For those just tuning in, the last couple of months of 2014 were miserable. I hit the breaking point with Starbucks, and I quit, but even with the light at the end of the tunnel in view I still put aside my art.
I spent some time getting back on my feet. My pattern is to come off of deep slumps straight into crazy overcommitment, and this time was no different: halfway through January, I looked around and found myself staring down five deadlines and a convention packed into the shortest month of the year. But instead of the blind screaming bullrush I tend to revery to in situations like that, I did something different.
I hit this month like I haven't hit any prolonged period of time since my senior year of college. I was working around 35 hours a week at my day job, coming home, and making art, working deliberately along a do-to-list. With things laid out along a timeline, the usual panic was subdued: it actually felt good working until 12 or 1, even as I got to averaging five or so hours of sleep a night, because I could feel myself making progress. Saturdays were my opportunity to get a whole day in, often thirteen to fifteen hours, and on Sundays I worked for a couple of hours before taking a half-day off. It was awesome.
It was awesome, but listen, believe me when I say I know this isn't sustainable practice. I broke, more than once, and spent a scattering of days doing nothing in order to recharge. Working at the absolute edge of my capabilities meant that when one thing went wrong (having to stay several hours late at work a couple of days in a row) I had a… bit of a moment. I had to compromise, too - I had initially meant to do all five pieces as oil paintings, but it became very clear very quickly that it was an impossibility, and two of the five pieces wound up as drawings.
But all of them are good, and they didn't exist twenty days ago.
I'm glad to have done it, but I'm glad to be done with it, too. Running headlong like that is exhausting; I have to be on point for every brush stroke. The risk I run when working like this is finishing so drained that I stop making art again - but as crazy as I had to get to hit each deadline, something about working so deliberately and producing pieces I'm so proud of has kept me from burnout at the end of it.
I have a lot of exciting things on my plate for the spring. There's a commission I've been sitting on for literally over a year that I cannot wait to get started on; there's a handful of Silmarillion minipaintings I have planned that might wind up being studies for larger pieces; there's the two Month of Love drawings that are waiting patiently to be done in oils. I've been rolling around personal pieces and projects and now, free from that soul-killing job and a rapid-fire month of deadlines, I'm so excited to get them started!