Those who follow me on social media know I’ve suddenly started painting a Disaffected Academic Bunnies(TM) series. I’ve never painted before, and cannot tell you why I have started now. I just encountered the artist Natalya Shaloshvili on IG randomly about two weeks ago, was instantly transfixed by her cats, stared at them intently, started muttering, got out my paint by number leftover acrylic pots, asked for some paper from Kel (she only had watercolor paper), and started painting. I finished one the first night, and have barely stopped since then–one a night. They take about 2 hours to complete. I paint them while watching TV and chatting with Kel.
When each is finished, I give it a caption/title drawn from the absurdities of academia life. The first one was “Half my class is out sick with COVID.”
Here are a few others.
You can see the whole gallery on my new Ko-Fi page supporting The Professor Is Out initiative. The paintings, in the form of png files, quality archival giclee prints, cards and maybe t-shirts, and signed originals, are part of the perks of some monthly memberships, and are also going up for sale in a shop on Ko-Fi in March (they are currently getting professionally scanned and prepped). The revenue will be used to keep Professor Is Out support FREE for those who need it.
BTW, please do join Ko-Fi! I need $500/month to cover costs–which I’ve been covering myself since February 2021. I pay my FB admin team a monthly stipend, and beyond that, I’d love some funds to pay creators for new post-ac initiatives.
Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is: play is essential. Especially now. These paintings are pure play. I have no art background. I paint and chortle and chortle and paint. I know I’m close to done when I find myself smiling and thinking of the perfect disaffected academic caption.
I share these on social media with glee, because I have no ego wrapped up in them. People seem to like them, and that gives me endless joy. But I’d do them even if they didn’t. This weekend, though, there was A Thing. Because of course there was. Because we are talking about academics, after all. This was the thing:
TPII FB is entirely public and I could share the name, but for now I won’t–suffice to say she’s a middle aged white lady with a PhD in Linguistics.
I reacted. And then she doubled down!
It’s truly wild! Like, who does this?? It’s so… outre that it didn’t even make me mad. Only incredulous. And mystified. Needless to say the TPII crowd leapt into action.
But I didn’t want a pile-on. This person needs help, it’s clear. I felt sad for her. So I toyed with her a bit, but then I quickly stopped and removed her from the page.
But I knew what I had to do! I had to paint: “This is not art.” And so, reader, I did.
But then, upon further reflection I wondered if the bunny was missing something essential. That is, a beret.
So I put it to a vote on The Professor Is Out and Professor Is In pages. And 200+ votes later, beret it was.
Et voila, “Ce n’est pas d l’art”
I had so much fun with this, I cannot even tell you. Someone said it just needed the Duchampian pipe, so I drew one in with photo markup!
The whole thing, start to finish, was play. All the Disaffected Academic Bunnies (TM) are play.
They are deep play as well, the way my Japanese papercrafting was back in 2007 or so, when I started my psychic – and eventually literal – journey away from academia.
And that’s the point of this post. Play is where creativity happens. For all of you trying to envision what’s next–especially those of you thinking of departing academia – perseveration is not the route to insight. Conscious thought is invaluable of course–we are academics after all – but unconscious insight is even more necessary. And that thrives when you let go, and loosen your mind through creative play.
It doesn’t have to be painting of course! It could be creative writing, music, running, yoga, playing with your pets, hiking out in nature… the list is endless. Only you know what play means for you. But give yourself permission to try. And if some odd and unprecedented impulse comes up (akin to randomly painting bunnies when you’ve never painted before), don’t shut it down! Creativity is unpredictable. And you do NOT have to be an expert, or even competent! Academics are perfectionist and black/white thinkers. But play defies perfectionism, by definition. There is no perfect play! The only criterion is pleasure. It can be hard to remember what pleasure feels like when you’re subsumed in the academic cult, but i know you can do it!
I’m not sure what the Bunnies (TM) mean for the next stage of my life, but I know they mean something is percolating. But perseverating on what it is, is not the move. For now, I paint and chortle, chortle and paint, and share with delight on social media. And wait to see what’s coming.