The Leisurely Artist

Almost ten years ago my friend and I started this collaborative art project. It was 2007, I lived in Brooklyn, I was married with no kids and living a pretty chill life—the kind of life where I had time to embark on collaborative art projects. For 4 years, we were pretty serious about the project, known simply as “The Book.” I hand-bound, a big, thick sketchbook with expensive paper signatures with the plan that each of us would create a spread, then mail the book to the other person, who would get inspired by something in the spread, and create a new artwork. And so on and so on.

The Book started to take on interesting outlets for us. We became less inspired by the previous spread, and more inspired by the events in our lives. For me, there was a spread that reflects my minor annoyance and paranoia after taking this massive allergy patch test. For her, there was a dark spread that reflected her diagnosis of a serious medical problem. The book became a way to express our anxieties. It was art therapy for grown ups.

There was a pretty long hiatus between spreads in 2010 (maybe we each created one or two), and then The Book just stopped in 2011. What happened? Well, I had two kids and moved to the suburbs. One of my last creations shows a tiny person (ok me) in bed panicking about children, job security, and money. Her last entry dips a toe into what would turn out to be a very complicated marriage.

What happened was what happens all the time to creative, active people. Life gets too busy and the first thing to go is art. At the time when probably both of us needed The Book most, we couldn’t carve out the time to deal with it. I vividly remember it sitting on my bookshelf and every time I would look at it, I’d feel guilty and burdened. Who has time for that anymore? My children and my job pretty much sapped out all the creativity I had. Art was for the leisurely and the retired.

a photoBut this month, The Book showed up at my door. My friend started therapy and her therapist wisely instructed her to get creative again -- find reward in the process and all that. So here I am staring at The Book again on my bookshelf, but this time I won’t wait 5 years. I’ll put the kids to bed some night this month, and I’ll dust off my paints and pens, and make something new. Art doesn't have to be a luxury for us, but maybe a more meaningful outlet for the grind of daily life.