Sometimes making art is fun. You get to the “aha” moment quickly and easily and are filled with excitement about your creation. Mostly it is not like that. I was painfully reminded of that during my art making vacation this week.
I didn’t expect to hit a home run on the first pitch, but I sure thought that the images would emerge more quickly than they did. On day one, I made 6 prints. One of them turned out okay. Days two and three were a bust. Frankly, I was ready to bail on the class. This was my vacation from work after all, I might as well spend some time doing something enjoyable. On day four my frustration reached its peak. I sat staring at my plexiglass printing plate with tears in my eyes. Why couldn’t I get an image I was satisfied with?
The instructor came by and told me I was thinking too much and to think of this as if I were making a documentary-just start shooting. So I noodled around in a book of photographs and traced some of the poses onto my plate with a watercolor pencil. I made a print of this plate and then made an acetate stencil of one of the poses. Suddenly I was in business. I used this stencil to make about twenty prints and some of them were pretty successful. I worked into the afternoon pulling print after print, not thinking too much or stopping to analyze the results but just pushing on. Ultimately, I am very satisfied with the series and so glad that I did not pull out of the class early.
I learned several lessons from this experience. First, the frustration I experienced parallels the frustration many of our clients feel in the art therapy studio. It was good for me to connect with that feeling again, painful as it was. It’s easy to forget how intimidating the studio can be, especially to the uninitiated. Second, I was reminded that time in the studio does not guarantee a satisfying product every time. In fact, it may happen only rarely. But it is the time spent that is critical, time spent engaged in the struggle, the grappling with the image and the media. It took almost four days for me to find one image. Third, perseverance matters. Everything worthwhile takes time and finding the image that endures takes hard work.
Far from a restful and relaxing vacation, this has been an exhausting week. There were times I questioned why I had chosen to make this my vacation. In the end, it was a meaningful and useful experience for both my work as an artist and as an art therapist. I anticipate that in time many more lessons will be revealed. I will persevere.