Thursday, 28 August 2008

Thursday 28th, lunch-hour...

I brought in about ten of my cards to work today, feeling rather full of myself and vaguely hoping for praise and maybe even a sale or two(!), only to promptly catch myself running my own work down: "Oh, they aren't much cop, the ink ran on this one, that one is blotted inside..." etc etc. Aargh!
Why do I do this? Am I the only person who does? I'm pretty sure I'm not... certainly HOPE I'm not! But how stupid of me. There never yet was anyone who successfully promoted their work by disparaging it; it's just false modesty and a nervous reluctance to sound as if I think much of myself - what my maternal grandmother called "thinking yourself Big".
A colleague points out that christmas designs would sell better at the moment anyway. I can take that on board; angels and stars coming up, soon as I get the chance! A couple of the more indeterminate designs could even be christmas-icised without too much difficulty, and I have lots more blank cards to use, too.
At least I have other creative things going on; like cookery. Just finished the last of the roast veg from Tuesday - stuffed roast vegetable marrow (with rice, tomatoes, pine nuts, feta cheese, parsley and paprika), and roast beetroot. The beetroot were so much better roasted than boiled that I don't know if I'll ever bother boiling them again... Yum. Now feeling slightly sleepy as I'm so stuffed with food. Back to work...

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Thursday 27th, after work...

Bit of a gap; life has been rather on the hectic side. Two colleagues are off on annual leave so Julie and I are trying to cover all their work as well as our own this week. Just a WEE bit pressured!
Had a good evening on Tuesday; I came home, put some veg on to roast and then picked up my three funny, amateurish-looking little collography blocks to have a go at doing some printing for the first time in years. Mixed results! But got the buzz again and then went on, this time to start trying to do some monoprints. I had a box of pre-cut greetings card blanks, and began making cards for all I was worth; collograph, monoprint, monoprint on top of collograph, two layers of monoprint in different colours, ink painted over the top, and so on. I've still got pink ink under my fingernails two evenings later, but I was very happy crawling about on the floor like a baby, slinging ink, paint, glue etc around. Luckily kept it off the carpet (not my carpet and landlady although tolerant is bound to have a breaking point somewhere!..). Twenty-one greetings cards later, I'm not sure what to do with them all - but it was a satisfying evening. Most are themed around either hearts or spirals... If I have someone to send a Valentine to next year, at least I'll be spoilt for choice.

Friday, 22 August 2008

"SPRING" Series, mixed media on card, 2003.
Exhibited as a series in "Eight by Eight" at the IOTA Gallery, The Old Monkey House, Ramsgate, May2003. Individual pieces exhibited since in various shows. Most now sold.
Strange to look at images of spring as autumn is definately with us now in late August.

An almost-creative evening...

I had some fun on Wednesday evening, teaching my flatmate Kerry some simple origami. As I am not a patient teacher and she is not a patient pupil it got a little hysterical, but when I came home Thursday evening the kitchen table was full of origami butterflies, so I think the lesson took. She is about to go to New York (lucky lass) and wants to give bits of origami to the cast of "Rent", which she is going to a couple of days before it closes. I am quietly envious (though I have no idea of the origami significance as I've never seen "Rent"), but cannot afford any jaunts of this nature at present! At least it was a slightly-creative evening...
Drinking green tea from Laos (a present!) at work while a bell tolls endlessly from St Anne's church opposite - the bride is 20 minutes late for a wedding and this seems to be their idea of entertainment. In a few minutes I must get back to dealing with some more odd enquiries. As I work my way down through one file, another one is slowly filling up... If one must have a day job, and clearly I must, at least this one is never dull.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wednesday evening (after work)

I've re-read some of my earlier ramblings and am rather embarrassed; I veer from saying how tough and combative I was as a child to whingeing about my total lack of self confidence, a pretty odd segue; another time I manage to have a moan about the people in the Creative Arts group, when I want them to feel appreciated, not moaned-at! Maybe this blog has become too much of a spleen-venting already. Apologies if so. On the other hand, just wait until I get onto "stories of stroppy customers I have known"!
It's been pointed out to me that I began a little history of the reasons for the site a while back, and then left it with an image of myself looking round a lecture theatre at art school in the spring of 2000 and thinking "How do I get to carry on making art, then?"
Basically, what happened then was that I began looking for any and every tip and trick and piece of advice on the problem that I could find. I asked anyone who would listen to me if they had any suggestions (except those whose opinions I didn't respect in the first place - most of whom funnily enough gave [completely useless] advice even so!).
I realised that one of the key problems was lack of time when I saw that within a matter of months most of my college friends were saying "I simply haven't the time for art, I'm too busy/too tired/my job is too demanding". So I refused to solve my student debt problem the obvious way by getting a decently-paid full time job, and instead worked part time and painted in my spare time.
One of the best bits of advice I received came from an art teacher I modelled for. She had recently been given the chance to put a piece in a small show and was rejoicing that she had been doing some painting recently, and so had something to hang. She told me "Most of my fellow-students from Royal College days are still showing their degree show work if they get an exhibition opportunity, because they haven't done anything since, and I know how much it depresses them every time they drag the old stuff out." That stuck with me, as I'm sure you can imagine. They "drag the old stuff out". YUK.
Another thing I noticed a lot of people from college doing was rejecting possible chances to exhibit their work for reasons that were essentially snobbish - "I can't exhibit with Whitstable Art Society, they're all kitten-painters!". Mostly they are, kitten-painters that is; but they still have an annual Open Exhibition for local artists. I shamelessly exhibited with the kitten-painters and the Sunday painters. I even ended up as Acting Chair of the local Art Society for a year (after the chairman was thrown out of office for trying to defraud the society's main sponsor!). If it works, don't knock it, as the saying goes. It got me exhibited and it got me sales, and all the satisfaction of knowing some of my work was hanging in someone's home or office, instead of sitting propped against the wall in my mother's garage.

