05/26/2004: "Working Under a Deadline - Positive or Negative?"
If I don't have a show coming up I find that I work a lot less. I do like showing my work (I just wish I didn't have to go to the openings) but really I think that if I didn't have some obvious goal to work towards, I'd be a lot less motivated to work. And I do consider making art work. It's hard. And some days everything just sucks and I start to doubt what I'm doing and every choice I've ever made. I suppose that's normal but often it leads to a dark dark place and sometimes I get stuck there for weeks or months on end.
Not to mention the fact that I'm a grade A procrastinator by nature. In the past I convinced myself that I worked better under pressure. Even in school (especially in school) I'd wait until the last minute mostly obsessing about the fact that I wasn't doing any work...but also thinking about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it; then I'd crank it all out in the 11th hour. Every time I'd practically have a nervous breakdown but in the end I'd be really pleased with the work so I started to believe that was my "process".
My last show is the first time that I think this backfired on me. I got down to the month before the show and I was still only building the canvases. And as always, I cranked out all the paintings at the last minute. I don't think I've ever hung a show that wasn't still wet. And at the opening I was telling a friend that I'd painted everything in the show in one month, and she replied "Elise, I wouldn't really be bragging about that". OUCH! And unlike other shows, I hung several pieces that I really hated, just to fill up the space, and I only sold two pieces and basically I felt like crap afterward. It made me re-evaluate whether or not my "process" was working for me anymore.
When I set up my exhibit at the Friendly Planet (the Loft gallery) I told a co-worker who works in the cubical across from me and she basically groaned out loud. She said "oh god, now I'm going to have to listen to you put this off for the next 6 months and you're going to end up getting all stressed out and sick over it. I don't know if I can make it through another one of your shows".
Now, she and I basically share an office off by ourselves so we chit chat all day long so truthfully she does absorb the brunt of my pre-show obsessive tendencies. Also, she's a good friend and brutally honest so the statement didn't hurt my feelings or anything, but it did make me think about how true it was. I determined then and there that this time would be different. I started right away, and my god, it was like a revelation. I've found that having all the pieces hanging around me all the time helps me see problems with them, and also gives me new ideas. Also, having plenty of time to let things dry and then paint successive layers is great. I've been so amazed at how ahead of the game I am this time. Plus, I've felt able to take more chances because I've known that there was still time to fix things if it went south.
It wasn't until yesterday, when I started trying to map out time to do an additional piece for a charity auction, that I realized I don't have the oodles and oodles of time that I thought I did. I'm going to be at a conference in Idaho next week, then my family is arriving for a visit from June 11-20...the show is July 2, all of a sudden I feel like HOLY SHIT! I have so much still left to do, and not all related to the art work. And now, I feel my procrastination gene kicking into high gear. I'm going to have to just force myself to keep painting even though I suddenly feel absolutely paralyzed.
I'm curious if other artists work better when they have all the time in the world, or under the pressure of some kind of deadline.