Last night, while I was drawing, I had a revelation about how I want to continue with ZOELAB. I had been considering doing resolutions or organizing the year in a certain way, so I wouldn’t be so all over the place, but I couldn’t quite come up with the right format. I was worried that piling on resolutions would add too much pressure. And then as I was drawing, it occurred to me! I realized how much I was enjoying drawing, an activity I don’t normally put a lot of effort or time into (not since being in school.) But because I had been spending more time with it lately, I was focusing on it, the focus shed more light on it. It allowed me to get deeper and also wider with it. So I decided that I would pick an art form to focus on each month. It would be just long enough to go a little deeper with one of my art forms, with out having to give up too much of another one.
My whole life I have been self-critical about the fact that I move from medium to medium. It is easy to be disparaging about it, and call myself a dilettante, a dabbler, an amateur, someone who doesn’t really stick with things. Especially because there is pressure from our society to pick one thing and become really good at it. From as young as I can remember, I wanted to be an artist. Actually, I had written in my journal at age eight that I wanted to be R & F (rich and famous) or an artist. When I was about seven years old, I went to visit my dad at work, which was a film production company. I got to use the typewriter and the copy machine. I typed myself up a resume that had my name, address and what I did: artist. writer. dancer. I drew a picture of myself typing at a typewriter, while wearing dance shoes, and a painting covered my mouth. I made as many copies of it as I could. Soon after that I went through my movie star phase. I dreamed of my big movie role every night before I went to sleep. It all started when a friend of my father’s was casting a hollywood movie, and was considering me for a part. I really thought I was going to be cast, but they ended up choosing a kid who looked more like the adult version of the character. I was heartbroken. But I still continued to want to be an actress for many years. Always trying out for the school play, never getting even a call back. I was told my voice was too soft. I even asked my parent’s friend who was an actor, to coach me before one of the auditions. Still no call back. I also began studying piano, which lasted a few years. It ended in frustration and sadness when I switched to a new piano book that no longer had the finger numbers written over the notes. I discovered that I hadn’t actually learned to read music, I had just been following the numbers. With out the numbers, I was lost. I also started keeping a journal at this age. Most of it was lists of presents I had gotten for christmas (I was thorough and wrote down every single present I received) or secret crushes (describing the exact way that the bangs of the goalie on our soccer team (I was one of two girls on the otherwise male team) would bounce up and down on his face when he caught the ball), or lists of colors in order of most favorite to least favorite. I also kept lists of every Beatles song I could think of, and every movie I had ever seen. I started writing lyrics to songs, and I even wrote a play. It was a mystery. At this time, I also did a lot of dance and choreography. My audience was usually my parents, but later on I performed modern dance in school. In high school, I decided I wanted to be a painter, and also took up photography. Then I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker and made a super 8 film in high school that was based on the ideas from a Milan Kundera book that was about kitsch and the opposite of kitsch (shit). I also started playing the guitar. I decided that I was going to major in art in college, even though I knew that I really wanted to be a filmmaker after college. This was a practical decision because the college I really wanted to go to had a film program, but I didn’t get in. The college I decided to go to (and am so happy I did go to) didn’t have a film program, but they had a great art program. In college, I fell more in love with photography, as well as conceptual art, and postmodern theory rocked my mind.
When I graduated from college, and moved back to Brooklyn, I tried to start my film career as well as my acting career. After one year of misery working a lowly full time job, I applied to the two New York film schools. I was rejected from both. I didn’t give up. I worked at as many film type jobs I could and I met a lot of famous people in the film world. I worked in film publicity, production, script coverage... I made some great friends, and had a wonderful, glamorous time, but it never led to any actual creative work. I was convinced that someone would discover me. No one discovered me. I studied acting for several years, as well as film production and made a 16 mm short. I also wrote a feature length screenplay that I directed a staged reading of, but I never took it to the next level. I decided it was time to apply to graduate school again. This time to theater programs for acting--I applied to seven schools. I got rejected by all, except by one which wait listed me-- eventually they rejected me. I didn’t give up, I dove into studying acting. I continued to study the Meisner technique, I also took classes in comedy improvisation which was thrilling. One of my dreams since I was a kid had been to be on Saturday Night Live or be in my own sitcom. After six years of really trying at acting, a last embarrassing stint in an experimentally bad play, and several months of therapy, I decided to quit acting. Being an actor was turning me into someone I didn’t like. It was no longer creatively fulfilling.
It was then that I decided to achieve another unrealized dream: rock-n-roll. I got back into playing guitar and I wanted to try songwriting. I took classes in music theory, voice and guitar at the same conservatory that I had studied piano at when I was nine. I had no idea how to write a song, but somehow I thought I could. Songwriting had always been one of the mysterious arts to me. It seemed like magic to be able to do it. I had bought myself a digital four track recorder, an acoustic guitar from a stoop sale, and I developed a method where I would take out one of my poems and then try to sing over the chords I played. Soon enough I was actually writing songs, with different parts that I layered with the four track. I actually liked my songs. My boyfriend at the time bought me an electric guitar. I was hooked. One day I ran into an old friend from college who worked in the same building as me (120 Wall Street). It turned out she had just started learning drums. We decided we needed to start playing together so I showed her my songs. She liked them and we started practicing at a seedy music space. We knew we needed a bassist. A few weeks later I met a British woman at a party who was a trained classical musician who played several instruments. I asked her if she knew how to play bass. She said no, but that she wanted to learn. She showed up to our practice with a bass and started learning to play while we were learning our instruments. Even though we were green, each in our own way, there was instant chemistry. We were stumbling our way through magic. Suddenly I was the leader of an all girl rock n roll band. It was creative ecstasy. We practiced weekly for several months. We all worked at non profit type jobs and called our band Social Service. During that time my therapist and I had decided I needed a career other than being a dabbling artist. After an intensive investigative survey of what career I was to choose (that involved actual excel spread sheets), I decided I was going to graduate school for counseling psychology focusing on expressive arts therapy. The day I found out, from a google search, that expressive arts therapy is a mode of therapy that involves not just one discipline, but all or any of the arts disciplines: music, dance, writing, visual art, drama, and that there is a school in San Francisco that offers a MA in it, I knew I had found my new career. This meant, though, having to give up the band, which was, and still is, heartbreaking. We did record a five song demo and had two live performances the month before Lucas and I moved to the West Coast.
This story is not over yet... (there are more art forms, more stories of failure and success) but I have to make my deadline of going to bed by 10:30... However, the point of this story is that I haven’t been able to focus on one art form. I no longer want to see this as a negative thing. I have decided that I don’t need to discount what I do because I am interested in so many forms of expression. I am not a dilettante, I am a multi-disciplinary artist. I am spider woman, spinning twelve webs at once. It makes me kind of dizzy. I may not achieve as much at each one, or my progress may be slow, but that doesn’t make what I do less valid. I couldn’t possibly choose just one art form, and I don’t have to. But I do think it would be nice to have the experience of focusing on something for a little while. Say, a month at a time. This is how Gretchen Rubin formed her Happiness Project by focusing on one thing each month. For my project, I like the idea of the focus being the art form (or maybe sometimes a project). I am considering adding one aspect of life that I am focusing on as well. Something I want to bring light to, in order to make a change. I know this month is more than half over, but I definitely think drawing has been the focus and will continue to be the focus of this month. After all, it was while drawing that I had this realization.