I heard this story of a famous guitarist recently. When interviewed and asked what he liked to play “for fun” he replied, exasperated, “Fun? This is work!”
Painting has felt a lot like work lately, but last week I had the opportunity to spend three days in Fort Pierce, Florida, where the pelicans let me sit so close to them I could have reached out my hand and touched one. Equipped with just one sketchbook and no paints, I spent the better part of day 2 watching and then drawing pelicans I think may have been posing for me.
The ocean air, the not-yet-too-hot of Florida’s February, the beachside cocktails– all of it was like letting out a deep, long, full breathe after having been holding it in for quite some time. Although I’ve already started a few pelican paintings since I’ve been back, the sketches were, ultimately “just” for fun, and something I’ve been neglecting. I was fascinated by the birds’ behavior– the way they stretch their closed beaks into the air so far they look like they are made of rubber or the way one will chase another from a particularly comfortable-looking rock and then settle in, head turned backwards and beak between wing feathers. I found myself saying things like “oh yea, that’s why like this bird” or, even simpler, “wow”.
Art seems to be a response to some wonder. Some idea. Some feeling that wills an incarnation. I think I’ve been working on the physical form for too long and not spending enough time with what inspires it. I’ve been running on empty.
Art has and will continue to pay my bills. But, unlike that famous guitarist, I think it can, at the very same time feed my soul.
When I let it.