Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Sarah Lucas told Tracey Emin she had better be an artist because...

Sarah Lucas told Tracey Emin she had better be an artist because there was nothing else she could do – so says Emin in an interview re The Shop she and Lucas opened.

I have usually found a sense of pride in choosing art rather than needing art. Am I being a little ignorant (and indeed arrogant)? Are the only people who are likely to persevere and wrestle with being an artist those who need to make art work for them?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do next – every artist’s million dollar question, or perhaps just mine.

I have never been one of those people who ‘always knew’ I was ‘meant’ to be an artist. Before I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be an art therapist. That (and because I enjoyed art at school) is why I went off to gain a BA in fine art.

I credit the fine art course at Lancaster University with me wanting to be an artist now.

Now I really want to be an artist but realise also that I have be realistic about what that looks like. As far as I’m aware, even practitioners whom I would deem successful rarely earn their sole living from their making.

The big question is whether to pursue a safety net or not.

I have been wondering whether now is a good chance to start working part time towards qualifying as an art therapist (it would, after all, take three years part time). I have the means (just) to fund it without taking out a loan and I’m in a great geographical location to do it. Assuming I worked hard enough and remained convicted enough (big assumptions) I could theoretically continue with my practice in part (small parts, I think, because I’d still be earning my keep part time).

Enough waffle – in short, I think I could just about start training and still keep making a little bit along the way. Then, in the long term, a part time ‘career job’ could go a long way facilitating my art making as well as offering me some much needed structure and stimuli and contact with people.

However if art isn’t the only thing I can do, like it apparently was for Emin, will I ever be one of the surviving practitioners who wrestles, confronts and endures the rocky road of being an artist? Already when I hit the inevitable low that follows each roller coaster high I scout legitimate time-passers that allow me to avoid confronting the dips.

If I had a part time ‘career-job’ would I have too many legitimate escape routes from my studio and would I ever push on through to becoming an ‘successful’ artist?

Does anyone have any experience/input/words of wisdom to offer to input…?

(466 words)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

new look

ps, my blog got a new look today. I'm hoping it's a bit crisper. :)

The Cushion is thinning.

The Cushion is thinning. I’m so grateful for my residency – so grateful. The time and space is invaluable and I know that.

Last year The Cushion served me well. First year post BA in fine art there is a LOT to learn – thrust into the ‘art world’, hugely in isolation, for the first time with no institution reassuringly backing me – luckily the expectations are graciously low.

In fact, after meeting Matt Roberts (a hero) briefly last year, one of my key objectives for the year became to realign my expectations, prepare myself for the long haul, not expect instant success and even begin redefining how I perceive success.

But the cushion is rapidly thinning and I’m ‘catching the fear’ so to speak. I’ve already had half of my time in the residency – HELP! – and it’s hard to quantify what I’ve achieved. I’ve developed lots of new work, yes, but have no quality marker for it and I’ve not got it ‘out there’ yet.

I struggle with Big-fish-in-little-Pond v. Tiny-little-fish-in-BIG-old-pond syndrome. The former is far more comfortable. I am the latter. In fact the pond couldn’t BE any bigger and I couldn’t feel any smaller in it.

To make matters worse, I’m hopeless with balance.

I used to resent that I wasn’t laid back (I like laid back people, probably because I’m not one of them) but now I’m learning to be grateful for my drive and motivation. At least it keeps me working. But the down side of being driven (and competitive) and not being good with balance is that sometimes I get to be obsessive. My GCSE and A-level years were spent slogging at my work to prove myself academically and it came at a cost.

So now I’m afraid of ‘over-committing’ my time. I’m so frustrated with myself. The residency is really generous with time and I’m sure there’s so much more I could do with it.

I remind myself of a Bible story – a worker trusted with money but so afraid of loosing is he buried it instead of investing it; taking a risk, allowing it to multiply. Don’t get me wrong, I do work hard – but I’m missing the boat somewhere. I need to be getting OUT more, more private views, applying for internships, risking rejections with competitions etc. more, more, MORE! I need to do more. I need to take risks.

Makes me think of a poem, I think by William Arthur Ward, called Risk. Here are some lines from it:
"To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental….
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss….
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

Also, I’m afraid of getting lost and feeling lonely in the BIG POND.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Idea from Room3


A group of year 10 girls have just spent the best part of an hour in my studio. It’s fun to see how they connect with my ideas and watch them process what it looks like to be an artist.

Art in the ‘real world’ is so different from art at school. I’m glad to be millions of miles away from the performance of GCSE and A-Level art where I felt pressure for every page in my sketchbook to look picture perfect. I’m proud of my ‘sketchbooks’ now, scraps of found papers all bound together in various ways. They document important moments where I find myself in a different world and I just want to ‘draw’ – not draw pictures, but draw ideas.

Here is a photo of my most recent drawing:

The idea developed over 4 pages of scribbles following my 30 Seconds of Idea in Room3 (ref last blog entry) and I’m quite excited about it.

I’m hoping to exhibit in Peckham in February and am keen to develop my project in a direction that not only reflects an autobiographic interest and exploration into the notions of Home but possibly gives voice to some other people’s experience of home. I found that last sentence hard to spit out, it feels arrogant to assume that I’ll be able to ‘give voice’ to anyone or that I’m in a position to do so – but for now, perhaps we can assume that I will end up in a position to do so (before February), if I’m not yet.

So what I’d really like to do it make work that responds to what Home means when Home is living in one part of one of the local estates in Peckham. I’ve invited the kids at RMS to input into my ideas and one of them suggested theatrical readings of dramatic stories about home on the estates – but I know for certain that I do not want a performance. I want something really authentic and am trying to develop my ideas in a way that don’t assume a certain response to what Home may look like. Maybe the tone will end up more ‘I’m proud of my home’ than ‘gosh, home is a really hard reality.’

So this drawing demonstrates the latest development of my idea. 60 cardboard boxes (I bought them on ebay today – it feels crazy BUYING cardboard boxes!) with windows and doors cut out, but re-presented in a different context, different scale, different positioning etc. I really wanted to be able to visualise the size/scale of the potential artwork, so I mapped out (in space, with masking tape) the size of the piece depending on different size boxes - 3 different scale options (i'm going with the one in the foreground of this image.)

At the moment I’m thinking the boxes will be green...

…That's because of the history of where my project has come from.

Anyways, gotta run – once again trying to juggle time. Struggling with working for myself and other people legitimizing me not wanting to be flexible with time spent working for myself. Also, I’m trying to function with the discipline of 500 word posts! 498 today. (+ a few because I added a paragraph of waffle with image.oops)