In the few months before coming to graduate school, I spent much of my time preparing mentally for what I knew would be a stressful couple of years. I tried to be more diligent about my meditation practice, and to get some more experience with my Yoga practice. I really hoped that if I could hold onto these routines I would be able to manage the many things that would need my time. (I think of how much better prepared I am than when I went off to school the first time.) If I could do this, I would still have time to cook meals for myself, to write in my journal, and all the other things I do that are so important to my creative practice, even if they are not time spent in the studio. I hoped that if I could manage this successfully, it would be a powerful statement: that Art isn’t just what happens in front of an easel, that it comes from every moment of living.
So far I have not done a very good job of this, though I am trying hard not to blame myself. I didn’t actually imagine how busy I would be, how many lectures I would have to go to and still make work. And then: still take care of myself. I knew that it would be difficult for me to transition back into academics, and I knew that I would have creative differences with many of my peers and teachers. But I didn’t realize how difficult this would be to deal with without a consistent reflective practice.
Much of the frustration I’ve experienced so far is simply because I haven’t known what to expect yet. And almost every day I am better understanding what I need to be doing. I realize that much of the pressure I’ve felt has come from myself: the need to show others that I know what I’m doing and I’m good at it. I’ve written a little bit about these difficulties already (in a post couple days ago), and I know that I will be continuing to organize my thoughts on these subjects.
This past weekend I made it to the nearest Zen center to my apartment, for sitting sessions on Saturday and Sunday. My focus is not what it was a few months ago, but it is simply refreshing to be in that space and get a break from all other concerns. I feel very lucky to have found this center; it’s small, but very active. The meditation center is run through an organization called Inside Dharma, which works with inmates at many of the local prisons. They publish a newsletter several times a year with letters written by inmates about the Buddhist teachings in their lives. (www.insidedharma.net/newsletter.html) I have honestly learned from every one. Each writer surprises me with true reminders of compassion, dedication, and mostly, humility. Also: Inside Dharma runs a bakery that employs only ex-offenders. And the sweets are pretty good! The point is: being back at the Zen center has reminded me of what is important, to my values, to my health, and of course, to my Art. I hope that I can learn to bring my spiritual and creative practices
All that said, I am really happy with how my work is going so far. Conversations with my classmates and professors have been valuable (also more than I could have imagined) in understanding my work.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Buddhist imagery is featuring prominently in my work so far. The Lotus images are collagraph prints for my printmaking class. The Buddha heads are what I’ve been working on in my studio. I’ve also had a couple people stop by so that I could sketch portraits of them. It’s been fun working with strangers, though I’m definitely still learning how to deal with models. I’m planning on doing paintings from these sketches, so I don’t have much to show yet. There is a lot of Art still in the works, so I won’t say anything about them now. I hope you enjoy!