Perils of the comfort zone

What can be better than a comfort zone? Many of us seek it. That place where life seems to run on a straight line, where complications are manageable and intrinsic rewards abound.

After a few months’ experience, I can say (but only upon reflection) that the comfort zone is a perilous place.

Preparation for an exhibition needs a good measure of self-belief and inward focus. You have probably noticed….

After all that intensity, there is an inevitable flatness. The audience leaves, the lights go out, and then the ‘orphans’ are brought home again. In this household I have often seen the teacher suffer a holiday head-cold after working through a long term without illness. So I guess that’s what happened here.

Last Monday I felt well enough to fulfil a promise to visit the local kindergarten for a painting demonstration. The teachers were welcoming and friendly. The children were enthusiastic and interested. Rain threatened so with help from my friend Sarah, I set up under the verandah. It was my first test-run with the new outdoor kit. There was a view of the steel play equipment and plastic waffle blocks. Primary colours and wavy lines. I love challenges – at least that’s what I said that in my artist notes recently.

So, I mapped in the big shapes and showed the children the first stage at the “good morning” session. It was a reasonable start, despite the wobbliness of my new outdoor setup. The tripod behaved quite differently to an easel under the push of a paintbrush.

And then, the painting fell away. The background was still all right but the rest was a massacre of the picture plane. The wood-chip colour was wrong tonally, so the wonderful wiggly forms were lost. The waffle blocks were too small and lacked impact. Where was the joy?

That morning I had thought if the painting went well I could offer it to the kindy to raffle at a later date if they wanted. The staff did want to hang on to it for a conversation starter with the children, and as requested I signed and dated it (on the back). Of course I hoped it would be lost, but now I have decided to come clean.

Sarah took some photographs. That evidence is currently in a vault (during kindergarten holidays) but may be available later. Perhaps you will have to take my word for it.

Is this is a tale you can learn from? Not sure, but It did seem worth telling. There is wry humour in it, a week later!

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

I’ll be off now…..

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10 thoughts on “Perils of the comfort zone

  1. Philippa, I loved the wry humor in this tale! Once I was asked by an artist friend to go into an elementary school in upstate NY to give a demo on chasing/stamping metal. It had been right after I wrapped up a show and just like you, I felt exhausted. I barely could talk w/ the sorest throat I ever had!! But it was a great, fun experience. Then the ‘head art teacher’ came by and scolded me for giving away my demo piece to a young boy student who asked me for it. She said, “If the entire class can’t get one, then noooooooobody gets one!” I was mortified back then, but now I laugh all the time about it! I’m sure you will also feel the same one day w/ this recent experience.

  2. Ah P, I can relate to your tale so well 🙂 its good you have some (albeit wry) humour just a week on (I sometimes drag mine out for months !) I think of these times as a bit “snakes & ladders”, the flatness after the preparation and over-excitement of an exhibition can be like sliding down a big snake 🙂 you will get back up a ladder again soon, I know, very best P, victoria xx

    1. Snakes and Ladders! that’s a new slant on it V. I will keep that in mind. Your trademark wwhimsy shines on, thank you. i will be painting again soon, some streetscapes so hope to channel you a bit for fun!

  3. Taught art to them small rapscallions as well as adolescents for over 20 years so can relate to all you say because I often had ‘guest teacher / artists’ come in to explain and demonstrate. Thing is – although the guest was often disappointed with their own performance the kids never were – they were relieved by the break from my own ramblings plus they were in wonder (except for the cynical teens) to watch a ‘real’ artist at work…

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