Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Buried Treasure: Art or Consequences?

* I came upon this re-post of two of my favorite blog posts while I was looking for copy for my new website. While I no longer work a day job, everything I said about time still applies, except that now I don't have time to make art because I'm busy with the business of trying to get my art out there - and maybe even make some money. And yes, I'm aware of how lucky I am. And of the irony. Go figure.

In choosing my re-post for Seth Apter's Buried Treasure collaboration, I looked back through my posts with an eye to 1) what seemed to resonate with my readers, and 2) what still resonated most with me.  In the end, I chose 2 posts which address questions about the importance of art from the artist's perspective; in other words, why do we do it, and is it worth it?  I hope you like them.

What is Art Good For? (9/16/10)

This isn't really a philosophical discussion, as much as just my own personal opinion and perspective.  I mean, I guess philosophy and opinions could be related, as in, "How many angels do you think can dance on the head of a pin?", but that's neither here nor there.  For some reason this has been spinning around in my head lately, so I'll just throw it out there, because- frankly- I need the room in my head for other things.

Fossil Memory

It's hard to know where to start, so I guess in the middle would be as good a place as any. When I began working as a special education teacher, I was also going to school to obtain my master's degree, as a condition of keeping my job.  The lack of time, two kids to support, and a SO (significant other) who put all my art stuff into the attic made it all but impossible for me to make art.  I rationalized it to myself this way:  "What good is art, anyway?  It doesn't bring in any money, and I'm completely broke.  It doesn't mean a thing to most people, except maybe as a way to decorate their living rooms."  I told myself, " It doesn't help anyone; no one needs art."

I was almost able to convince myself that this was the truth; after all, the idea was founded on perfectly sound logic.  I believed I didn't need it either, that I could satisfy my creative drive in other ways, such as by building a log house.  That helped, but didn't quite get to the heart of the matter, and as time went on I felt as if my heart had a hole in it- an empty place where art-making used to be.

How had I so quickly forgotten the lessons of the past?   Looking back on it now, I can remember many times when art literally saved my life, or at least my sanity  (yes, I still had some at one time!).  When I was teaching art in an elementary school -without an art room, I had to carry my supplies from room to room- and my kids were still quite young, I would come home totally exhausted.  So, instead of working on any large, planned piece, I would relax at night by painting these completely spontaneous, quick little watercolors.

Gently swishing the paint around with the soft brush helped me to relax and unwind.  It functioned as a form of meditation...

 ...allowing some of the day's stress to melt away, and reassuring me that I could still make art, even if it was only a little.

And, when my first marriage was failing, and I felt I would surely lose my mind if I didn't find a job...

Against the Tide

Waiting for the Storm

... painting these pieces allowed me to channel my emotions in a constructive way, helped me to work through some of the scary twists and turns my life was taking...

The Speed of Darkness

... and basically kept me from freaking out completely or jumping off a bridge.

So, for me, this is one of the things art is good for.

Here's How It Is  (2/7/11)

Well, here's how it is:  I am a bad blogger.  At least, that's how I feel sometimes- not guilty, really- just kind of disappointed that I've been unable to keep all the balls in the air.

 "Jugglers at the Cirque Fernando" by Renoir

I can't post every day, or even every other day.  Right now, I'm lucky if I can post once a week.  I feel bad when I don't have enough time to leave witty and insightful comments on all of my friends' posts, if I even get a chance to look at them.  Admittedly, I feel at times like I'm seeing them the way one sees the gorgeously tantalizing flowers in the neighbor's garden from the window of a speeding car. 

I feel inadequate, but all I can say in my own defense is that even the best juggler (which I certainly am not) can get caught up in trying to juggle more balls than he/she can handle without the addition of some extra appendages.  (Yes, I realize I'm mixing my metaphors again; it's like a big ol' metaphor soup up in here.)

"The Egyptian Juggler" by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

So, I've been wracking  my brain about how I could resolve this problem.  It came to me like a bolt of lightening out of the sky (no, that's a simile!)- there really is no way to solve this conundrum short of somehow bending time.

This may be possible in theory, but not even Einstein had the slightest inkling how to apply it to our every day lives.  

But then I was reading a post on Rice Freeman-Zachery's wonderful blog, Notes from the Voodoo Cafe, that made me feel a bit better about the whole thing.   She says this about working artists:
"You try to get in touch with them, and they don't respond, and you think, scornfully, "Diva!" But that's most often not it (sometimes that's it, but not very often). Usually it's because they have a certain day of the week in which they respond to email because the other days are a flurry of all the various things they have to do to try to stay afloat in an economy that bites and a culture that doesn't value working artists." 

She goes on to say that most of us have to decide what we're going to give up in order to make art a priority, such as TV and the internet (except for blogging, of course).  I have to agree; it's all about prioritizing.  I rarely watch TV, except for the news and a couple of other shows.  I don't have a social life, and my house probably isn't the cleanest, if you know what I mean. My husband graciously does most of the cooking. I try to answer emails, but sometimes it takes me a while.  Sometimes I forget to respond to comments on my blog posts, but that's due to the age of my brain, and is not at all  intentional.

