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 “Life is best lived outside of the comfort zone.”

Some current thoughts on being an artist in demand.. excited, scared and thoughtful at the same time!

I am probably in one of the most busy moments of my life since I was a full-time teacher. I live with this reality: 7 days to create 8 paintings. 3 walls in 3 weeks. 4 commissions in 4 days, if possible. Over the next few days, I will join in on a project to support my boss CEET in painting some walls in Dongguan, including a touch of my own novice style on the walls as well as meet some fundamental graffiti artists, then from the next day, I switch apartments, pack, then I go to Jakarta to paint a wall and include 2 of the 7 works (designed, yet to be framed and finished) that I am developing. We cut the trip short so I can come back in order to paint next 3 days on a wall in my “hometown” of Shenzhen (Shekou), before the next day solo show on May 10th. In this show, I will have 20 works total presented, including my first pieces up to my most recent. I still have those 2 remaining works to be sent to Hong Kong for the Affordable Art Fair 18th of May.

Side Note: They accepted me as a presenting artist for the fact that I started, really, to consider myself an artist in this section of the city, Shekou. So now I have to add small details of deference to Shekou, to my funny dog paintings, in the meantime. Then, I still have to squeeze time in a window of 3 days after the show to produce 2 pieces for my showing in the Affordable Art fair in Hong Kong a week later. On top of that, 2 more commissions waiting paciently.

I recall just but two weeks ago when I was talking to my boss that I was complaining that “I am tired of being poor”. I was rich in time, poor in monetary gain. I had just created a portrait canvas for free, in a favor to my other boss and her idol. I decided to do it it as a favor to her and a thank you to for this same guy who had bought me three canvases. Without her, I wouldn't have inspired a sale of any canvases that month but 1 in Hong Kong. It was an overall result, though, of 4 canvases for the price of one, in my mind (since I only get a small percentage of each canvas I make).

But, it’s now paying dividends. I now have four people waiting for commissions, 2 of them wanting of their dogs, 2 others of their family members. The two dogs could pay for my flight home, after a long awaited respite in a country where everyone speaks my language.

"Be careful what you ask for - because you just just get it." (Note to self: MANTRA OF THE WEEK.)

I wonder, at times, at the life you have to live as a popular artist. I am a nobody, I know nothing, do nothing, yet at times I envision.. if this were my life day to day, week to week, month to month, how would I feel? Would I get pumped up, inspired by the daily constraint of time versus energy and have an excelled output and generation of ideas? I’d be in the mindset to completely fuel what was the demand calling from around me.

Or would, in contrast, I burn out? Would I begin to feel a sense of isolation, disconnectedness or reduction for being only the result of my visual productions? Would I eventually want to retreat into a hole and watch a movie, or run to a beach and just think of nothing, plug out, and enjoy the scenes? Or would I embrace each experience, even exhausted, and have the presence of mind to enjoy all of the new people and places I would encounter?

In a previous post, I mentioned how in choosing things, we also constrain ourselves and confine the results. “Either-or” mentality. The true reality I have been witness to, in many of the artists who have come visit me in the past few months at the residency: it is a fine line between both worlds. Some come to JO, super hyper-active, and are charged by the challenge. Others are yet overwhelmed and need to carve their daily rituals and self-space to preserve their inner tranquility and constancy, in order to continue at their own rhythm.

I have yet to define what, exactly, is my rhythm or goal... as an artist, as a person, as Rebecca. The lulls and relatively “yin” habit of painting 8 hours a day causes my body and personality to become slightly dulled, lethargic, (albeit/admittedly) a bit lazy – even in the small interactions with other people.

I have been historically a very physically active, overly vivacious person both in spirit and mind and body. Now, with the help of literature podcasts, I can focus many hours on the act of painting with no literal pain. However, the time that you need to sit, “be zen” and focus your energy on an acute spot, dictated by your hand and body, requires a lot of centralized focus.

I, unlike my previous posts have dictated (maybe as a necessity of sorts), have refused recently meetings/dinners/gatherings with my best friends. I have recently lost a whole night’s sleep over the worries, insecurities that a late night dosage of caffeine had eventually brought me.

One of the most grounding things that has given me back my sacred centeredness was speaking with my mom the morning after that sleepless night. (She was on my insanely long to-do list of the morning: Talk to Mom.) Overall, in that conversation of love and listening, she told me: 1) just breathe; 2) take it one day at a time; 3) don’t focus on the output, result/expectation; and 4) take care of yourself. It was a conversation I was blessed to have with someone I was comfortable enough with to share my fears, but after the fact that I had planned my next 4 weeks to daily S.M.A.R.T. goals and outcomes, which calmed me down at 6am when the light came up after that endless night of worry.

I will stick to the plan, focus on the daily goals, enjoy small moments, …and stay grateful. These are mantras that float around in my mind and I’ve felt such a release. After listless hours and days of seeking, or wondering, about my purpose or goals, I am now on the pendulum “up” swing of not having time to even consider. What I am doing? Where am I going? Does what I do have a value?

In the end of each day, I just focus on and tell myself: Get 'er done.

In summation, these are all valid questions. One should always have these kinds of questions present (in a non-threatening way) towards the self. However, in my immediate junction of events, as this blog serves to attest, such questions can give me no true function or purpose to finishing the immediate tasks required at hand - maybe due to the fact that they are so esoteric and pontificate. But, if you know me in any way personally, you know I always find/have/need time to think. Writing this post has helped me a lot for processing.

I find a sort of solace, of consolation, in these moments of artful procrastination, stress, challenge with my own mind. Reaching a level of “critical”, I think, is the spice of life for me. With practice, I can get better. I'm becoming better at painting, more efficient at managing my energy and my flow, clearer with myself at defining my own limits and boundaries. Managing the input from various sources and people into my own present existence and decisions is truly a dance.

Let’s see where the next few weeks take me. I am so happy and excited, living life on the cusp of “what if..?” As they say, “Life is best lived outside of the comfort zone.” Hope I can manage!

I’ve never felt so alive, challenged and yet honest with myself.. as I do these days of solitude in plain sight.