Mend the nets

This past week I had the pleasure of hearing from eight of the recipients of the Professional Artist Grant. While it was a little nerve-wracking to take time away from my own practice less than a month before our Emerging Artist exhibition, I felt it was important to learn from my peers in this setting.

Much as in last month’s event with my cohort, I left this panel discussion feeling inspired and motivated. I was particularly struck by a few comments I scribbled down from visual artist Gabriel Ramos.

“Studio practice is more than making. It’s supporting your colleagues by going to a show. It’s conducting research. It’s going to see a movie.” These activities around our work, not just in our work, inform our whole artistic self.

Prior to that in the discussion, he reminded us, “Creating original work takes time.” And “A lot of art making is trouble shooting. People see the finished product but they don’t see the struggle.”

I identified deeply with these statements Gabriel made. Along with a sense of gratitude to another artist for expressing these sentiments that are so often hidden under a culture and ideal of “hustling,” I felt a sense of relieve. “Thank goodness,” I thought. “As a writer who also works all day as a writer, I need to hear this more.”

My mentor, Gianna, has also advised me me that time away from my laptop or notebook is not necessarily wasted time. She told me about a Bible story that can be summarized in the lesson that “When fishermen are not fishing, they are mending their nets.” That’s to say, if the fishermen don’t tend to other tasks and duties of their career, they won’t be able to perform well when the time comes to catch those fish, as it were.

“You have to mend the nets,” Gianna sometimes reminds me. When I’m particularly stressed, she reminds me I need to rest, to reflect. That’s what mending the nets means for me: resting, reading, reflecting, working on the edges of my craft, not just the middle.

I have embraced this saying so much that I had it printed and stuck it in a frame where I can see the phrase often: on the wall next to my bed. Sometimes we just need a reminder we’re on the right path, whether from a mentor or a fellow artist. No matter how winding the path.

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