Friday, 3 July 2015

What you might not know about being an artist

I used to think that artists were very glamorous, bohemian sorts who wafted through their days, painting leisurely, then meeting like minded souls for drinks where they would indulge in deep conversation about their work in crowded corners of fashionable coffee bars.

It seemed to me to be a utopia of all things I dreamed of; from the paint splashed artists smock one would naturally wear, to the inspired aura one would naturally exude.  Their lives, to my young imagination, were a carousel of parties, laughter and a constant outpouring of creativity in messy studios...

...lets fast forward to the reality.

Being an artist is a fabulous job, don't doubt if for a minute.  And if you harbour any desire or inclination to be one, and you've got a bit of talent or raw passion from which to start with then I urge you to study hard in your art classes at school and college, draw relentlessly and spend lots of time developing your own sweet style.  To live in a world where you get to paint for a living, to earn an income from what you do (whilst sitting in your pajamas if you fancy) is rewarding on so many levels.  I will never forget the buzz of the first sale, of my first international customer, of people actually liking what I did enough to buy it.  This is stuff dreams are made of, right?


And no.

There was a conversation that unfolded yesterday with an artist friend of mine, and it led me to write this post for you today.  I wanted to lay bare the bones of this work, to tell you the hidden truths that we all live with, the difficult bits and what we do to overcome them.

There are times when you sit down, and an idea comes to mind and you sketch bits out and out of nowhere this fantastic feeling suffuses your very bones with delight - yes, this is it, you're onto a sure fire winner, you can feel it, you just know....and then you're off!  Paints are squirted generously onto the pallette, the canvas, board or paper is struck with colour, your vision comes to life and its the best feeling in the world because when art flows, it really flows and there's nothing like it.

Then there are those times where it doesn't.

And you sit and you stare at the blank paper in front of you, and your mind whirrs relentlessly with chores and other mundane stuff you have to do, and there is this massive black hole where your imagination used to be that has seemingly gone on a vacation without telling you.  There's nothing there.  Nothing at all.

You scribble a bit in your sketch looks terrible, its bloody awful.  You start again on another page, no - its not happening.  Then the frustration kicks in; the irritation is followed by anger sometimes and its not unusual at this stage to shove everything in a drawer and eat a packet of Jaffa Cakes instead.
You feel like you will NEVER be able to create another piece of work ever again!  What will you do? How will you earn any money if you have nothing to paint?  This feeling has reduced me to actual tears in the past, and no doubt will do again.  You feel like giving up, you're clearly no good - what's the bloody point?!

Each painting, each piece of work, is a journey.  It is fraught with emotion and feeling.  An artist pours their entire heart and soul into a work, and the finished piece is infused with joy, love and happiness that the artist felt when they created it. 

There are however, those pieces that lie unfinished at the back of a cupboard, something that started off well but suddenly felt like it was going wrong, so you leave it to come back to at a later date.  I have done this before and sometimes this solution works fine.  You come back to it with fresh eyes, see clearly what needs doing to make amends and so continue on the journey and finish your painting.  Sometimes not even time can help, I have pictures half finished from years ago that for some reason I just haven't been able to part with.  I know in my heart I will never finish them yet they are still here as reminders of something that didn't work out.  I sometimes look at them and in all honesty I still don't have all the answers as to why.  It's more of a feeling rather than a clear knowing.

When your mojo leaves town, when you feel like your number is up and its time to put away your artist's smock, I'd like to reassure you that it isn't.  You will notice over time that there are seasons to your art.  You will have fallow times and ripe, juicy times.  There is a time to create and a time to be quiet and percolate ideas.  It is part of the process, there is no forcing of this tender subject, and you will have to learn to roll with it.  You will learn to handle the emotions it brings, you will learn to understand that the quiet parts are just as essential as the furious creative parts.  You will know that it will make you angry at times and euphorically happy.  You will learn that it's not just you, it's all of us.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Switch Off Time

Half term saw us hurling down the M5 towards the lush green hills, valleys and coastline of South Devon for a camping trip with friends.  Before we left, I had pondered the possibility of charging up the ever present phone using the car charger in order to Be Connected, but then I stopped.  Do I really need a phone?  Do I really need to keep in touch with the outside world?  Would it hurt to just NOT for a few days? 

What would it be like to really switch off for five days?  No internet trawling, no Facebook, no Tweets, and absolutely no Instagramming of exciting random stuff?

Lets do this, I thought.  Let's get back to real life for a bit.

So, I switched off and we went to Exeter for a night, to wander around my old home town streets, and to catch up with some sorely missed, and well loved friends.

There was a bit of an itch going on at first, that habitual knee-jerk reaction to check messages, emails, play Scrabble, see what everyone was doing on social media....but it passed pretty quickly to be honest, and by the time we were in the sunny field pitching the tent with our friends, I actually forgot all about it and concentrated on lending a hand, talking and listening to the bird song and chatter of the children running about in the grass.

We took long walks through the dunes.  All the wandering paths create a sense of wonderful anticipation because you know that inevitably they will lead you to the sea.

Ahhhh...and there.  Stopping for a moment to listen to the breeze rushing through the grasses, a soft swishing sound accompanied by the call of oyster catchers over on the estuary to our left, and gulls crying high above the sea to our right.  And nothing else.

