January 2009


Here is a sketch of my upcoming print. I invested a lot of time this past week relearning Adobe Illustrator. I learned illustrator back in the late 1980s – so long ago that I had to learn how to use a mouse in the class! I am amazed that I actually remembered some things, but there was a lot of banging my head against the wall and spending hours trying to figure out something that ended up being very simple to do. I think the time I spent will be worth it though, as it makes design adjustments much easier to do and to visualize.

Boat sketch

Bittersweet - Original Woodblock Print

A few days ago, in the midst of struggling with this print, P.flashed me the flap of a dust jacket on the book he was reading. There, poised and distinguished looking beamed a photo of Robert Pinsky. “You met him once, didn’t you?” he asked. Indeed, many years ago he visited my college poetry class – way before he was the famous Poet Laureate. He was an incredible inspiration to me that I went home and wrote one of the best poems I ever wrote – you see, at the time, I wanted to be a poet. But I never became a successful poet. It was just another dream that I gave up in frustration. It was just too hard.

And that thought reminded me of the screen-saver message that David used to have on the computer – “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” It scrolled like a mantra across the desktop. I suppose it helped him focus on his dreams.

So what to do about getting frustrated? I know that I don’t want to keep giving up on my dreams. I really want to become a successful printmaker. I want to be able to weather the struggles and come out on the peaceful water at the other end.

So here are some of the ways that I use to cope with frustration. I would be interested in hearing from other artists about how they deal with this ubiquitous problem.

  1. Journal about the frustration.
  2. Calmly identify the problem(s) and think of at least one potential solution to try.
  3. Meditate or do yoga.
  4. Look to others for assistance.
  5. Keep track of progress over the long term. See how far you have come.
  6. Read funny cartoons, uplifting quotations, or maybe review some past compliments.
  7. Get back on the horse – don’t let too much time pass before you start working on the problem again. (I have a lot of abandoned work because of this).
  8. Be organized and plan ahead as much as possible to avoid frustrations in the first place.
  9. Let go of the idea of perfection – go for improvement.
  10. Understand that artwork always takes twice as much time and materials than you plan on.

Bittersweet was one of the most frustrating prints that I have done, but I learned a lot. I now know how to tell if paper has the right moisture content to take color without bleeding. I learned some good tricks about adjusting registration. I got better at organizing before printing. And I learned other things that I can’t even articulate.