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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Out of Focus

I’ve had a hard time bringing any kind of proper focus to my painting work this summer. For one reason or another, my focus has been directed elsewhere.

In the first part of Spring/Summer I had big plans for the studio - to spend a good amount of time in there every day, bringing attention to my painting.  Those plans developed into a tension inside which often led to a feeling of frustration, as the reality of the every day was not quite fitting what I had envisaged.  Focus in the studio, not to mention amount of time spent there, was fuzzy.

There is another side to my life which involves a lot of people and programmes, hosting and planning; a side that involves a lot of daily decision-making, admin, and connecting with others - in other words, being very present.

I’m not a person who can make the shifts so easily - from the studio to this other part of my life (or vice versa) - in a day, not to mention in a week.  I immerse myself and give myself over 100% to one or the other, but not both in a 24 hour timespan.  Perhaps it’s the way I paint, or plan, or it’s to do with a certain kind of silencing or stillness of the mind, but each requires a completely different headspace for me.  I need to know I can step into the studio and not have to think about an appointment later in the day, or setting one up, or what to have for dinner and for how many people, when to get groceries, etc.etc. Can anyone relate?

For a while I lived in the tension of constantly thinking I should be in the studio, knowing I also had this other work to do, and I might be interrupted.  Then one day, not long ago, I ‘gave in’ and let that idea go, acknowledging that perhaps this would not be possible right now. I realised I had to accept what is, and take a different ‘seasonal approach’ to the work; to appreciate the season I am in and anticipate a new one to come. That shift in mindset, accepting what is, was a game-changer. It allowed me to embrace what was in front of me, knowing that I would eventually get back to the studio.  It was just a matter of time, and trusting this to be the case. That shift in mindset suddenly made everything more enjoyable, enabling me to be present with what was directly in front of me to do.

I feel deeply for both parts of my work life, deeply called to both, and the tension still crops up sometimes. For a while I wondered if it was necessary to give one thing up to allow room for the other.  That may, of course, have to happen sometime, but not yet. Not for now anyway.  I can enjoy the season I am in and as a result, face the next one with renewed gusto.

In the meantime, while immersed in practicals, admin, planning and people, I must trust that the creative ideas are percolating.  As artists and creatives I don’t believe we ever stop working on our art.  There is always something going on. Right now it may be a case of recording and sketching, researching, jotting things down, observing in the midst of the other things that presently take our attention.  This is something I’d like to do more of in the next while.

An idea has been percolating in my head for a while now.  It has been simmering in the back of my mind and came to the fore when having a drink with two lovely ladies last winter in a cozy pub in Toronto.  The idea involves a trip to Newfoundland. I’ve never been to Newfoundland, and now that the trip is imminent, I’m quite looking forward to it!  I leave from Toronto tomorrow morning, will fly to St. John’s, and make my way up to Bonavista, a 4 hour journey north of the province’s capital city.

I am beginning to see this trip as a type of watershed - a possible veering in a new direction; a new frontier.

I have no idea where it will lead, and it may be an end in itself, but I look forward to seeing a new place, and meeting new people.... I sense a new season beginning!

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