Friday, May 19, 2006


Hilly Treeline, 2006, Pastel on Paper, 9x12

Finally a few days off. On Thursday I shipped out twelve paintings to Boxheart Gallery in Pittsburgh and I am so happy to have some time to finally catch up on other things. I have to clean my studio, and the whole house really, my desk is a total wreck and I am so behind on my paperwork and taxes. I also have to get outside to plant some flowers, and do some other work in the yard that I have been putting off. I still have to keep to my regular painting schedule mind you, I still have to put together some new work to send to the gallery in Atlanta and I have a few pieces to do for a group show coming up in June. So it's back to the studio on Monday.

The good thing, I have found, about shipping work to a show and not attending the reception, is that I tend to get the mild version rather than the bad version of the Post Show Meltdown. When I first had this condition a couple of years ago I thought I had lost my mind as well as whatever painting abilities I had ever had and that I'd have to cancel all my upcoming obligations and leave the art world in shame and embarrassment. Little did I know, because artists seldom talk about it (with the exception of Nancy Baker, who mentions it here) that this is fairly common among artists and that after vomiting out all of my energy, creativity and painterly skills in an intense rush to finish, I would be so spent that I would actually be unable to function normally for days, even weeks. During this period of time, I question everything I do, from my choice in imagery to what kind of brushes I use, to how I should handle my edges. I convince myself that my work actually does suck and that everyone at the opening was just being polite in order not to upset the crazy artist OR I think my work is so great that I can't possibly do better and that there's no way to top what I have just finished.

In order to determine what the best solution is to handle this period of time, I have tried something different after each show that I have had. The list is as follows:

1. getting right back to painting the day after the opening
2. not painting for a few days
3. not painting for a month
4. working in a different medium for awhile or with different subject matter
5. keeping busy with non art activities
6. doing nothing whatsoever for days even weeks.
7. baking cookies and eating all of them

So far what has worked best and doesn't make me end up feeling like the biggest slug ever, or the worst artist ever, is to take two days, no more and no less, off from painting and to spend at least part of those days cleaning and reorganizing my studio and office. The worst thing for me to do is to take more than a few days off from painting as each day off makes it harder to get back to it. Another thing that I have noticed is that the Post Show Meltdown effect is lessened if I finish my work well ahead of the deadline. Um, yeah, like that happens more than once a year.

Of course, all of this drama is totally ridiculous. Once I jump the hurdle and get my hands back into the paint, everything is peachy keen again and I can still paint. However, I may have to try the cookie thing again to help with that stupid hurdle.


tlwest said...

Hmmm a good box of moose munch or a cheescake from the Cheescake factory would help me-- not my thighs though...Post show melt down_ lol I never knew thats what it was called!

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi TL, that's just my name for it. I've heard a few others, that mostly involve cursing or words that will help you qualify for medication:-)

Anonymous said...

Tracy I have to tell you again how much I love reading your blog (and looking at your paintings too of course!) What you write is so interesting, amusing and relevant to any woman artist!

Your latest 3 posts have been particularly helpful ... I can relate to so much of what you have said in them. There is also much in them that is useful to know.

Unlike me you are so wonderfully energetic and organised, and the amount of art work you do is pretty phenominal. AND you really put yourself 'out there'.

You are a bit of an inspiration all round! Thank you.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Aw, shucks...
Thanks, Lesly, glad to be of some help and maybe inspiration. I read art blogs for quite awhile before I started this and kept thinking I'd like to hear more about the lives and working habits of artists. So that was the direction I decided to go in. (You may be happy to know that I have spent most of today, sitting on my butt and surfin the net, basically doing nothing.)

Jeffrey Hayes said...

Ayup... having just completed a show over the weekend, I'm settling down into the welcome druge of household chores...

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Jeff, Hope the show went well! Isn't it funny what we have to go through to get to where housework is "welcome"?!