I dream of sitting in my dusty studio. I can smell the pungent scent of turpentine. I can see the photographs and sketches stuck on the wall. Devils Haircut, by Beck, plays in the background and newspapers, magazines and books litter the paint-covered floor. I have a primed blank canvas on the easel, all ready to go. I sit, staring and reflecting on what to do next. I wonder shall I draw or paint today? I wish there was nowhere else l have to be.
I often only wish it was true; that I had nowhere else to be. The idea of being unbound by time feels like the ultimate emancipation.
Instead, as a committed parent, I am aware I need to collect the kids from school soon. Which leaves me a narrow window of time to get something made. When I think about what my greatest enemy is as an artist, it is easy to look at a clock and say time. But is it really?
I remind myself of the recent trip to the National Gallery. The inspirational time l spent with Rembrandt and Rubens. Then I think about a walk through the countryside with my family when I took my camera and noticed the wildflowers. I remember the happy times I had on holiday with my family. I ask myself, was that wasted? Clearly not is the answer!
If time was abundant, I wouldn’t be scared of growing old. I would be like a zombie without the need to respond to life and art. I know that our lives are short and that time robs us of our essential things, like our loved ones. If time was abundant I don’t think I would feel the need to stand on the shoulder of giants. I won’t feel the need to respond to great art and make a mark before it’s too late.
With time ticking away, I want to make the most of it. Nothing of beauty, intellect or authentic merit comes from a stale imagination. I first need time to absorb life and let my imagination range freely. You could say I am most creative when I am least productive and when I think about it, I certainly wouldn’t want it any other way.
I realise the journey is the reward; I will discover myself on the way. I will not be the same person, the progress will change me. The outcome won’t be just a career or a lifetime of painting; the genuinely satisfying thing will be the gradual change in me over time.
Creativity is about connections, and connections are not made alone in a pristine white studio with no doorway to the outside world. My busy short life is full of ideas and profound questions. Although I have often thought that time was my greatest enemy, I now realise if I had all the time in the world with no connection back to the reality of family life and the pressure of earning a living, I won’t have the motivation to leave a dent in the universe. I recognise that l will always continue to struggle to carve out time for myself to paint. However, I need it that way. Slivers of time help motivate me to get the work made.
Time isn’t the artist’s greatest enemy, it’s my motivator. Martha Truly-Curtin tells us that, “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” While Zig Ziglar states that “People often complain about lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem”.
As I get older, I have noticed I need less sleep. I get up earlier and look forward to getting something done. I seek protection from interruptions to achieve my daily goals. One to two hours of writing, when the house is quiet, is pure bliss. Blocks of two to three hours to do focused painting day after day, week after week and l can see progress towards making that dent in the world.