The perils of the teaching and being an artist…

I feel guilty for not posting anything in the past 4 months but then, I haven’t had much to post about because once the semester started any significant art production pretty much ceased entirely. Perhaps in truth this is what I feel the most guilt about.

With a new leadership role in a lecture-based committee (and two events and the grant writing endeavor that came with it), serving on a hiring committee, and presenting at the F.A.T.E. conference this spring (in addition to teaching 4 studios) I’ve found it extremely hard to make time for my studio practice and extremely easy to make excuses for not trying harder.

Though I attempted to guard this secret for some time from all except my closest friends and family I came to the realization that this is not some flaw in me but simply what seems to happen to almost all artists who begin to teach full time. As I’ve allowed myself more transparency with this area of my life I’ve found many sympathetic ears who have experience (or are currently experiencing) the same artistic slump.

I am filled with anticipation for summer to begin in only 7 short days. I am relieved, exhausted, and yet oddly exhilarated because with this 4 week hiatus I will be able to finally get in the studio and back into some semblance of the habits I had as an adjunct or grad student who was “looking for work” (which lights its own kind of fire).

I’ve been trying to keep up with my sketchbook since November but I have not completed anything “substantial” since I began my current job. I’ve been riding the coat-tails of old work and seeking out exhibitions by invitation more than anything else. While this has worked to sustain a small but flickering flame I have not been satisfied to just teach for the past 4 months and know that something must change.

I began to make some work with my upper-level students this spring. Upper level students at a 2-year college are still “foundations” students but in Drawing 2 and Watercolor they are more autonomous and work on bigger projects on their own for longer periods of time. In an attempt not to hover so much I began to prepare more elaborate demos for my watercolor class and soon, these demos gave birth to some newer perspectives on two bodies of work that I’ve been developing for the last half a year and they started a habit of working with my students for a good portion of their in-class work-days.

The students seem to enjoy this – I’m still accessible and over they years I’ve had other teachers advise me to do this simply because it helps facilitate a better real-life example of the creative process from a more advanced perspective. As a grad student I simply felt too self-conscious to contemplate this and for the longest time (even in full time positions) I felt as though this was “cheating” in some way.

I’ve come to the realization that this is false. Still I cannot bring myself to do so at all in my entry level courses – the level of attentiveness required of me does not lend itself anyway. At this point the thought of “this situation is not going to change for a very long time” is quite a motivator of alternative solutions.

Recently I worked with my Drawing 2 and Watercolor classes to create 6×6 works for the 2013 RoCo exhibition (which I’ve participated in for the last couple of years). Only a few students found they were caught up enough with their work to participate but it was an interesting and engaging experience for the rest of us.

M. Levacy, Communion, 6 x 6 in, mixed media on paper

Communion began as a study with the ink-gouache-wash-off technique that I’ve used before with 2D students but have never really developed into my own practice. I found it to be equal parts perfect and horrible for communicating some of the ideas in my head. I still have far to go before I get everything right in that department. At a certain point I abandoned the concepts I had intended for this work and turned the work into something else entirely and was much happier with it as a result (though it’s not the thing I’m looking for  in the long run).

M. Levacy, Golden Raintree, 6 x 6 inches, mixed media on paper

Golden Raintree was started as a grad student – it was actually the very first gouache painting I ever made. I wanted to experiment with some line and leafing techniques and so I worked back into it with more gouache and mixed media. When I started this I had no intention of it becoming a 6x6x2013 work but I was so happy with it that I decided to submit it as well.

Of course, neither of these works is a part of a larger body of work but there are visible threads that emerge in each that tie in previous works and hint at future ones.

I’ll be developing a studio schedule this week – just like I did in grad school. With some diligence I should be able to find my footing again and start really working through some of my ideas.

It’s all just a high wire act – life – sometimes to keep from falling you must shift your weight dramatically to one side or the other to compensate for some imbalance but eventually you right yourself, find your center, and continue on. . .

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