As I finish revelling in the recovery period that follows intensive art production, I am in the process of looking back over everything my first solo show has taught me.
1. I learned to love my gallery staff. They are magical wells of information. They have seen many artists come and go and are encyclopaedias of trouble-shooting and curation tips.
2. I will now leave time for the problems I don't know I have. Every project will hit a snag. You planned to glue some paper together when suddenly your glue is the wrong saturation and it warps your paper causing you to wail in misery and go tearing through the house looking for heavy objects to stack onto your damn book before it can dry crooked. Ahem... didn't happen. Experiment! Try everything on scrap paper, especially your installation accoutrements.
3. I learned to have grace when those problems do happen, especially if it isn't my fault. Anger can't fix the blunder of that weird person who goes to a gallery and leans on art. It may be tempting to take it out on the gallery staff but hey, don't shoot the messenger (especially when they can help you get reimbursed) and remember lesson 1.
4. Enjoy down time without forgetting to revel in the work time. It is so easy for me to be consumed with production goals and lose touch with that process I fell in love with in the first place. Failing to get back to basics leaves me with very little to look forward to but the endings.
5. Take a break if it's needed. There will always be those people that I call "high functioning", who did Art School without sleep, kept a sketchbook every day, cranked out massive amounts of work, and seemed to always maintain A-range grades while actually being happy... this is NOT normal. These people, magical unicorns that they are, I am convinced make up the 1% of artists. I need creative breaks to refuel and the time in between production gives me perspective so that when I step back to my work, I have a fresh take on how to improve things.
6. Finally, I learned that the key to break-taking is to not overdo it. It is so easy to get burned out, do nothing for 4 months and miss all the application deadlines for the next year. The process is all about pacing, and frankly, relies on the self-motivated need to make art; to throw ideas out into the world and see if they can catch fire. If that isn't maddeningly exciting, then maybe consider a life-route less fraught with perilous all-nighters and continual deadlines.
As I sit in my living room, looking forward to the next thing, I realize how much a solo has to offer. Ideas take hold of artists in strange ways and sending those thoughts out into the world is strangely freeing. This quieter mind is now hungry for more.
The hunger is endless.