Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Productive Hiatus

Hello to all of you out there in Bloggerland. How have you been? I'm not even sure where to begin after a 5 month break from blogging, so I guess I'll just jump right in. Otherwise this post will be indefinitely delayed by the "Oh where do I start?" hand-wringing.

My hiatus from blogging turned into a bit of a hiatus from art. I had a sense during the fall and winter that it was not the time to paint. I needed to take care of my health, reassess my life, and rejuvenate. I felt guilty about not doing any art - I mean, how could I be a Real Artist if I didn't do any art? And didn't I want to get Somewhere with my art and therefore I absolutely had to practice on a regular basis? I was reasonably successful in quieting that guilt and I trusted that even if it went against all the rules I was doing what was best for me.

Last month I was contacted by our local natural history center with an invitation to show my work in their new gallery space. I finally felt ready to come out from under my artistic rock, so I accepted their invitation and put together a show of my bird paintings. As I was preparing for the show, I gathered all of my pieces together for the first time in a while and as I looked at them, I realized that there wasn't anything in the group that reflected who I am right now as an artist. The newest pieces I had were from the 100 Painting Challenge I had done in 2009. This really got under my skin. With just two weeks to go before the show opening, I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in months and whipped out what I now consider one of my most successful pieces to date.

11x 14 - acrylic on paper

When I finished, I sat back and nearly cried for joy. For decades I have been striving to paint like this. Somehow, at last, the exact image I had started with in my brain managed to find its way out of me and onto the paper. And in record time!

The miracles didn't stop there. Even with a last minute broken frame that had to be replaced, I managed to hang my show in plenty of time (and without forgetting anything!). There was a great article in the newspaper about the show that ran the day of the opening, and drove a lot of people to the center. I somehow managed to get off work right on time (which never happens on a Friday) so that I could be at the opening feeling relaxed. And the new painting hung front and center at the show opening and got rave reviews.

That night a local watercolor artist whom I know and whose work I admire stopped in. We were talking shop and I sheepishly admitted to not having picked up a brush in months and how stunned I was at producing the gull painting immediately after such a long hiatus. She didn't seem surprised in the least. "Sometimes things need to gestate," she said, "Sometimes a break is what you need. I've done the same thing myself." and she and I agreed that from now on, we will refer to any similar artistic break as "a productive hiatus".


Elva Paulson said...

Great post! and congratulations on your show.

I'm convinced our subconscious brain churns away solving problems. Often if I'm stuck on a painting I just need to leave it alone for awhile. It sounds as though your brain needed time off to work away.

Laure Ferlita said...

Congrats on the show and the great piece of art!

Ken Januski said...

Hi Gabrielle,

Happy to see you back and congratulations on your show. And on a painting that YOU are happy with. It does have a sense of wholeness and fluidity to it. In the long run you're the only one that counts. Others may praise your work, buy your work, be bored by your work etc. But in the long run it doesn't mean much if you're not happy with it.

It's sometimes hard not to work. But often it's really best to just drop it for a bit. Just don't drop it for 10 or so years like I did! I had a whole lot of bottled up energy when I returned though. If you love painting you always come back to it when the time is right I think.

Hilke Breder said...

Gabrielle, congrats on your show! I love the painting of the gull sitting on that sign and marvel at your accurate rendition of a Laughing Gull!

Gabrielle said...

Laure, Elva, Hilke and Ken, thanks for commenting!

I really must've accurately rendered the gull because Hilke, you recognized it as a Laughing Gull despite the twist of it being in immature plumage.

I think my brain really did need the break. I actually went for 10 years without painting once! I had devoted myself to pen & ink work and life was getting in the way as well. When I picked up a paintbrush again it was like a glass of water after a desert hike. Aaaah! I don't plan on taking quite as long a break ever again.

Kelly said...'s beautiful, Gabrielle, and congrats on the show! Your brain must have been working the entire time you were resting because the painting is perfect!