Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Counting Up ???" Ambition and Hope

I don't know why I feel in such a literary mood today, but there it is. Back when I was on the up-side of the battle against cancer and seeking ways to focus my energy towards healing and hope, I came up with a cute idea of how to turn a prognosis of short term survival into a race based on art. At the time I was given less than 20% chance of surviving to 5 years. I did some quick math and realized that 5 years is 1825 days. So, I hatched the plan for the "1825 Journal" with the goal being to create a piece of art work every day for 1825 days.

Gosh, gee golly, what a cute idea. Sure, it was when I was still thinking that berating this thing would be pretty beatable. So, away I went -- my chipper and cheerful side showing as I drew and posted, drew and posted, commented on my condition, on the work like some kind of self-appointed critic in a world where Disney-esque cartoon animals flew around spreading hope and cheer as I continued with the battle. 

Well, as you can imagine, having maybe read posts on this blog, or my cancer blog in general that my goal for the 1825 Project may have dried up and flown away like flakey dry skin on my body - another fun side effect. 

As I have struggled with one treatment after another, one disappointment after another, and the opportunities for effective agents for control (not thinking cure anymore anyhow) that it did not seem make a difference whether I completed anything along the way - just waste away the time, watching the world swim past and my days disappear one at at time.

Thank GOD for great friends and family who recognize my habits and patterns and have been doing a great job of late of re-kindling my spirit not only for Art but for life in general, and for the importance of doing SOMETHING while I am still able... 

This group of people has helped me see that the only real limitation on what I create, on how I use my art to keep me focused on the present - not necessarily worried about the future - and that the simple act of DOING is as important for an artist as is breathing... It will not always be easy, often labored, but if I can just settle down, catch my creative breath, it will be worth it. 

Artistically, what I want to leave behind is not necessarily a body of work that sells for seven figures (well, unless that happens while I am ALIVE! to enjoy it!!), . I want to leave behind work that shows that I struggled through, that I was able to maintain an effort to remain positive and creative.

I think this may seem a bit selfish, now that I think about it...? Whom am I, again, to think that what I do or create can do anything for anyone?  At least my kids will have some stuff to look at and possibly enjoy, maybe to understand their Dad a bit better. 

As I continue to live, one day, one hour, one minute at a time, I will try to look at how the creative process and the act of 'doing' art makes a difference for me. 

Looking back at my journal, the "Up To 1825 Project" and find that I stopped at May 29, 2012... I began the project on December 31st, 2011 that means I put in, 152 days. It is now November 4th, which makes for another 154 days.. So, looking at this from a 'Survival' perspective that totals to 306 days. The last bit of math uses the origianal goal 1825 (5 years) subtracting 306 leaving a goal of  1519 days until I really meet the statistic beating goal. 

So, the clock ticks, the chances to be creative slip away, the opportunities to use the artistic energy stored up in my universe slip away into the ether. I will try, once again to capture a little bit of this each day. 

As I have seen, this is not an easy task, yet the more I look at it, not an insurmountable one. 

I need to remind myself that most artists believe their works are not completed - no matter how they look to the public - and that the things I leave behind will live a life of their own.

Of Perseverance and Hypocrisy

Where exactly to begin? Well, let's start off by looking at the fact that I have not written a new entry since may. Why? Tons of reasons - most of which I only have myself to blame. This struggle against cancer has been one that continues - ebbs and flows - has ups and downs. For me this has mostly been downs. I live this journey on two very distinct levels, two very different visions of what it looks like to struggle day after day, week after week in a world that has been defined by my disease.

So, what do I mean by perseverance as it relates to art as a tool for survival? It should be very simple, yes? Almost cliche.

"Gosh, all I have to do is get up every day, get out my sketchpad or go to the studio and get to work. Doing art gives my life meaning and keeps my mind focused on getting healthy."

At the beginning of the cancer journey this may have been true. But over the past 6 months it has become a load of bull-shit, to put it bluntly.

The reasons for this are both simple and also seeded deeper inside my mind as I deal with all that is going on .

First, let's look at the physical - since these are the least painful to me. The medications I have been on have the wonderful effect of rendering me completely exhausted. Not just 'tired' but exhausted to the point where some days it is a challenge to even get out of the bed and take care of basic bodily needs. And, it is not predictable. I could have three days in a row like this or have only one bad one in a week. SO, this becomes an 'excuse'

"I'm too tired to get creative. I am too tired to sketch." - Really, Scott? Come on, too tired to pick up a damn pencil or sharpie and do SOMETHING anything that would justify my existence and self proclaimed title of 'artist'? It is not like my medium is stone sculpturing or metal fabrication after all.

