spiritual path at the fore of my art making, I made a choice that some of the aspects of pushing my art career are no longer possible. In simple, concrete terms, I have less time to work because a spiritual practice takes a lot of time. Also, the aggressive self-promotion and the kind of ambition for projects and exhibitions and other goals just aren't so compelling. Do I wish that some museum or gallery would give their space and a nice budget to make something fabulous (because I know I could!)? YES! Bring it! But here's the rub, all the networking and politicking and promotion to get to that place simply isn't interesting and isn't going to happen. It's kind of funny because the other result is that I feel such a deep connection and compulsion to make my work now - and I think my abilities and power to create something fresh and amazing have never been stronger.
Nothing stays stalled forever. So, let's see what happens!