This large commissioned piece looked back at me
So now I can formally say I am an artist when people ask what I do for a living, I am still stunned that I can command a fee for my endeavour. Its a meagre living at the moment and i am struggling with many of the issues that keep tension between the way I would like to develop as an artist and the way I may have to develop as a contributor to the household, a dilemma that faces all who pursue creative vocations.
“Oh how wonderful, I wish I could paint as a job.”
This is a standard type of response when I declare my new direction. I don’t like to point out the hours of agonising over whether my work will be liked, the moments of self doubt, the despair and struggle over whether to abandon a piece of or not, the meals missed because I am in “the zone” or the tension headache when I am forced to admit that two o clock in the morning is a ridiculous time to be working. Moments are hijacked when I am fascinated by the light on a building, reflections in a window or the way some one or something is moving. “Hello?” I am reminded that someone is trying to have a conversation with me but I am fascinated by the sky changing colour through the window behind them. The relationship I now have between my eyes and my brain often distracts me from engaging in other peoples moments with me, “I am so sorry, could you run that by me again?” is a phrase on repeat.
Please don’t get me wrong I love doing what I do, I have even got to the stage that I miss the hint of acrylic paint I can taste in my neglected mug of cold tea, (don’t deny it, we all do it don’t we?). I would like to let people know that my work is as demanding as any other job, I have expectations from my boss, and as I am my own boss those expectations are high. I have targets and deadlines that can be tough when my resources are unpredictable, seriously, when your brush and brain are not in harmony the world can be a very frustrating place and a studio can be thick with the sound of silent searching for the spark needed to relight the dying embers of a once energetic project. On the other side of the scale I can be so full of potential ideas that my workplace looks like a madhouse, sketches and materials randomly strewn as I fly from idea to idea trying to get some cohesion and fearful of losing the best idea yet. Then there is the doldrum phase, that moment when I seem abandoned by the artist in me, the paint dries and I don’t even have the inclination to engage with the need to tend to brushes that must be rescued.
Being an artist is a choice, like all work it has elements of challenge, it demands of you and rewards you too. My response to those who comment on my chosen path now is simple…
“It has it’s moments.”
I have no great message to deliver, I just love what I do
I have skill sets I can share, but they are nothing new
Each time I make a mark, it could be a mistake
I learn with every mark I make
I am an artist, naive and without the schooling
I have boundries to push, working and fooling
Let me give what I have, join with me in sharing
Love it or hate it, I create it
So here’s a thing…
“So you work from home, and paint all day, you are so lucky.”
I want to tell them all about the uncertainty, the lack of self belief or discipline. I want to shout loudly about the days I don’t eat well because I am to busy in my “zone” and daren’t step away incase I lose it. I know they will laugh at the fact that I rarely get a cup of tea that hasn’t accidentally had a paint brush dipped into it, they will not understand the utter embarrassment of realising the reason why the cashier in the supermarket is looking oddly at you is because you have paint in your hair, again! The uncertain income and bruised confidence when you hear a remark thats less than complimentary or a loved one accidentally suggests they like your latest doodle.
If an artist is to make art work then they have to be with ‘art’ in a way that works for them. I have tried the route of self discipline and unfortunately my creative mind is not accessible on a nine to five basis. Inspiration is the fuel for so many of my pieces and sometimes that fuel arrives at the most inopportune moment and my head gets ambushed with visions of potential and the excitement of a shiny new idea but I can only share that if the idea works, if I can make it become visible in all the glory I anticipate, and there are many times that doesnt happen. Each time I am ambushed by inspiration I learn, I never ignore the rush of ideas, they eventually add texture, light and life to a piece of work I didn’t know was there. My art is a waiting game, an exercise in trial, every happy accident I have is only an accident until I learn to reproduce and refine it, then it’s a skill, a style, a common technique I can share that has emerged from the unpredictable moment of inspiration.
Once upon a time I had a job that kept me working in a very structured way, I saw clients at set times and even away from work I would know when it was twelve o clock because my tummy would rumble like a lunch time alert. It was comfortably predictable and I knew I could achieve a succesful result every day. If I am honest I always looked for ways to develop, ways to add and challenge my skills, I look back now and think perhaps the predictability was not so comfortable after all. Life took some unusual twists and turns catapulting me away from my predictable work life and leaving me time to reconnect with art. Now life is always a challenge, it’s about taking moments and working into the unknown, learning and challenging, weaving life’s demands with the love of being in the “zone” with brush in hand. Drinking cold tea that’s slightly blue. So when some one says they envy my job? I just nod, and say “Lucky me”.
I love doing what I do, the whole experience of bringing a vision to paper and actually creating it in a way that I can share and revisit makes me smile every time. I am not a solitary soul, so sharing and communicating play an enormous part in what makes me tick. If you have read my blog before you will also know that I am interested in what makes art interesting and of value to others, it’s not mercenary to try to make your art work desirable but if you think about developing art into something marketable you may feel a little like you are selling your soul, today I am going to suggest that a little piece of you is just what the market needs.