Next - the weather.... Ahhhhh the easiest scapegoat of them all. Yes the summer months this year were devlishly hot and since my studio has no air-conditioning - VOILA!!! Built in excuse....

"Why, it's just too damn HOT out there to do any art work...I'd be sweating all over the place...." - Oh brother it does get thick sometimes. While even inside our house we only had one room we could effectively air condition, it would have been fairly easy to move in a drafting table and get to work that way, but no.... even THAT would require work.

Now as I was busy spending time either moping about my physical condition, or coming up with more excuses to not get work done, I began to read a lot this summer. I like reading biographies of artists, and discovering the history behind the images we look at as master examples of creativity. I also studied their lives and realize that despite the fact I will not equal their greatness or fame, their paths were often fraught with suffering - many times addiction driven through alcohol, drugs, mental illness, bad relationships and the like. I found that on many levels I could relate and that has begun to give me some  comfort - my struggle is a struggle, not unique, but similar to those creative souls that I find myself identifying with.

So, there we have it. And here we go..... The physical challenges can be overcome. I can now, with fairly good accuracy predict when my body will have 'windows of energy' that allow me to create. SO, if you see me and I am NOT in the studio, feel free to kick e in the ass and remind me to get to work. My best windows seem to be from about 10:30 AM to 4 P.M. and then from 8 P.M. to Midnight. My studio is less of a barrier now that I have had help from my two artistic sisters Kristen and Kelly who have helped whip it back into working shape after a summer of neglect. I have a heater - donated from a friend last year - I have a snazzy Kuerig coffee maker donated from friends last year, and not only that the damn place is literally 10 steps from the back door of my house... so I don't have to drive or park......

Now for the psychological aspects of making - or continuing - Art as a source of Healing.  As I have studied artists I have discovered that I spend too much time worrying about how 'good' my stuff is in comparison to the work of others. I need to focus on the ACT of ART for ME.... The ACT of focusing my creative energy on creating images for ME. Part of my goal of returning to producing more are work was to also then SELL said artwork to make money for the household since my cancer treatments have left me basically unemployable. So everything I do has been looked at by me with an eye toward how sellable it is.

Ah, the age old dilemma that face artists everywhere... to create art or the simple pleasure of the doing, or to produce art with the plan of marketing and sales. Nothing wrong with either approach, this much I have discovered. But, again, if I am making excuses all the time for reasons NOT to get work MADE, neither will happen, and here we are full circle again.,

Now. let's shift gears a bit and get a grounding in reality too. I do not have a lot of time left. Some people tell me , "Oh, come on man.... you don't know, you could have 20 more years...."

"Blah, Blah, Blah" - while I appreciate the encouragement and support as always, I am aware of this. The hour glass is emptying (as for all of us) but for me, I have a few more holes letting out the sand faster than others. No one is there to shovel more back in the top. So, while I don't have an 'expiration date' per se, I know that one is closer on the horizon than I would like to admit. AND - here in lies the problem.

I never know from moment to moment how I will feel about this. Part of me is simply paralyzed all the time, worried that if I start ANYTHING I will never be able to finish before I kick. I watch the time spin on the clock, I watch the days flip by on the calendar, I watch the dust accumulate in my studio, I watch my artist friends happily producing THEIR work all the time. How is it that 'they' have time to fit in more and more artwork in their busy lives between family, work and activities and yet here I sit, wth time-unlimited (on a daily scale) doing absolutely fucking nothing!!!

When my mind goes there it seems to just asy, "Screw it! What the hell does it matter?"
"I'm going to be dead in a year anyhow, so why work so hard?"
"What right do I have to think that MY art MATTERS?"'
"I'm not Jackson Pollock or anything"

Again....ARRRRRGH!!!!! Excuses.

How then can I get to a point where I AM focused on making the art that makes me happy, helps me with coping issues and yet not over worry about the end that is certain to come? I just don't know.

I think the thing is to just DO IT.... get off my warm comfy ass and get to work.....So that is what I want to do - get out and get startted.

Worried less about the endpoint and more about the artistic beauty of the journey along the way....