Artists need vacations too.

'Traveling Suitcase' Copyright Kate Forman 2009

‘Traveling Suitcase’ Copyright Kate Forman 2009

Yup: it’s that wonderful time of year, vacation time. I’m a big believer in vacations, and I find that they’re sometimes hard to define for a working artist, as we often spend our time between a day job & hours reserved for making art, so often time off is used as more time for the art making. That’s great, but I’ve learned that there needs to be a balance between many open days in a row that can be reserved for making art and many open days in a row that can be used to just relax.

Some years ago I read ‘The Artist’s way,” by Julie Cameron. My good friend Asta currently belongs to an on-line community organized around the concepts of the book, and her enthusiasm has made me think about taking a stab & working the book’s “program” again, especially as the first time around I didn’t devote enough time to it — though I really connected to its principles.

One thing that I remember the most about the book, and appreciated, were the author’s words on the importance of “refreshing your eyes,” and getting a different view — even by taking a new walk in your old neighborhood. My Grandmother had many sayings she liked to dole out, and one that has always stayed with me, and resonated as I read the book, was her admonishment to: “have a view you never had before.” It’s pretty wise, and can be applied profoundly or simply. As artists I do think it’s important to constantly refresh our eyes, we have a great capacity to find magic in the mundane, but sometimes it’s nice to stand in front of a new view & give our peepers a charge.

Right now I’ve got my feet up typing this in Norwhich, Connecticut — several hours away from my beloved Queens. I grew up in a place not too dissimilar to Norwhich: a lovely mix of beautiful old buildings, many of which had seen better days, some urban poverty, and a desolate abandoned industrial section. My hometown is currently undergoing a financial renaissance, but Norwhich is still struggling with the fate of many old river towns — its local industries have been strangled by the malls and big stores, and what commerce exists within a walk doesn’t offer more than corner stores and/or bodegas.

Personally, I have a love hate response to gentrification: there’s something gloriously sad about proud old buildings whose owners obviously treat them with a lot of love, standing side by side with former glories who’ve been chopped into many apartments…it seems a bit more honest than some of the overly “cutesy” stuff that seems necessary to sustain a small city’s economy.

However, this is about vacation — and I’m enjoying myself: I like the views, and getting a taste of suburbia is interesting — the house we’re staying in has a dishwasher, a washer/dryer, and a food disposal in the sink (which I’ve never, ever, used before.) It’s definitely a more convenient life, in some ways, but having to get in the car to get everything isn’t so great – I do miss the convenience of walking around my neighborhood.

On this leg of the vacation I’m combining rest and art making time, and getting lots of reading in as well. I finally read Camus’ “‘The Stranger,” but I also packed three disc world series books by the brilliant & dangerously funny Terry Pratchett. Someday I’ll do a whole post on him — he writes like I wish I painted. Meanwhile, though, I wanted to end on a paragraph of his I read last night, it made me think about missing NYC, and comparing it to this life style — love for the big apple often gets expressed tritely, but in the brilliant Mr. Pratchett’s words regarding a booming metropolis in disc world I found some of my emotions perfectly captured:

Poets long ago gave up trying to describe the city. Now the more cunning ones try to excuse it. They say, well, maybe it is smelly, maybe it is overcrowded, maybe it is a bit like Hell would be if they shut the fires off and stabled a herd of incontinent cows there for a year, but you must admit that it is full of sheer, vibrant, dynamic life. And this is true, even though it is poets that are saying it. But people who aren’t poets say, so what? Mattresses tend to be full of life too, and no one writes odes to them. Citizens hate living there and, if they have to move away on business or adventure or, more usually, until some statute of limitations runs out, can’t wait to get back so they can enjoy hating living there some more. They put stickers on the backs of their carts saying “Ankh-Morpork–Loathe It or Leave it.” They call it the big Whaooni, after the fruit.

from Moving Pictures, by Terry Pratchett

For now, I’m off to have a view I never had before.


4 thoughts on “Artists need vacations too.

  1. Kate, I’m so not surprised that you’re a Terry Pratchett fan! Maybe it’s because I consider you to be such a kindred spirit. I’ve been a fan of his work for years. It seems like every word of his I read, I read twice — just to savor it. I love his perspective.

    And funny you should mention the principles of The Artist’s Way. I shared the book with a writer friend ages ago; we both saw and understood its potential at the time, yet managed to get frustrated with it towards the end. I’m proud of us for sticking with it, but wonder if we just weren’t ready to learn…. I’ve been thinking recently of dusting off my copy and starting all over from the beginning, so it seems like a sign or something that here you are, talking about it. Thanks for the nudge! 🙂

    I hope your vacation is everything you need it to be! Enjoy, rest, READ, and look at everything with new eyes.


    • And I’m not surprised that you’re a Terry Pratchett fan either :0) (I also assume you read Anne of Green Gables books, as I agree that we are kindred spirits — have never found a better description of kindred spirits than in those books.)
      There is some funny energy around that book lately, because it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years, and then it started “calling my name” and then Asta (also a kindred spirit :0) mentioned it to me & her enjoyment of the on-line community she’s participating in related to that group. So, I feel “nudged” too — please let me know how your “nudge” works out.
      Thank you for the vacay well wishes :0)

  2. Kate – It’s funny you should bring up The Artist’s Way and reading because I am now up to Week 4 and this is reading deprivation week – and I am cheating and reading your blog!!!!
    Holidays and new eyes – I am taking my husband away for a long weekend soon to celebrate a significant birthday. I am looking forward to the beach (we live inland), a book cafe (we don’t have a book shop) and bed and breakfast surrounded by cottage gardens. Sounds like bliss to me. Last time I was in this town I wrote ‘You know what’. Who knows what will happen this time.
    Peace and all joy dear friend,
    Asta x

    • Ooh: I forgot all about the ‘no reading’ week — that one sounded kind of hard to me too :0) That long weekend sounds very beautiful and romantic…breakfast surrounded by flowers, ocean breezes, book browsing, and reading on the beach, hmmm-hmmm: you definitely know how to do vacation right! I hope you and your husband have a lovely birthday weekend celebration!

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