Last week I was on a Zoom social hour with members of SNAG. When E.D. Gwynne Ruckenbrod-Smith asked how I was doing amidst this current situation of low artwork sales and canceled workshops, I fessed up that I was just as fried as everyone else. I briefly shared about my ongoing projects on which I should be making progress with all this time in the studio, but which I can barely make myself do in the midst of stress and fear. Even the projects themselves seem weird to pursue when I don’t know if they’ll be relevant on the other side of this pandemic.
As I flitted between looking into my Mac’s camera and looking at Gwynne in the upper left of Zoom’s Brady Bunch view, I caught site of the rectangle in between. It was me, queen of creative productivity…being so very real. The funny thing about video calls is that if you look at the people you’re talking to, it looks to them that you’re staring off into the distance, so the key is too look at your camera, but that’s not as much fun.
This wasn’t typical video work. This was just all of us, live, thinking Zoom is as close as we’ll get to connecting for a long long time. I looked around at the other folks in their respective rectangles, friends, students, collectors, and colleagues, a few of whom I only know by their work. Even my fellow rock stars smiled and looked so very relieved when I admitted that I have great difficulty getting anything done either.
Being real, however imperfect it feels, is a profound relief.
In that spirit, I though I’d share with you an all too typical day in the studio. Yes, I’m still in the studio 6 days/week, but before you start getting impressed, be aware that this is my favorite room in my house and the only one with a view to the backyard where my pups feel compelled to stand guard, bark at, or heard every squirrel, chipmunk, neighbor, and molecule of pollen that dares to move (and there is a lot of pollen). My sofa is in the living room next to my husband’s office. Barking Shelties are more fun than BritBox, interspersed with Chris’ many Zoom meetings.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
8:38 am EDT Wake up and realize that I actually slept…late (Skyler had am dog duty). Lie there and remember really odd, vivid dream about a group of underserved people working in a British, Edwardian era department store, who were about to get caught ‘borrowing’ some chic accessories to go a musical variety show. (No, I gave up watching Selfridges years ago after the first season. As for the rest, I have absolutely no idea!)
8:38:30 Check email (yes, it’s a compulsion). Read half of the newsletters I subscribe to. Decide I should be as motivated as these writers and artists are…whatever.
9:12 Venture to local news sites then NPR and discover we’re definitely not alone thinking our governor is a murderous idiot,* looking to hook up his rich buddies and make us ill or kill us in the process of “opening” Georgia’s economy this week.
9:25 Be really glad I don’t color my hair (yet).
9:30 Continue obsessing over news.
9:33 Realize I have now been holding my iPhone over my head at an increasingly uncomfortable position for nearly an hour.
9:38 Realize I have now been reading emails and news for an hour and five minutes.
9:40 Get up. Find clean clothes. Shower.
10:05 Get attacked by happy puppies who have desperately missed me since Skyler coerced them off our bed and into their crates around 1:00 am last night. Hug and pet both of them. Pull them apart while they fight over who gets petted first (even though I’m petting both at the same time).
10:30 Take tea tray, thoughtfully prepped by hubby, into studio along with one of the last of two homemade sweet rolls. Take one bite and marvel over my baking skills and our ability to still get ingredients delivered.
10:31 Let dogs out.
10:33 Begin my daily ritual of trying to convince my LED lights over the drawing area to stop flashing and turn on (takes 15 minutes now), followed by my other strange new morning ritual of planning my day in my sketchbook. Yes, old school. On paper. Not an app. (Gasp!) Thanks to Carla Sonheim’s instructional video on journal boxes via Sketchbook Revival.
10:35 Think about writing things I’ll actually have the time and focus to do today rather than an aspirational to-do list of more things than I could do in a month then beating myself up later that I didn’t finish any of it. Baby steps.
10:36 Devolve into writing a future post about how our governor keeps up the Southeners-Are-Stupid stereotype. Decide this diversion is ok because my tiny fountain pen writing is crammed into the ‘write’ box on my daily journal page.
10:45 Let dogs in.
11:15 Run out of room in the ‘write’ box and move to the ‘drawing’ box. Color spontaneous Art Deco inspired shapes with new colored pencils. There is no such thing as too many colors or types of colored pencils. Apparently Amazon thinks these are “essential items” to be given shipping priority since more will be appearing on my porch next Monday.