A recent discussion about this very dilemma made me think about the way we view the artists and the artwork of those who command good money and good critic for their work, what is in this equation that produces notoriety and popularity. If you believe that excellent art is discovered and revered purely on its technical merit and you are not interested in fostering either popularity or notoriety then I suggest you do not read on.
Firstly it occurred to me that we generally identify art work by the artist, Vincent van Gogh, Constable, Turner and more recently, Warhol, Vettriano, Banksy. The list goes on and on, I know, I am not saying anything new, but I am demonstrating a point. One of the essentials in desirable art is a connection with the artist, something that allows us to identify the artist with the work. Connection is essential for full engagement with any creative media; writers, musicians and actors all bring something individual to the end product. The final outcome is that the artist alone begins to command the worth, what do I mean by that? I am sure I am not alone in having watched films that have been shockingly bad, but I know the main star will have been paid rather handsomely for appearing in the production.
It all boils down to your personal image, how interesting are you, what’s your story and how does that tie into your work and is there a constant style that reinforces the unique and individual investment in creating it. The simple fact that people love to share passion dictates the irresistibility of a relationship with creativity and those who create. Never be afraid to pay some attention to your own image, write your own artists blurb and share your story, if you have a particular style that you like to work, work it and develop it so you become recognised and your art is identifiable with your story. People buy into a relationship when they buy a picture they wish to live with, it’s up to you to give them one.
Recently I have moved fro my beloved Scotland down to Lincolnshire, it is a lanscape I am familiar with and have never really found the desire to settle in. As my husbund is a military man moving seems to be a constant theme. Unfortunately it does mean losing connections with outlets for my artwork and setting up more networks in a new locality.
Is this really such a problem?
I am always knocked sideways a little in a major upheaval but it does offer a whole new set of opportunities, this move gave me the chance to launch my work into a new location, meet new artisits and it has also opened my eys to some different attitudes and methods in self marketing. I dont really lose old connections, I just learn to manage them from a distance and the potntial they have always given me is not really los, just a little more difficult to access.
With the Christmas commissions and general business in my tiny back room studio I decided to stop and have a welcome break to see what else was going on. It has been an excellent exercise, I have been on a glass fusion course funded by a local art initiative, though my efforts were far from brilliant the meeting of like minded folk and the room to discuss art initiatives in the local area was priceless. I have several bookings in my social diary now that will most definately lead to more inspiration and energy, maybe even business. Infact I have found myself commiting to an art therapy and mindfulness course thanks to the experiences shared recently, I wonder where that will take me!
I am starting to feel like I can look upon my work as a business, something of value to more than just me, there is no doubt that it brings me great pleasure to do but sitting with paintbrush in hand and working toward a goal of high expectation isnt easy, I have to remind some folk I am not just ‘doodling’. All other professionals network, they look for chances to develop and seek to share and grow, so why wouldnt I? Get out there and share, learn and develop in how you are in your world of art, look up from the canvas and check that youre not missing the opportunities.
Recently a local gallery has closed its doors and switched off the lights for the last time, I suspect this is a common happening. As a budding new artist I have to admit it made my heart sink but I am not one for staring at closed doors, and if you are reading on then you are looking for new doorways too. Galleries are seen as the pinnacle of promotion for most artists, we just love the idea of people walking up to, around and into the idea of that which we create. If I am honest an art gallery also acts as a buffer between me and the dirty word…Money. Why do I call it the dirty word? Because it is the one thing I am uncomfortable about handling, and I do not think I am alone in this. In fact I would rather walk on fire in a nylon nightdress than ask for the prices I would really love to command with my work. Like so many, I do want to make it my business, after all I am calling it ‘my work’.
It seems the outlets for my work are changing so I have to learn to change with them, unless I am content with failure. There is a reason for the high street Gallery demise, the internet seems to be far more accessible for clients and if I get it right I can be the master of that craft too. In the long run success will get you the possibility of Gallery exposure as surviving Galleries show work by artists with solid sale potential and notoriety. ironic as it seems.
You want people to see your work, we all love the idea that they wish to live with our work as it becomes part of their daily background. The showboat in us wants to eaves drop as they talk about our work. Wouldn’t you love to know how the conversation may move into other things that your art has provoked? Perhaps I am a nosey so and so that loves to be part of every ones lives but doesn’t wish to be noticed, thats exposed my artistic neurosis.
If you want to sell your art then it isn’t just about you, so sharing it is a mission.
There are so many places we can show people what we are doing, I am very brave when it comes to that, and I know there are lots of you watching the likes on your personal Facebook account and getting motivation through the encouraging comments… Any one collecting commissions and\or orders through Facebook? For those without Facebook pages, don’t think you have to use it, but remember you are choosing to put one of your best tools back into the box without trying it out! Used well I believe your friends will help you spread awareness of your work, and that kind of network and referral is precious. Knowing more about how to connect and grow easily on the internet is now important to us as an industry, learning how to connect with potential buyers makes sense and can be fun. I will make mistakes, and just like a painting. those mistakes will become part of the picture, adding value in their own way. Please join me, I could do with some company.