I’ve always loved the word hiatus. I was about nine years old when I first heard the word and learned its meaning. It seemed like such an unusual word, and I loved the way it sounded when I said it. Just knowing the word made me feel smart and sophisticated. The word comes from the Latin verb hiare, meaning “to yawn” or “to gape”, and its usage dates back to the 1600’s. Today we mostly use hiatus in the sense of “taking a break” or inserting a “pause” in an activity. There are other more technical meanings in science and linguistics, but for purposes of this post, hiatus means a brief pause, a short break in my pursuit of art.
Of course, by the time you read this, my little hiatus will have ended, and I will be back at my easel once again. Because I have so many posts scheduled in advance, I could easily step away from my studio for several weeks and probably not even be missed. So why even mention it?
In the past, I’ve occasionally put art aside, sometimes for only a short time, sometimes for an extended break that’s stretched out to months. Those breaks have usually been prompted by responsibilities — family visits, the holiday season, our move from one home to another. They might be called “planned breaks” where — for one reason or another — I’ve chosen to step away from my art work, take a vacation from my studies, and do different things.
According to psychologists, taking an occasional break is beneficial, especially for our creative side. Here’s a bit of info I found on the benefits of taking a hiatus:
Allow creativity to stretch its legs
A hiatus allows creativity to stretch its legs and provides space for the birth of new ideas. When you take time to think and are not consumed with what everybody else is doing, it gives you time to be creative. It gives you time to come up with new ideas and different ways of doing things.
Good reading, of course, and certainly a hiatus can inspire us. All the same, reading this gave me pause — maybe a mini-hiatus in my thought process. Art, you see, is a creative process, so why do we need to step away from it? If we’re enjoying what we’re doing, and if we’re already engaged in stretching our creative muscles, what’s the point in taking a hiatus?
My current “away time” was not planned. It came about quite suddenly when that real “gully washer” — a nice midwestern phrase for a wicked rainstorm — hit us at the first of May. I was lucky in that there was minimal damage to the studio. Even so, there was a lot of clean-up involved. It required a lot of physical activity to get rid of the water, dry the floors, and of course to deal with the many boxes and bins of art supplies that I had sitting around the studio.
And then there was the frustration with the computer. It’s all working fine now, and I can only guess that maybe the problems were caused by the moisture in the air. Whatever happened, it was not fun. For two days I wrestled with a computer that refused to load Windows. I finally managed to get to a command prompt, and from there I was able to try all the different tricks and tips I knew to make the stubborn system operable again. After several long days, I succeeded. Everything is working perfectly now. Hallelujah!
I think maybe those days of mental strain were what necessitated my need for an “art hiatus”. Each time I’ve thought of doing art, I’ve quickly thought again of all the hassle that will be involved. The studio is still in disarray. Some things I can find; other things I can’t. Even though the studio was a bit messy before, it was all a familiar mess. I knew where things were.
Now, it’s a bit like moving day all over again. Boxes and boxes, here and there. Where is my drawing paper? Oh, dear, I still haven’t found that new book of surrealist games! Oh, here are some of my acrylics, but where are the rest?
Obviously I have a lot of work to do before I can settle back in to my studio.
I’ve learned from the experience. I know I was lucky that my stack of canvases and canvas panels weren’t damaged. Instead of leaving them out now, I think it would be good for me to put them on the supply shelves where I originally stored them.
A lot of materials — gesso, glues, craft supplies — were kept in cardboard boxes. Again, I’m lucky they weren’t all lost since they were away from where the water came in, but in the future, why not be sure that everything is in a secure plastic tub?
So, indeed, I have work to do. My hiatus from art really won’t be much of a break. I’ll be cleaning and reorganizing, sorting through all my art supplies, cleaning my palette again, and giving all my brushes a thorough cleaning. Then, once the studio is back in order, I probably will take a short break.
Through it all, though, I’ve realized how much I miss art. Oh, I’m still doing a few things. I’ve attended a couple slow drawing workshops, I’ve continued pursuing my interest in fashion illustration, and I’ve enjoyed using my nature sketchbook. I’ve done a bit of art with grandsons Madox and Carsen, and oddly enough I’ve developed an appreciation for a lot of my old watercolors. While sorting through a few things, you see, I came across several old paintings. I liked them. I liked them a lot.
I was especially pleased when I found this one:
I don’t think I’ve ever shared this little watercolor before on the blog. I remember not liking it after I’d painted it. I thought the colors were too harsh. Yet coming across it while rummaging through old papers and paintings, I smiled when I saw it.
Seeing this watercolor made me miss art again. Yes, I miss playing with my gansai. I especially miss oil painting. I miss drawing, too. I want to do more art, more of the landscapes I love, more of the colorful, impressionist watercolors.
And so I’m putting things away now, reorganizing everything in the studio, and looking forward to resuming my 100-day project — which is nearly finished — and getting back to a Craftsy class I’m enrolled in.
My current hiatus was unplanned, but productive in its own way. It’s helped me see how much I’ve come to love doing art, how much I want to put paint on my canvases, how much I want to play with new techniques and learn new ways to express myself through this wondrous thing we call art.
We may never agree on what is art, what isn’t art, or why it matters. But as artists, I think we can definitely agree that art is meaningful to us. We all need art in our life. Sometimes we may need to step away for one reason or another, but we’ll always come back to art.