I’ve often thought there is an analogy to be made between gardening and making art, both are creative endeavors that require patience and practice and showing up in all sorts of weather, both are messy and rewarding, both require a certain faith in the seasons.
The artist’s ideas are the gardener’s seeds, are they not? The brush or the needle or the kiln, they are our rake and our hoe; the studio is our garden shed. There is the tending, which means showing up over and over again to the work in the blazing sun or the pouring rain. There is the mulching, the editing, and the painting over the painting, the rains that won’t stop or the studio time that never comes, the wrestling with resources and materials to bring something to life.
The gardener knows when to plant and when to pull the weeds, when to water, when to prune the beds and till the soil, and when to let the soil rest before beginning again. A gardener knows because she is part of a continuum of ancient practice, because she can see the seasons of the earth shift and change around her, because she belongs to a community of gardeners, and she knows through her own efforts over time.
So, too, it is in creativity.
We are the tenders of our own creative fields, and we would do well to follow our gardener friends and trust in the seasons. It isn’t always neat and tidy, or easy - there are frosty springs and wet autumns, there is too much rain or not enough rain, there are caterpillars and hornworm and lack of inspiration and paint that cracks when it dries, there is flooding and drought and not enough hours in the day, but if we keep at it - if we keep showing up and tending our fields and trusting in the rhythm of the seasons, there will be a harvest, a time of creative bounty when the work is flowing and magic is alive in the studio, when the work feels in alignment with our inner expectations and desires.
I wish I could remember when and where I first came across the idea that there are seasons in creativity, or who planted the seed in me that allowed the idea to grow. I've believed in creative seasons for so long now that it seems the notion has always been there, and I’ve come to trust in it the way I trust that the trees will bud in April, and the leaves will fall in October. I have faith in the seasons of creativity, and I take comfort in them, knowing that my creative work has rhythm, like the Earth.
Our creative cycles don’t align with the Earth’s seasons, necessarily, but the concept is the same. There is the spring, when seeds are planted and ideas germinate; the summertime when the whole world is in bloom and the work is flowing freely; there is autumn with its harvest and bounty and the eventual tilling of the soil; and there is winter, when the fields lie empty, resting in preparation for spring which always comes again.
Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve always taken the greatest comfort in the wintertime aspect of this analogy. It is easy to believe when the work is flowing; it is the quieter times, the creative winters, the times when we are out of the studio, away from the easel or the notebook or the wheel, by choice or by circumstance, when we - when I - most need reminding that there are seasons in this work, that the pause is necessary to refill my well, to restore my soil for the growing season which will surely come again.
Autumn is around the corner where I live on the East Coast of the United States, bringing with it shorter days, cooler air, and turning leaves. I’m aware of the ways in which this is a season of harvest - The corn and tomatoes and melon at the market! The sunflowers in the fields! - and I haven’t painted a thing in weeks. I find myself out of alignment with the Earth’s time of bounty. But I take comfort in knowing that as we move from these long summer days spent away from the studio soaking up light for later, and now readying our family for a return to routine, that a shift is coming in my creative practice. I trust that there is a creative springtime around the corner, full of studio days and palette knives, and sowing seeds of creativity in the weeks and months to come.
In the midst of it all, it helps me to remember that each bit of this creative life is a season with its own purpose under heaven.
Emily Gaines Demsky is a painter, a mother, and a light seeker, who spent this summer on the beach making artwork out of rocks she collected there. You can learn more about Emily on her website or on Instagram, where she maintains a daily gratitude practice and encourages others to do the same, and where she recently chronicled “100 days of I Believe,” sharing bits of her painting process, and insight into the way she sees the world. You can find prints and notecards with images of Emily’s rock art on Etsy.