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  • Writer's picturePatrice Drago

Back in the studio! How much time off is too much?

Almost three months - that's a long time to play hooky!

My fabulous Legislative job came to an end on December 31, 2022. I loved it, but I was ready. I was yearning to create a whole new body of work. I NEEDED to start fresh. I thought I would need three weeks.

The dream.

I had all these lovely images in my head of the new work I would be producing, the joy of seamlessly diverting all of my working time back into art. Instead of working two jobs, I would have normal hours again. Sunbeams were shining through the studio windows, birds were singing along with my favorite playlists and I was enveloped in a halo of bliss.


The first 10 days I enjoyed extra coffee time in the morning, half-heartedly getting caught up on cleaning and organizing my house. During the pandemic my job exploded due to incredible constituent need, so lots of tasks fell into the "get to it later" bucket. Now, I'm thinking - Yes! I can spend two whole weeks getting caught up and won't I be great and accomplished and wonderful! And then I'll be in the studio singing and dancing and producing the greatest art ever!  Ha. It's April now - 12 weeks and counting - and I'm working on the last vestiges of the wreck my house had become. Finally.

About five weeks in, I began to wrestle with myself. The word "hooky" is sort of a giveaway of my mindset because it is a word I associate with doing something fun and mischievous while avoiding the more serious work of life. It's the wrong concept. The me that knows we need to pause, reset, and reenergize after any major change was struggling with the me that is "playing hooky", telling myself that it's more fun to have fun (duh) but it is wrong because if I am not in constant motion and doing something productive, I will fall behind and maybe never catch up.

It's not that I wasn't in the studio. In addition to wrangling my house into order, binge watching shows I missed, and finding ways to waste time puttering, I did the following:

  • I produced a new, limited series of monoprints that I've previewed at an exhibit at MFA Circle Gallery in March. The full set of monoprints will be released soon.

  • I played with paint, markers and pastels on color charts, looked through my inspiration library; weeding out and adding to it.

  • Every single item in my studio was subjected to the touch and feel test - does it add value? Do I use it? Will I ever? I cleaned out and reorganized my work spaces to fit the way I work now. I got rid of the old paintings that were never going to be seen by anyone and prepared small series for shipping to galleries and shops.

  • I have spent periods of time sporadically researching how I need to update my social media approach, my website, my blog and other marketing techniques.

As I look at this list I accomplished a lot. But most of the time in between was riddled with a low-level anxiety I keep trying to keep at bay. I wasn't ready to start up again and that was hard to accept.

Three months was just enough.

At end of March, I suddenly jumped up, ran to my studio, and within 20 minutes was painting with a fury. It was as though I was coming out of hibernation and was hungry to jump back in with everything I had. Joyous!

After seven intense years, stepping back for a significant amount of time was exactly what I needed. My creative spirit was tired and needed a break from continuously pushing it through exhaustion. The new series I had been wanting to create and had been eluding me took form in my heart's mind and it is now pouring out.

I can't say I'm back. I can say I'm different. I have a new direction, and yes - I put my foot back on the gas finally, but this time (and I hope this lasts), I will go at a steady pace instead of 0 to 90 mph over and over again. It's not a race, and I hope to be able to set a reasonable time frame with just enough flexibility. Can I do it? Here's hoping.

Important outcomes:

Fun really IS the serious work of life.  I don't carve out enough time for fun and I've really missed that. I do have fun no matter what I do, but it's not the same thing as pure, unadulterated play. I need that.

Social Media splits my focus.  I need to carve out specific non-painting time to manage my socialmedia posting in a more fruitful, deliberate way. We'll see if I can stick to it:)

Fresh work: The new series is starting out to be everything I had hoped. It is vibrant but layered, energetic and quiet at the same time. I was looking to create depth and I hope that comes across. The images below are a few detail shots from the first painting as a sneak preview. More to come!

Heat Weave Detail 1

Heat Wave Detail 2

Learning to pause is a hard thing to do. I have always embraced change; just never the entire process. I've always thought: Good change? Terrific - let's keep going. I hope I'm finally learning to honor myself but processing what went before and embrace the gifts it left behind, so I can say goodbye and carry with me the gifts it gave.

Question to my followers:

How much time off do you take between series? Between times where there are back-to-back events? How do you do it? Travel? Mediate? Please share - I think it is a topic I will be learning the rest of my life. I'd love to know what works for you - or some of the challenges you have.

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