I’ve been learning and observing a lot about ‘focus’ lately. In reflecting on the last four years of living in Victoria (after our big move from south west Queensland to North East Victoria) I’ve come to realise the truth in ‘what you focus on, you expand’. For a very long time I was focused on expanding my art: on holding exhibitions, running workshops, and then finally on opening my dream gallery space in Beechworth. Because this was my focus, these things seem to have just happened — and it certainly felt like a natural progression. However, without my realising, along the way, other things that have been important to me have taken a back seat, and this also seemed to have happened by chance.
But life doesn’t have to just toss us around like a piece of flotsam — we actually can move ourselves towards certain things. For example, after ‘the big move’, I didn’t want to lose my connection to the friends I’d made in Surat, or the place itself — after all it’s where my art career began. Life in Surat is what ‘helped me’ to articulate what I wanted to say with my work. So I deliberately keep going back, even though there’s effort in maintaining the workload associated with going back.
Choosing to live with conscious focus
I've always been aware that if I focus on improving my skills and if I try hard enough, I can do almost anything with my art — I just need to give it enough time to perfect. So my primary focus, and the one of which I have been most conscious, has always been on improving my art. Everything else, all other business needs, have had to fit around this.
To me, the feeling of drifting along without aim — the idea of ‘I just go to work and go home, live day-by-day’ — is uncomfortable. I drift very rarely, as I get pretty uncomfortable in that state. I’ve always believed that life is too short to waste being on this planet and not at least attempting to make a difference in some way. For me, creating art has been my main purpose, and yet lately, I’ve come to realise that in being so driven to pursue my art, this has caused me to drift in other ways.
What I’ve learned is that you can be so focused on a thing that you miss other stuff without even knowing that you’ve let it go. This is where I've been for the last four years, doggedly chasing the art, until, as I did late last year, I became really uncomfortable — because despite my focus on art, I was still drifting. Since then, I’ve been struggling to adjust myself, and to not keep falling in that hole. But I think this realisation has helped me to clarify what is most important. Pain is an awareness as well, even if its mental pain. I think the idea is to become aware, and try to put that awareness to good use, rather than holding a pity party.
Choosing what to let fall by the wayside, and what not
I have found over these past four years that I just can’t ‘do it all’, which is why some things have fallen by the wayside. I’ve unconsciously let them go because I just couldn’t cope with pushing myself that far. But over the Summer holidays, I’ve had time to reflect on where I place my focus, and to wonder about what would be best for the future.
Some of the conscious decisions I’ve made are relatively simple. I’ve realised, for instance, that if I wake up in the morning and know that today and every day I’m going to go out into my garden, do maintenance, and focus on growing things, my garden will expand and become a beautiful thing. But I had to ask myself — are the rewards big enough to warrant sacrificing my time in this way? I have decided to do a modified version of it, and save some time. (By the way, my yard currently looks terrible!)
I have also asked myself, if I wake up and decide that today and every day I will cook healthy meals that nourish my family, can I sacrifice the time, and are the rewards big enough? Well, to me, deciding to clean up our diets is a blatantly obvious ‘yes’. In fact, it’s something that was massively important to me, and yet I had let it slip. I’d stuffed diet (and exercise) into the ‘too hard basket’. Now I realise that I really should bring that back into conscious focus. Besides, if I continue on the current path, I will be in poorer health, and that will eat into my painting time!
Some decisions are harder. I always have big dreams, but right now I am hesitating to dream too big because following through on big dreams requires massive amounts of energy and commitment, and the sacrifices are huge. Pursuing my big dreams landed me a trip to the United States to study art, and it also got me the art gallery in Beechworth, which opened in mid-2018. However, these things have taken huge amounts of energy, which at the end of 2019 left me exhausted. I feel like I’ve been in a tumble dryer since we moved down south four years ago, and now I have to look at recuperating some of that energy.
Being focussed on both what’s necessary and what’s fun
I find it really difficult to juggle lots of things. It’s easier for me to focus whole-heartedly on one thing, and because I get good results with my art and I enjoy it so much, this is the direction in which I have pushed myself. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself.
However, I’ve also come to realise that the easier and more fun a