Name the Terrain

Some days I feel quite brilliant working in my studio. My process flows – it feels as if I am a spectator and the drawing is drawing me, the painting is painting me. I am filled with giddy confidence and technical prowess.

While on other days, I am weighed down with despair. Why do I waste my effort searching for a voice that I cannot locate, reaching for tools I cannot seem to master, and making marks that repeatedly ring hollow?

I have learned that both of these experiences are integral to my practice. Because I work alone in my studio, strategies that enable me to be faithful to the work must be in place. “Naming the terrain” is what helps me give appropriate respect to both situations.

When I feel jubilant, I tell myself. “Joanne, you are smug today because you are in known territory. You feel victorious because you are comfortable doing what you do. That is fine, but if you want to grow your art – don’t stay here too long or become too comfortable in this place”.

When I feel bereft, I comfort myself saying “Joanne, how courageous you are today in a foreign place where you are an explorer. This is a new world and you cannot expect mastery, you have not earned it yet. Be patient. Turn down the volume on that censor’s voice in your head. Focus on creative process, not product.

Joanne Ruggles Studio