I didn’t think it strange that an artist might have a hobby until my students (adults who take my class as a hobby) giggled with wonder and surprise when I voiced needing one. Everyone needs time away from their work, even if their work is someone else’s hobby.
There are definitely days in my studio when I get lost in the enjoyment of giving breath to the clay while I throw, “quilting” the wall of a pot as I stamp, spinning that perfect curl of slip-trail, or creating a lovely negative space for a handle. But, there is also weight—self-imposed pressures—carried into the studio about sales, deadlines, goals, growth and more that is hard to “lose” sometimes. Again, I love what I do, but I don’t want it to be all that I do. I like finding other activities that are mentally or physically rejuvenating (or quieting), so that when I am in my studio, that time is as enjoyable and productive as possible. Pitcher (handle) in progress.
Since we bought our home here in the boonies of MA, when the weather allows, I am outside in my perennial gardens. A hobby for me is doing something I enjoy that allows escape and thoughts of nothing else, and gardening is the first thing I’ve found since my pottery beginnings that does that. I had been planning to do this post when Roger Ebert (yep, the movie critic) posted an article* last week in which he mentions that the most valuable asset of his hobby (drawing) is to allow him to both “experience a place or moment more deeply” and to lose track of time. Exactly! (Even a guy who watches movies for a living needs a hobby!) Painting by Andrew Woodward.
Since I work at home, I find it hard to shut the imaginary door (or even find the door) separating my work time (which isn’t without play) from my not-work time. Basically, I think too much, and since there is no “off” switch, I need a hobby. Gardening isn’t something I can do year-round, so I decided just recently to start painting. I loved, I mean loved, to draw as a kid. Remember when “color” was a verb and we wanted to do it as much as go outside and play? Maybe that’s just me, but it’s a feeling I want to resurrect. I remember coloring with the big box of Crayola crayons and then fat Crayola markers as a kid, and then in my teens, painting with acrylics. For my degrees, I’ve taken classes in painting, drawing, printmaking and design, but the last time I drew or painted for fun had to have been in high school. Painting by Mathias Heiderich.
Coincidentally (or not?), my Grandpa painted for a hobby. My grandparents home was a revolving gallery of his paintings. He showed in some local juried exhibitions, won numerous awards, but never sold any (perhaps to maintain hobby status), which is happily why I own a wonderful selection of them. One of the best conversations we had in his later years was about art (his paintings and my pottery)—comparing goals, aesthetics, and foibles of material and maker. As an oil painter who strove for realism, I don’t know what he’d think about my interest in impressionism, abstract expressionism or exaggerated color, but it would be neat to talk to him now about what he felt as he painted. Painting by Ward Kieffer.
I’m curious to see how my pottery informs my painting and vice versa. I’m already painting fields of stripes, and my envy over the ease of mixing paint colors has revved my desire to revamp my glaze palette. I’m also finding it hard and humorous to be new at something. Mostly though, I’m enjoying getting lost in color, line and process, like when I garden (except painting is easier on the knees). Stay tuned for the impact of hobby (my painting) on art (my pots)! I think it will be pretty interesting myself. If nothing else, it should remind me to play more during my “work time”. When I look back on my life, I want to make sure that I played. Painting by Ian Davenport.
Above and below are some painters and paintings in particular I love, and consider influence on my painting-as-hobby pursuits, with more favorites here.
From top left: Giorgio Morandi, Jennifer Sanchez and Charles Demuth. Second row: Michael Cutlip, Clare Rojas and Beatriz Milhazes. Third row: Gene Davis, Kate O’Connor and Chuck Close. Fourth row: Glennray Tutor, René Magritte and Richard Diebenkorn. Last row: Peter Freitag and Matte Stephens.
*I highly recommend reading Roger Ebert’s journal post “You can draw, and probably better than I can” if you are a maker, teacher or art-appreciator, which is really all of us.