Lee Oldford Churchill, Canada

Residency Period: Sept 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017


Bio

Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, Lee began her formal training at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, NL. In 1998 she transferred to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, majoring first in sculpture, then switching to painting and printmaking. At U of A she earned her BFA with Distinction in 2000 and then went on to earn a M.A. (Art Conservation) and M.A. (Art History) from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON in 2000 and 2006 respectively. She currently resides in Calgary, AB, Canada, where she works as the Paper Conservator at the Glenbow Museum and as an instructor at Wildflower Art Centre, City of Calgary. Her current work utilizes watercolour, pastel, acrylic, pen, and other media.

leeoldfordchurchill.weebly.com


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

Working full time and parenting, Lee has struggled to maintain her “professional artist” status as designated by Canada Council for the Arts and other public institutions, which also qualifies her to apply for funding to sustain an artist career. She feels trapped in the circle of “not enough work=not enough sales and exposure=not enough money=having to be employed=not enough time=not enough work”.

While making art has been part of who she is, the pressure and stress of “being engaged” with her practice has driven her to the point where she feels her whole life may be happier if she just stopped, if she gave up defining herself as an artist-who-does-other-work-to-support-themselves and embraced being solely an arts-industry-employee.

Through her participation in RFAOH, she wants to give herself permission not to produce art, to ultimately examine if letting go of “being an artist” will make her feel less pressure and stress, and return some joy to this aspect of her life. Her requested residency period overlaps with her son’s school year during which time she may participate in some activities without the guilt of her inner voice screaming ‘if I have any time I should be making art’.

Although she is hesitant to set out too detailed a plan for fear of creating a high pressure situation similar to the one that she is in now as an artist, one of her on-hiatus activities may be taking a class in clay. It is an area that has no association to her past art practice, and she wants to see if she can engage meaningfully with the process of creating, or whether it has become so entwined with stress/anxiety that any attempt to create is a trigger for feelings of failure, anxiety and inadequacy about her self-identification as an artist.

She hopes this hiatus would give her time and clarity to make a decision whether defining herself as an artist is worth it, or if not being an artist is better for her mental health, family life, and relationships. If she decides to return to art, she hopes it would bring fresh inspiration and perspective.


Final Report

My experience as an RFAOH resident has been amazing. It is a cause for ongoing and future reflection that having an external, and thereby legitimizing, force say it was 'ok' not to make art, I let go of an immense amount of stress and gut-wrenching anxiety. I am not entirely comfortable with the idea that I need an outside agency validate my thoughts and actions.

I did the clay class I set out in my proposal and as I hoped it showed me that I am still in love with artmaking and am so very happy when I give myself over to the process. I had thought I would review Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" as well but I decided (after a few months of seriously avoiding getting it off the shelf) that my reluctance was something I should listen to. If I was dragging my heels, forcing myself to re-read it was against the spirit of my hiatus.

With my mother-in-law passing away and then my father being incredibly ill, my hiatus ended up looking very different than anyone could have thought. I spent a full two months of it away from everything focusing on the people who truly matter rather than immersed in the 'daily grind'. Both the hiatus and these events have drastically altered my perceptions and goals.

I still feel battered and broken. But there's been a release - like when you have a bad tooth and once the dentist fills it you realize how miserable it was and now you're a bit boneless.

I'm on the mend.

I'm human and I have bad habits.

I feel like my hiatus had changed me and that I won't try to shoehorn myself and my work into a mold we don't fit. But I know it is going to take constant vigilence to not fall into anxiety and let it push me into areas I'm not happy with. Whether my hiatus will change the look of my work, I don't know yet. But it will certainly change the spirt behind it.


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recent comments

On Jun 21 2017, Lee Churchill commented on June 20: If I knew where I wasn't supposed to be, I wouldn't go!! :-P If you've got some idea of how I can be[...]

On Jun 21 2017, co-director (s) commented on June 20: Happy (fairly) big Birthday Lee! (: Twack on, all year! I think it's the matter of what is "everyt[...]

On Jun 12 2017, Lee Churchill commented on June 8: :-) It definitely sounds like a fascinating talk. With the idea of going for an MFA, S's situation[...]

On Jun 9 2017, co-director (m) commented on June 8: I wish we had a recording of Tehching's panel discussion in Venice last month where the convergence [...]

On May 25 2017, co-directors (s) commented on May 8: Family emergency sucks... Hope things are alright with yours![...]


Mar 6

Mar 6

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. The boys were very keen to make Daddy’s day great – he got to sleep in and have breakfast in bed (cornflakes and coffee), homemade cards (Thank you whoever invented mess-less glitter!!), supper that he (mostly) didn’t make, and of course cake! 

Arthur insisted on sewing a fabric ball as a gift, and with a (very) little help it worked out great. Though mostly he and Edward played with it. But at 8 and 4 it’s the initial thought that counts, right??  

I ordered some patterns for making my own clothes. I have been hoarding fabric for ages and now it’s time to start making things with it. Truly. It’s going to happen.

I started participating in a March Drawing-a-day group. Art practice? I don’t know. I don’t intend any of the drawings to ‘turn into’ anything. They aren’t prep or prelim work. They are isolated scribblings, mostly in an attempt to have a brief window of discipline. Externally imposed by the fact that I signed up and committed to it.