A gentle, and steady feeling of peace and tranquility pervaded my bones.  I took photographs on my camera instead of snapping happily away on my phone.

I became much more immersed in my surroundings.  Instead of being constantly diverted by beeps and tweets and the insane urge to document every living moment, I started to tuly live those moments.  There was a luxurious feeling of reality, of living life the way it used to be lived, before we all became gadget bound by technology.

I was a little surprised in a sense, because I had no idea that I had become so trapped by the various phones and pads I had in my life.  I was also amused.  

When you allow yourself to switch off, you slow down.  You really do.  You stop caring what people are having for tea or finding the need to photograph your food.  You don't think about the latest trending hashtag and how many Likes you have on your Facebook Page.  You stop wondering about emails - they can all wait, we're on holiday - and you just start being more present.  Switching off is like a meditation, but better.

I had better conversations without the distractions, I felt happier, I felt more peaceful and more connected with my actual life than I have done in ages.

We went to Dartmouth and spent a delightful few hours on the beach at Blackpool Sands.  The water here is like crystal - we sat by the edge of the sea and listened to the rhythmical shushing sounds as it gently pushed and pulled its waves over the shingle shore.

We drove to Dartmouth town afterwards for ice-cream and a wander around the lovely little shops and streets.  Dartmouth is very, very beautiful and the River Dart is chocablock with sailing boats; the rigging tinkles and snaps in the wind, such a magical sound which I associate with memories of living on the coast. The river mouth eventually opens out to the sea, and either side of this pretty waterway is clustered with pastel coloured cottages and houses among the trees.

There are two ferries too, to take you back and forth across the river, and the Steam Train still runs along its scenic track.

One of the lovely finds in Dartmouth is Baxter's Gallery.  Our visit coincided with their Spring exhibition - it was good to see some work by friends of mine on show, including Andrea Berry, Janet Bell and Kirsty Elson amidst all the other wonderful pieces by talented artists and makers!

After admiring the art work and having a nice chat with the gallery owner, Sarah, we left to have a final wander about the town before returning home to camp.

After five days of fresh air, sleeping under the stars and waking with the dawn chorus and excited children, we reluctantly packed up and set off for home.

Here are a few things I absolutely adore about camping and escaping technology:

It being OK to wander around a field in your pyjamas with strangers and nobody bats an eyelid.

Cooking outside - Rob rustled up some beautiful fresh sea bass on the BBQ which we enjoyed with new potatoes and crunchy salad.  Food tastes immense outdoors on a warm sunny evening!

Keeping it simple.  Paring back on things we use everyday at home and just going with the basics - soap, flannel, toothbrush, pillow, sleeping bag....

Drifting off to sleep listening to a lonely owl hooting in the woods.

Being outside at 11pm and seeing millions of stars in a clear, navy blue sky.

Talking and connecting in real life, with real people.

Feeling relaxed and happy.

Have you ever taken a break from technology?  How did you find it?  Did you like it?  Why not share your experiences here in the comments?  I will definitely do it again, and it's made me more aware of how much time I spend using computers and phones etc.  I plan to figure in more time to switch off at home on a regular basis, just to reconnect and be still again.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ten Things

1. Bluebell woods in Spring are the most happy, smile inducing places to be.

2.  Letting our newly hatched Painted Ladies into the wild one early morning...well, trying to.  This one hung about for ages sitting on my daughter's hand.

 3.  The sea.  In particularly, our beautiful Yorkshire coastline on a sunshiney day.

4.  Watching the gannets at Bempton Cliffs, and being awed by their enormous size and their cliff side habitats.  We also spotted puffins, razor bills, kittiwakes and fulmars.

5.  Seeing my newest original paintings hanging in the very lovely Art House Cafe, at Penistone.

6.  Sleeping.  I do absolutely love going to bed with a good book, and settling down in this comfy nest of warmth.  Currently enjoying the latest Inspector Montalbano novel, and as I've almost finished this, I'll be looking forward to a Jenny Colgan next.

7.  Bits and Bobs.  I'm a bit of a lover of pretty things.  I have filled my house with them, bearing in mind the famous saying by William Morris which went along the lines of ~ Have nothing in your home that you do not consider to be useful or beautiful.  It may not all be useful, but it brings great pleasure to surround oneself with pretty tat.

8.  Drying washing outside.  That pure, sunshiney, breezy scent that infuses your laundry and that you just wish you could bottle and keep all year round.  This may be a sign of getting older, but I never fail to have a small moment of rapture upon gathering in my washing after a drying day.

9.  Getting organised.  After a very busy few weeks preparing for the exhibition with Hen's Teeth, I am now making headway with my paperwork and updating my website with prints and such like that have for too long languished by my desk, pleading to be put on sale.  'We're not much good stuck under here now are we?' they taunt.  So, I've done them the kindness of listing them in my shop.  Oh, and I've also done my accounts in record time this year.  Go me!
Seriously, you have no idea what a chore this is!  One day I would like very much to have a wonderful assistant who can help me wade through this side of running a business.

10.  These two.  My dearests; my other half and my little dot of a daughter.  Life would be pretty pants without them.

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