Whats does an insect feel buried deep in the mud and waiting out the months until spring?
The cool air and shifting sun makes sleep all the more pleasant. I find myself thinking of hibernation and the calm quiet of being buried away for a winter.
We are generally very aware of activity. We know well what it’s like to be up and moving in daily rhythms of life.
We think inactivity is the odd thing.
However, what we often think of as inactivity can actually be a period of major change and a time for things to take shape. Clouds lift, things blurred become clear. And in what we feel is down-time, many things get done.
Painters perhaps understand this more than most. There is always a compulsion to get into the studio, to get to work, to do some painting. Much of the process of painting however is the exact opposite of this compulsion. Often painting demands that you simply sit and look. Make some marks, step back and see how they affect things. What appears to be inactivity are active moments of the mind.
The opposite can be true both in painting and in our lives. We push to have time to work on our projects or things we believe important. We break a sweat getting right to work. Sometimes we make the mistake of confusing activity for achievement. Our energies dissolve away in flurries of movement that don’t actually do anything.
Again, I think painters can envision this easily. There are times one feels like they are just pushing paint around. Nothing forms, nothing gels, nothing comes out of the mist.
That isn’t to say that spending hours flailing and failing can’t be important to the artist. It is a very necessary part of an artist’s labor. It is what I feel Whistler was talking about with his lifetime of knowledge. Whistler talks about this necessity of labor far more eloquently than I.
We all know it isn’t always easy to show up and put the work in. But it is easy to boast that you showed up and put the work in afterwards. But just working, just being active isn’t enough. You actually have to be working well, focused, and achieving things.
And so I find that my inactivity this past year has been anything but. I developed ideas in my painting, I laid technical and creative foundations for new directions. I learned to and sold more paintings this year than I have any time previously. And I started some things that will lead to more time in the studio. A lot more time!!
On the surface the past year could be mistaken for a kind of hibernation. But while the activity may have been less, many things were happening.
It was not hibernation. It was full of achievement.
Like an insect’s body changing while it sleeps deep in the mud.