Vermont Studio Center: Return

December 2, 2010

My month at the Vermont Studio Center was fantastic in every way: the scenery, the friends I made, the visit across the border to Montreal, the time to focus completely on my painting.

Having the chance to appreciate weather, instead of cursing it as I run back upstairs (four flights!) to get my umbrella.

Being reminded of how nice it is to see dogs that look and act like dogs–playing in the river, chasing each other, running–rather than being carried in designer bags, wearing boots and sweaters, and looking either nervous or pompous (depending on the dog).

Discovering interesting new details, such as the rows of metal flashing that cover Vermont roofs, which cause the snow to melt and slide off the roof in stripes (!).

Even better, I was calmer and more focused. Happier. I resolved to figure out ways to take these feelings back with me into the “real” world, so that I didn’t leave the best parts of myself in Vermont, suspended in a month that would all-too-quickly fade into memory and come to seem unreal.

In Vermont, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted time and space in which to paint, and I wanted to relax, to shake off some accumulated stress from my old job and the hurry-up lifestyle of NYC. Check, check, and check. The whole purpose of the Vermont Studio Center is to give you time to work, and the quiet pace of Johnson was exactly what I needed–slow enough to make life easy, but not boring.

I realized that in my “real” life, what I wanted and what I was doing were not in alignment with each other at all. My job was competing against what I really wanted to do (paint) and that part of my life couldn’t be taken seriously–by me or anyone else–as long as I was squeezing it into the margins–after 5:00 PM, on some weekends, in between the usual transactions of daily life.

Although I know I’m coming back to my usual errands, chores, and concerns, I am committed to making sure I stay in alignment at home.

Here are some observations and lessons that I think will be worth taking back with me:

I like working big.

Sometimes I can’t check off everything on the to-do list. That’s OK.

Avoid the temptation to reflexively check my Facebook and email. This is a waste of time and energy.

Don’t put on TV to “relax” (I know myself; I just get sucked in). I watched it twice in a month and that felt like plenty (though I did miss Dexter!)

Try to limit multi-tasking. My apartment is small, so with one sweeping glance, I can see all the things needing my attention: computer, food, shower, laundry, dustballs under the desk…try to focus and finish one thing (which is more satisfactory anyway) instead of jumping around.

I think I’ll do better if I develop more of a schedule.

After living with total strangers for a month and being on my best behavior in the house, I realized that I could be kinder and more helpful to Mia.

Look around.

Appreciate things.

I made the right decision to leave my job. I am happier.

I am extremely lucky to have had this time at the Vermont Studio Center, and I’d be happy to give any specific advice about the program to anyone considering a residency there.

Vermont Studio Center-View from the Red Mill

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