11:16 Wonder if it’s selfish to order more colored pencils in a pandemic.
11:20 Finally write out today’s tasks. Start with ‘this,’ meaning the box journal page, and check it off as soon as I finish. Yay! I’ve completed something. – I do this every day but Sundays, which are my days off, or as I’ve come to think of them, mental health days off from thinking I should be doing more.
11:25 Let dogs out again.
11:30 Knock on the window with a 22” ruler to stop the dogs barking incessantly. Keep journaling. Write, “Photo commissioned necklace & pack for shipping” and realize this is the very last certain thing I’ve committed to do, the last external deadline on my COVID-19 postponed horizon of promised things for other people.
11:33 Freak out a little.
11:34 Knock on the window again and send 32 oz glass of ice water flying all over in progress paintings on paper. Yes. Again!!! Scream. Send husband running in from front of house. (Wow, I must have been really loud.) Mop frantically. Freak out. Yell at dogs who are still barking probably because I was screaming. Mop more. Wonder if paintings are good enough to warrant using precious facial tissues to gingerly mop up excess water. Tissues leave less of a texture than paper towels. Think perhaps in the not too distant future I will be in more dire need of said tissues for other things, for which paper towels are also highly unsuitable.
11:49 Try to salvage what passes for focus these days.
11:51 Call back customer who got confused on my website.
12:05 Get sucked into my computer. Update all WordPress plug-ins. Remember I haven’t updated the plugins for my husband’s and my mother’s websites that I also manage. Get sucked into whatever their websites need. Pat myself on the back that all the updating makes our sites harder to hack.
12:15 Wonder why I have 23 tabs open in my internet browser. Get sucked into triaging which ones I can close. Fall down rabbit hole of incorrect link trying to find Sketchook Skool’s remote interview with urban sketcher Lapin.
12:18 Wonder how in the world urban sketchers whose work I follow are coping in quarantine. Begin falling further down the YouTube and Instagram Black Holes of Time Death.
12:30 Let dogs in. Feed them lunch.
12:40 Let dogs out again. Think about the complicated task of building doggie doors on the back door and the screened porch door. Think about teaching them how to open the screen door. Think about the scheming velociraptors in Jurassic Park. Be slightly afraid our dogs are smarter than we are.
12:46 Return missed call about rescheduling a doctor’s appointment I’ve been waiting for for four months. Return call and schedule telehealth appointment instead.
12:52 Open email with PDF of first time visit paperwork to be completed before telehealth appointment. Realize it’s from an email address that is not monitored so I can’t email it back. Wonder if I should show up at telehealth appointment next week and hold up completed paperwork for doctor to see I completed it. Think about calling back and asking, but nice as the scheduler was on the phone, think maybe the length of time it takes to get through their systems to a real person isn’t worth my reminding them of their oversight.
1:00 Discover homemade sweet roll with only one bite taken out of it. Think perhaps waiting this long to eat breakfast is a bad idea. Think, perhaps a sweet roll isn’t really a healthy breakfast. Think who cares?!? It’s delicious even now slightly stale.
1:05 Wonder if my soppy paintings are savable. They are, but I’m not sure they’ll ever lie flat again.
1:06 Realize that blog post I just published was actually two weeks ago. Wonder where the hell two weeks went.
1:10 Start this post.
2:06 Realize I’ve only had a sweet roll to eat all day. Think I’m going to get a ‘mother-hen’ text message from my mother after she reads this.
2:30 Let dogs in. Keep writing.
2:55 Stop writing. Compulsively check email. Discover doctor’s office sent online portal link for paperwork. Yay.
2:58 Time for lunch. Think it’s got to get better from here. Remember I think that about every day around this time.
How’s your day? Feel free to post below.
*Governor Kemp, dude, besides your needing to embrace science already, stop referring to people with asthma, diabetes, and otherwise manageable underlying conditions as “medically fragile.” Bet you couldn’t do half of what I do, with asthma mind you, if your life depended on it. I am not fragile. I am “at high risk for acute COVID-19.” Learn and say the difference. I’m sure Stacey Abrams can. But then, there’s a lot she can handle that you clearly can’t…like being ethical…or actually being elected.