How to Art When Life is a Jerk

alone bed bedroom blur
alone bed bedroom blur

Life is a jerk sometimes. As artists we can either sink or swim in the seas of life’s jerkdom. But that’s a meaningless cliche worded weirdly. Follow me while I try to find something minimally useful.

But first, I was such a huge Gilda Radner fan! She was in the first Saturday Night Live cast. They were FUNNY. She had her ups and downs like all of us. In fact, she died far too young of cancer. I decided to paint her delightful face to cheer myself up. She is available on my website.

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I suck at being a caregiver, but when I need to, I do my best. My husband, it turns out, is awesome at being a caregiver. So much for the women’s work paradigm, right?

But recently, he has needed caregiving. He had skin cancer on his nose, and it was worse than anticipated. He needed a big old schnozzal reconstruction thingie over the course of two surgeries. The first surgery was rough. He wasn’t supposed to lie down at all for more than a week, but we didn’t know that in advance. There were a couple of days of rearranging furniture and buying special cushions. There were some pretty gnarly bandage changes for a month, a husband who felt horrible and was understandably irritable. Only now, nearly a month later is he starting to feel better, but guess what? His second surgery is tomorrow, as of this writing.

Meanwhile I had a side-hustle happening, and had to work at my desk and away from my studio for weeks. I still haven’t made it back to the studio and the commissions I have waiting are really stressing me out. I WANT to be painting. I will be back in the studio later this week, and I won’t be coming out of there for a long time. If my hair looks crazier than normal on TikTok, that’s just the way it is. Paint first, shower later.

But what about when you just can’t paint? Like now. This post is not about painter’s block or fear of the blank canvas. It’s about complete overwhelm and responsibilities and needing to help someone I love get through a rough time.

When I entered this phase, I tried to squeeze in an hour or two of painting every day, but I ended up just being frustrated that I couldn’t paint more. Yet, I was too exhausted to paint more. I just couldn’t do the main stuff that makes me feel better. But I could write. So, I’ve been writing. Brainfog notwithstanding, if I can’t sleep due to pain, I might as well write through the pain.

And then my fibromyalgia kicked in like a jerk about a week ago. I know no one wants to hear about anyone’s chronic muscular pain. I get it. It’s boring and irritating for me, too, and I have it! So, without any great detail, my body wants to take oxycodone and curl up in a ball in my bed, but my schedule and the lack of oxycodone make that impossible. (It’s a good thing that oxy is no longer easy to get, but I would so totally take it right now if I had it.) Stress related? Probably. Throw in some cold, rainy weather, and here we are.

So, what do I do about the clients that are waiting for me to work on their projects? It’s hard. Basically, you let them know before you start the work that the time frame varies because of paint needing to dry and various issues coming up. Presumably you’re not taking on a ton of new work when you’re sick or caregiving, but you should be clear about expectations even in the best of times.

But then, it’s just about making it clear that something beyond your control has come up and you need a minute. Offer their money back if they’re not flexible. But honestly, my people have been extremely flexible and understanding. I love them. I will do my best to make it worth their wait.

And yes, I hear you. Sometimes you need the money you can’t earn while this stuff is going on. That can be the time to offer a big sale on the stuff you have on hand, or make prints. Something that doesn’t require a bunch of studio time.

I can’t wait to get back to work. Soon. Very soon.

Onward and Upward,

Aunt Kellie

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