how to make an art piece by deadline

In late December, I received an email from Tyler Sherard, Latitude 53's Development Assistant (and old classmate!) about participating in their upcoming art fundraiser, called Parka Patio. (Latitude 53 is a really wonderful artist run centre located in downtown Edmonton.)

I was thrilled at the prospect of having a brief, a deadline, and a definite venue to show some work at. Here's how it all went down:

Step 1) I confirmed my intention to participate in show. I had little seedlings of ideas about what I want the piece to feel like. I was motivated. I was ready. I was going to make a piece so sick that bidding wars for it would undoubtedly ensue. Likely the situation would escalate to punches, blood and tears.

2) I promptly forgot about it.

3) Four weeks later I get a reminder about this project; submissions are due in two weeks. Enter cold knot in my stomach. I think, "Oh shit. Gotta get GOIN'... but I'm in the middle of applying for other stuff, I will do this later."

4) I forgot about it again.

5) Monday (five days to deadline): "Fuck, WHY HAVEN'T I STARTED? Let's start." So I start, or try to. Insecurity and uncertainty take over. I'm suddenly too lazy to tear paper, or take some paint out. I'm too scared to experiment. I'll get to it tomorrow night.

6) Next day: get home from job, nap, eat dinner, sit down and try again. I work for a little, mostly conceptualizing in my head. I realize that all my ideas thus far SUCK, and I feel back at square one. I can't deal with the pressure, so I escape and go for a run instead.

Running helps me to think differently about things. I find different solutions. It's almost as if the exercise wakes up different pathways in my brain, allowing me to connect different dots. So while I'm running I'm teasing out how I want this artwork to look and feel. And then what I need to do hits me, halfway over the highlevel bridge in the moonlight.

7) Wednesday: nearing the Friday deadline, but no problem! I know what I'm doing now. Wednesday after work, I am a flurry of giddy activity. I race around the apartment, pulling out paper, honen and newsprint. I run a bath to soak my paper in. I'm up till 1AM, loving every minute of it. I embossed hahnemuhle on the floor of my apartment with some newsprint and a bathtowel, bearing down as hard as I can with one of Jordan's rolling pin prototypes. Ruefully, I wonder what Steve Dixon would think of this ghetto printmaking.

8) Thursday: tiring day at work. I have some food, and head to bed for a nap with some ambitious running plans and art-finishing plans for later in the evening when I wake up. Well that's shot to hell when I wake up to a text from a neighbor, asking me if my power was out. Groggily I test my lamp, and sure enough, no electricity. Instead I go out and have a drink with my neighbor.

9) Friday/Submission deadline: comes and goes.

10) Saturday: text Tyler, apologize for lateness, arrange for the delivery of the artwork when Latitude is open next, Tuesday. I spend the next few days taking advantage of the time, and stay up late late several nights working on it. At times I'm feelin some serious mojo; most times I'm feelin' frustrated and am cursing my procrastination and the position it put me in.

11) Yesterday I take the piece to work, fretting that the sustained exposure to the cold will do something terrible to the piece. It doesn't. On my lunchbreak, I bring my work to Latitude. Sigh of relief. Done. Back to the hospital, I try to function as much as possible. I am tired, rueful and satisfied.

Come check us out at Parka Patio, Saturday February 18.