I used to try to accept the fact that I didn't have the time to make art, but I failed in that effort, because I was miserable.  I came to realize that I would have to make that time by deciding not to spend it on other things, like watching TV, or going out for drinks.  If I have to cook, I'm probably not going to make something that takes three hours to prepare, and I made a deal with the dust bunnies that if they don't look at me, I won't look at them.  If I have to work a full time job, then shouldn't part of the reward for that be that I get to spend my off-time doing something I love? 

The Traveler's Tale: Balance

It's a balancing act, without a doubt- full time job, making art, marketing the art, etc.- but it's something I have to keep trying to work out as best I can. We may not be able to adjust time, but we can adjust our thinking.  It really is, ultimately, all in how we look at it.

I added this to the end, because I think it expresses these ideas in a very creative and unique way.  I saw this somewhere a long time ago, then recently again on C. Wright's Art Gallery blog.

Music Video for Tanya Davis's Song Art, by Andrea Dorfman

 Back to Seth's blog for more Buried treasure!


  1. I do remember these posts and of course loved the song... the art manifesto song... all very inspiring and thoughtful once again Sharmon!

  2. This has been a great read...thanks also for the video. Serious or lighthearted, art making is the way through the trials of this journey called living and you clearly know this and expressed it in words and art...thanks for this repost!

  3. Loved the post so much!!! I can relate. My art saved me...i do believe. So many things were going wrong and I found myself painting these women who all happen to be me. I still need them every day.
    Great post and the artwork is absolutely gorgeous!!!!

  4. Two of my favourite Sharmon Davidson paintings in that first post.... making me very glad you allowed art back into your life.

  5. Both interesting posts in different ways. They certainly revaled to me that,in your life, art is a MUST. I guess we all forego some things to make room for creativity.

  6. Such a nice post. I think you've exactly worked out what art is for... it's for the artists. You're a great blogger. I'm still workdering (yes, that's a new word I just accidentally typed, it's working and wondering in one) workdering what to write and how, but what more can we put that what we've done and what we think? Do we need to stimulate a debate or prove a philosophy or something? Pleh. Yes that's a word too.

    I've given up T.V. to read blogs and reply to emails. It takes a while but it's better. Glad I'm not alone.

  7. wonderful posts! I especially love the one about the value of art. Very well put. And your accompanying art illustrates what you were doing at these difficult times in your life.

    You remind us of why we do this. Can you imagine a world devoid of art. It would be a world devoid of depth and beauty, a way of speaking deeply to people, in a way beyond words. And of speaking to ourselves.

    Your work is stunning and deeply touching! Thanks for these reposts! Good choices.

  8. Great to have these beautiful visual reminders of this process.I like The speed of Darkness......lovely crow!

  9. So personal and insightful and, in that way, speaking a universal truth for artists everywhere. We make art because we have to, for our own sanity. Sometimes I forget this and get discouraged and stop making art and harbour hopes and illusions of being able to create and thrive in a 9-5 existence with a regular pay cheque and 0 creative expression. It's good to be reminded of the absolute necessity of making art, no matter what the level of excellence or public approbation. I think you express yourself beautifully in your art and through your words and it is richly rewarding to visit your blog.

  10. These posts were quite interesting, as was the video. I was most impressed by the lack of time. I often feel that way, too. Of course, I was also impressed with all those watercolors you made at the end of the day. They are all very, very lovely. They may not have brought you a pay check, but they brought you peace of mind and calm in a world that was swirling around you at the time. Lovely entry.

    You asked if I painted the Ringmaster image in one of the collages I made in my Buried Treasure post (yes, time has been my enemy this week). No, it was an image I probably picked up in a freebie catalog. Thanks for asking.

  11. Hi Sharmon, thanks for finding me and leaving a comment. I found your blog a while back--I so understand when you write about your relationship with art. I feel like a one armed paper hanger most of the time :-) Art calms me down and puts everything into perspective (no pun intended)!

  12. Well I'm not the only one feeling introspective these last days of July. Your posts hit what I've been thinking as I've been scrubbing my painting room this last week-- a therapeutic exercise for "turning a new leaf." I've asked myself many times what's it for and the only thing I know for sure is that art has kept me resilient and strong and upbeat when life isn't. It is a gift. Your art, this post, that song is a gift too: it's inspirational to me to carry on with what I've been doing.

  13. I loved this post. I love your art style. Your work. For me, the important things in life cannot be seen. They are made visible by art for one, and by action for two, etc. etc. It is magical to me. *smiles* Norma

  14. HEY! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad that you did, since you're down the list aways. I've been on a 1300 mile road trip for the opening of a one-man show in NE Montana, and although a bit road worn I'm getting back in the groove. Your art is delightful to the eyes!

  15. It is so easy for us to forget how important is to our lives. I'm so glad you keep remembering! I love your work, especially "Waiting for the Storm".

  16. first post: it is true that art is healing.. meditative...separating from the stress of the day to creating is restorative. second post: we are all trying to balance our family, chores, errands with our creative art side - because: see first post. the cycle continues...


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