Saturday, January 15, 2011

The mental health benefits of shoe shopping

One thing I was saving for last year was a much needed, super fast computer. Then I got one, a 3G iMac, almost brand new as well as free of charge, from my dad (Thanks dad, wherever you are.) So here was a nice chunk of change that I could have used towards rent, towards my house fund or towards a holiday trip. But instead I decided to help the American economy by going shopping. But first I have to say I don’t usually enjoy shopping. Loud, overcrowded malls and hours spent trying on things that don’t fit just exhaust me. And, like a guy, I have no problem wearing the same thing day after day (with a good wash and a change of underwear of course). I can go entire seasons without buying anything but food and art supplies. But this season, as they say, was different...

Anyway, I didn’t want to spend all my former computer money, and definitely not all at once. So I started the day after Christmas, braving the Union Square crowds, and came home with just one item, a jacket at sixty percent off that cost me a mere two twenties. On another day, I went to the boutiques on Haight Street where I found the shoes of my chic, bohemian artist’s dreams (Fluevog) but resisisted the immediate temptation to buy. Instead I spent days internet comparing, only to go back to Fluevogs where I bought two pairs, both on sale (but still costing more than I have ever paid for two pairs of shoes at once). Other day’s hauls were a three dollar cupcake, a twelve dollar scarf, a fifteen dollar pair of jeans, thirty dollars worth of hole free socks, and so on.
Like lots of sleep and homemade soup helped me recover from one heck of a cold, this prolonged shopping spree has helped me, in a way, through a rather blue period. With no crappy non art work to do (for now and forever more, please God), no kids to babysit and feeling disheartened about my art career (which I know is by no means unique to me, some unbelievably talented friends of mine, people who have worked for Lucas and so on, are in the same boat), on top of some unanswerable questions about life, death, family, forgiveness and the meaning of it all, it’s a simple pleasure, like a hot bath or a my favorite song on the radio, to have some vague object in mind that day, maybe a cute top in this particular shade of blue, or a dress in that style, for as little denaro as possible, and then to go out and actually find it.
It’s not just a distraction, something to do. I think, at certain times, it’s a way of making oneself feel safe. This other thing is still a puzzle and a problem but look! I have successfully hunted down this very practical item which will prevent hookworm or keep me warm. Something I and others will (hopefully) take pleasure in looking at. So I have not only ensured my physical survival, but perhaps my social survival as well. And it’s too bad a quick trip to the grocery store doesn’t do the trick but I think the change of routine, the sense of discovery, the hope that if I don’t find the exact item I want here I’ll find it somewhere else eventually—and having that hope validated time and again—are key here. It forces my brain to wake up, to feel excited for several hours, and then the triumphant moment of purchase followed by the primal sense that all is well (temporarily) in the world. It’s shopping sex. The closet of survival has been restocked.
(She shall Seychelle by the seachore.)

A few days ago, I was feeling unsettled about a possible upcoming job. I wanted it for the money but dreaded having to do this kind of promo work yet again. I found myself in an unfriendly mood and wishing things I am ashamed to admit to, like why couldn’t my father have left me a huge honking fortune so I could buy a true home of my own in some charming but reasonably priced place (unlike the bay area) instead of this unexpected little nest egg (which I really am grateful for). So, with my former computer money still not entirely spent, I went to this shoe boutique I’d stumbled upon the other day. And somewhere between first getting in my car and coming back home, cute new shoes in hand, it occured to me that I have to stop feeling bad about my work situation. What’s upsetting me is not the fact that I can’t afford a three bedroom, mortgage free house with a gorgeous view (for now, at least)—something I wasn’t even thinking about a year ago—but the fact that I’m a highly trained, highly capable artist who, at the moment, isn’t making a living doing what I love best. This hurts deeply. It’s like I’m being insulted by every art studio in the world (except Dragon Pencil but have they given me any assignments yet?!!!) But there it is. Reality. Suck it up.

But maybe, or at least I can pretend, the universe has conspired to give me this time to create whatever I want. Not only that but it’s like, in a weird way, my father has hired me, and paid me in advance, to finish that collection of illustrated short stories I began last year and put on hold during my sister’s visit. And he even gave me a nearly computer to work on. Now, I have no choice but to finish it.

Okay! Back to work...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Happy New Year

(@ the De Young)

I hope so because 2010 just sucked. So much so that after trying to recap all its suckiness the other day in the first draft of this blog post I needed chocolate bad which I tore into before leaving the store. Going back for seconds, I just had to look at the ingredients list. Of course there was soy in it, my favorite chocolate bar, as well as every chocolate bar there. (I have sworn off soy in all its nefarious and increasingly ubiquitous forms because it’s one of the reasons why 2010 sucked so much.) So I settled for a comforting cup of soy free (so far) hot chocolate back home...only to forget the milk. My apartment stunk of microwave burned chocolate for days.

Oh well. I put it down to last year’s lingering suckiness. Health issues (bronchitus, soy, a heart murmer I have to stay on top of, a monster of a cold I just got over), lots of personal drama, heartbreak, way too much family time, near constant financial worries, boring, occasionally 12 hour back to back exhausting, occasionally demoralizing crappy non art work (product promotions), death, et cetera and so on. Basically every area of my life has shifted or changed. 2010 was an intense year emotionally and physically and right now I feel dazed, depleted and a little lost.

Which is why I’ve taken a rest from blogging lately. Either I was too exhausted to write or I just didn’t know what to say. After my last post, my family was adamant I not speak at all. I made the mistake of telling them how I wanted to respond to some of the people who’d known my father, people whose comments were, here and there, on the judgemental side. I’m sorry, I wanted to say, he may have been your friend and all that but he was my father and blah bi-di-blah, not nice things, misplaced anger and resentment.

2011, I think, will be about making choices. Thanks to some parting gifts from my dad, I have the breathing space to figure things out and more freedom to do what I want. I haven’t taken another crappy non art job since mid December. Instead I’ve been sleeping a lot, trying new recipes, window shopping, getting back in touch with friends and, of course, practicing, learning about and looking at lots of art, which feels more like therapy right now. I mean, standing in front of Sargent’s La Carmencita, I forget any fears of ending up like Lily Bart. (Why didn’t she just take the money and run, for god’s sake? Idiot.) An astrologer friend of mine (her link here), who recently gave me a reading, told me this year I would ‘come into my own.’ And that last year was about clearing away so I could start over on a blank canvas. That’s for damn sure. Time to break out the paints...
(marker & gouache)
(left-marker, right -marker & photoshop)