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Art Habits from the Garden

As it is August, it seems weird to celebrate spring in the garden! But as the garden dies off, mostly because I’ve all but stopped watering, I reflect on the enthusiasm I had on that first, warm-enough spring day here, in the Pacific Northwest. I had taken a few, long dark nights to plan my garden with great joy! I had seeds and starts and well-aged compost ready to go!

So on that first nice day, I got out, put up the fences to separate chickens from growth, and began cleaning things out. I was certain I’d plant starts that day as well, but it was another full week of unintentional hardening of these little starts before the garden was ready.

The garden in spring was a site to behold. Sure, it was mostly dirt. But it was aged and ameliorated dirt, full of potential!

The rains watered for me. The sun shone, encouraging steady growth.

By June, we had herbs, and by July, we had everything, from shelling peas to our first tomatoes. I say “we” because this is where the kids come in. They love the harvest. The rest? Meh. I love the rest and let them have to honors of discovering the harvest.

I had been diligent in my work to that point.

But now it’s almost mid August. A family of bunnies moved into the garden. They live beneath the clary sage, near where our oldest chicken keeps what she perceives as her hidden nest. Her egg song each afternoon gives her away, though. I think it gets too hot in the coop to return once she has been set to free range. So she often lays in her nest, next to the rabbits.

Anyhow, the rabbits ate the bean and brussels sprout starts. Perhaps because I have not been diligent about watering, and struggling plants are particularly vulnerable.

This is where the story becomes a metaphor for my art business, though I use the term, “business,” loosely.

I buy the canvases (even as I age into patience, I don’t have the desire to take time, stretching canvases). I have a vision. I realize I must take time to prep with thumbnails, value studies and sketches, for which I have developed the patience. And then the sun and rains come, growing ideas and paintings or drawings richly for that first harvest.

But watering in August? I have trouble seeing the later harvest through. My steam runs low (probably due to lack of water). And art business matters, in particular, fumble. The steady growth I’ve experienced dies back.

Indeed, some of this is good and natural.

But if I could maintain my diligence—persistence through days of business drought—perhaps I would have that celebrated regain of which Jean Giono, French poet and writer, writes. The regain, or second harvest, is often sweeter than the first.

For me, this faltering comes mostly around the business end of things—updating the website, keeping the steady blog, selling my work. I’m a late-summer lazy businessperson! For others, perhaps this “dog days of August” mind comes right there, in the creative process, leaving work unfinished. Or perhaps it means shifting gears to a new medium in the middle of a project.

Whether it is the business end, like me, or some other aspect of the late summer haze . . . it’s easy to let our creative garden become a crispy jungle.

Today, I’m going to water before the sun gets too high. I do want to harvest the squash and pumpkins in a month or two. I do want the full crop of tomatoes. I may even put out a bit of fencing around my sad little brussels sprouts. I don’t have to do it all—but I do need to recognize that I’m letting things slide into gardening and creative business entropy . . . again.

What will we all do today to keep things watered—to continue to reap what we sow effectively?

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