I’m two days behind.

Last week I met with a realtor to ask about the types of renos and improvements that would be needed to sell our house – we rented and then bought it, so it most things haven’t been updated since it was built in 1993.  It’s added a whole new level of ‘should do’s’ to our already crippling list.

Edward’s being bullied at his dayhome. As a parent it is such a sucky situation, and so hard to know what to do. We don’t want to be helicopter parents – but he is tiny. And the other kid is known to be sneaky, violent, and mean. He waits until the teacher’s back is turned, destroys whatever Ned’s working on, and is basically gone by the time she can turn around. Last week, Ned finally snapped and bit him. I feel awful, he shouldn’t bite…but I can’t blame him.  If it were me, I’m pretty sure I’d retaliate too. So how do I consequence that??

Mar 10

So I’ve been doing the drawing a day for ten days, I caught up! I’m surprisingly pleased with a few of them. When I did the challenge last year I didn’t take it too seriously, and I got a nasty virus right in the middle, so I really wasn’t too happy with my work. This year I decided to put more effort into it. Having a few already that I feel good about is encouraging. Like I said before I really didn’t expect these sketches to produce anything so I’m going to say ‘yeah me!’

I’m feeling like my posts are very banal – seeing George conquer mountains, Maria corral a homestead, Joyce’s experiments brewing, it’s bring home my feelings of dissatisfaction and stagnation.  I love my day job, but working halftime is brutal. I love teaching but there aren’t that many classes. I look at the things needed to “set myself up” as an artist and feel totally overwhelmed. I don’t have (minimum) $2000 to get a designer to set up a website. I don’t have time (or desire) to learn to create one myself – templates, hosting, domains are just not my thing. I feel Ramla, Wayne, Rob and I are in much the same boat – sad, discouraged, drifting.

Mar 14 (aka: 3.14)

Pi Day!

Not sure I’ll actually get to eat pie today but it tickles my funny bone every year.

We made noodles with the boys on Sunday. They were super stoked to be getting all goopy in the kitchen. It pushes my control freak buttons but ended up being super fun. We’ll have to do that again soon. 

I went from being caught up on my drawings to 3 days behind. I’m struggling with how I want to interpret some of the themes: Taxi, Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia (the coordinator declared it movie week). Maybe I’ll ditch those and just doodle something random.

In one of my adult classes the students wanted to know what I’m teaching next semester, so they could sign up. That’s a pretty huge compliment, in my mind.    

It went from -19 to +10 between Sunday and today (Tuesday). My head is killing me. Chinook headaches are no joke.

My poor boys are really struggling with the time change, losing an hour of sleep has left them deeply unhappy about waking to go to school and daycare in the mornings. Even Peanut who is normally a cheerful morning person and not very cuddly came in and tucked himself into bed with us this morning.

I’m starting to think some of the difficulty with understanding him is because his nose is always stuffy. But… how do you get a 4-year-old to cooperate with nasal irrigation? Something to ponder.

I got home from teaching last night and started poking around on Pinterest before going to bed. I looked up my Myers-Briggs personality profile (INTJ). Very funny and spot on quotes and infographics.

Mar 15

My clothes patterns came! Now to find time to work on them…

Mar 20

Happy vernal equinox!

I used my studio night Friday to pin and cut pattern pieces for one shirt. I’m hoping to find time this week to actually sew it. It’s a summer shirt in hopes of speeding along the weather. J It’s still cold here -8 and everyone is done with it. The weekend was so very busy, kids’ classes and teaching, playdates and birthday parties. It pulls time away from things like housecleaning but I’m cool with that. It’s so fun to see the boys excited and interacting with others.  It amazes me to see the difference in their personalities – at home they are whirlwinds, talking and moving constantly, so outgoing and LOUD but when they get out in the world they seem very quiet and reserved and with waaaaay better manners!

It’s getting to the end of my hiatus and I haven’t made myself sit down and do too much serious thinking about what comes next. I pulled my copy of the Artist’s Way and it’s sitting on my table watching me, waiting… I’m definitely feeling so much better without the pressure I was heaping on myself and without the pressure the art I’ve been doing is so satisfying and makes me feel more like ‘me’. So, obviously, I can’t not create. But do I have it in me to be creating and not want to/feel obliged to be writing grants and exhibition proposals? Three and a half years later I’m finally getting over my volunteer burnout and thinking of starting to be back out in the community doing things but with the wisdom NOT to take on a massive project.

For now sketches.

I’m seven days behind.

 

 

Leave a Comment (3)

Lee Churchill wrote on Mar 27:

Thanks Matt!
It seems like a tie between Rob and Wayne to me. <:'( :-7
To add my own doom and gloom. :-P Their experiences have reminded me that as tempting an idea as it is - just packing up my family and and leaving for parts undecided won't really undo the stress and indecision inside me.
All that just travels with me, in one form or another! :-P

co-director (m) wrote on Mar 23:

We like your posts Lee!

co-director (s) wrote on Mar 22:

We have a pretty good hunch that Rob is actually having the best time though (: