Going to Shed

in space painter andrew conti
As of late, I have gone to shed.
I haven’t been spending as much time as I would like on my blog, or on other things related to the web and its spaces. My efforts are reduced to a bit of a trickle, and I’ve generally been laying low socially.
In the shed you see.
‘Going to shed,’ is a term I’ve heard from a lot of musicians I know. It’s a term that describes the act of spending time practicing. Not just in a regular kind of daily practice, but more specifically an act of getting away from other things, isolating yourself, and digging deep into your studies. The idea being that one might go lock themselves in a shed and practice for hours.
I imagine the word shed was used for those who had particularly noisy instruments, so they needed to get out of the house to someplace they could just make some noise. This isn’t something painters can necessarily correlate too. Yet, maybe one just needs to get to someplace where they can make noise no one will hear, a place there mistakes won’t be heard. And this certainly pertains to painters.
I’ve also heard this called ‘shedding.’ This term tends to gross me out. I can’t help but think of snake skin discovered during a walk through a park. The dried remains of a process that seems alien, or at least reptile.
In fact though the more I think of it, the more I think it is also appropriate. Shedding is an excellent metaphor for what happens when you get in to deep levels of practice.
Like a crab that molts its shell you dart for dark places. You stay in these safe areas where no one can see you or the work you are doing. You stay in that place building up new skills, the new exoskeleton that will protect you. It’s a slow process, a tiring process, and one that requires a lot of energy. Digging in to areas where you want to really improve, or simply learn invariably presents a bit of weakness. You acknowledge your shortcomings, you expose yourself to yourself. You begin the long process of removing your current skin, and building a new one.
I remember a time as a child when I came across a garter snake that was shedding. There is always a moment of fear when you see a snake. You don’t know what it’s going to do and imagination can quickly turn a 2 foot long garter into a menacing mythological serpent.
What I remember though is just how spent the snake seemed. It didn’t run, it didn’t coil, or slither away. It just sort of stayed there in its process. Perhaps realizing that if this kid wanted to kill at this moment, it would concede. I watched for a few minutes and definitely didn’t understand the process. It was too slow, too boring for the 9 or 10 year old I must have been. But I returned a few days later and found the remains of its former skin laying where it had previously. The snake was gone, transformed into its new self.
So this is where I am these days. spending some deeply concentrated time working on some skills I want to develop. I won’t go into them too much, as they are certainly a part of my fresh skin, not yet dry or hardened. But of course its about drawing, because its always about drawing!
I’m putting in the time, slowly practicing. Throwing away a lot of old dead skin as I shed it off of me. In the process of growth, in the act of changing.
I await transformation.