It seemed to me that the big hurdles I had to get over were
1. keep making art work
2. get it shown - somehow, somewhere
3. keep in touch with other artists
4. don't give up!
So I focussed on those things.

More tomorrow... Going home.


Temple of Light, 2002. Oil on canvas.

Landscape near Adisham, 2003. Oil on canvas.
I've just found the old Cd-rom on which my father put a whole bunch of my pictures a couple of months before he died. It's rather odd seeing his comments on the box, but very pleasant to have a few of my paintings, albeit not very recent ones, in electronic form. Sadly the quality isn't great; on some of the smaller ones it's better as they were scanned directly instead of being scanned from photos of the piece. The second picture is more representative of my current oeuvre, as I haven't done any interiors for ages but do lots of landscape (when I'm not drawing ducks and geese).
Will continue tonight after work!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Tuesday evening...

Spider's comment on Thursday last stuck in my mind; she wrote of having to be
"...bold, and asking for more than you think you deserve"
and that just about sums it up, doesn't it? The biggest hurdle to creativity is not the infamous blank page, and certainly not, in my case at least, the pram in the hall, it's the personal insecurity and the effort involved in asking for "attention to be paid". No matter how much one tells oneself that one is a grown adult, capable, talented, with successes and triumphs under one's belt - still those little nagging inner voices are there in the background, saying softly and insidiously "you don't deserve to get anywhere, stay safe, don't try anything risky, spare yourself the humiliation". UGH. The legacy of internalising goddess-knows-what individually-harmless minor comments in early childhood. I do not believe for one moment that any of the people who said to me "Don't overreach yourself, play it safe" when I was a small child had any desire to undermine my confidence; I was, after all, a demanding, ferociously bright, competitive and short-tempered kid endlessly trying to beat an equally bright, taller, stronger elder brother. Not match him; beat him. Hence the broken collar bone, the impalement in the laurel tree, and a number of other injuries (- A&E Doctor:"Where did you land, dear?" Me, aged six: "Half on the stairs and half in the hall, but it would have been all in the hall if Stephen had let go of my leg." Another A&E doctor, on another occasion: "What was it that hit you?" Me, aged seven: "The toy rhinoceros my brother threw at me.").
Lack of self-confidence is one of the most crippling things I ever deal with. At least nowadays I DO deal with it; for years, I just hid. It took a very odd experience to force me to see that I was not helping myself by never facing up to anything that scared me.
I was discussing "Red Dwarf" (remember "Red Dwarf"?) with a colleague and found myself saying I identified with Rimmer. Her appalled disgust and disbelief brought me up short. Was this really such a dreadful concept? I found myself seeing myself momentarily through another's eyes, and it took me aback. In my lunch break I went out and sat in the rose garden of Eliot College, and thought about the whole Rimmer/me issue at some length. I saw myself over time turning more and more into a Rimmer-like character. The sun was shining, there were roses blooming all around me, and I was imagining a future as a sour, embittered, disliked tagger-along on the lives of others. I took my diary and wrote in it "I have seen the future, and it doesn't work."
A week later I went to an open day at the local adult education centre, got chatting to one of the art department staff, and on impulse signed up to do an art course in the autumn term. It cost me £120, and it was the best £120 I have ever spent, because it changed my life.
If I ever meet Chris Barrie, I must thank him, because in a way he changed my life, too.
Since then - that was in 1993, good grief - I've overcome many blockages, done many things that were difficult or challenging, and faced many fears. It does get easier with time and experience. But I wouldn't say I'm particularly good at it yet.
I'm in a new job at the moment, and it's bringing me up against some of the same issues. I cannot bear getting things wrong. Other people can make mistakes when they are learning a new rôle; I cannot. I feel like screaming with frustration at my inadequacy, over minor errors that I would comfortably excuse, were someone else to make them under my tutelage. It's as if the job is a new Stephen, and I'm playing catch-up once again, competing against a standard I cannot beat.
Sorry, this has all gone rather cod-psychology tonight. I'm tired after a rather mad day and last night's very enjoyable (if frustrating at times - why? - because I'm not good enough at it!!) lesson at the Lindy-Hop club. I'm going home now, which means cycling in the rain because like a mutt I came to work by bike today in defiance of the weather forecast.
Not feeling terribly creative; I chiefly want to sleep, in fact. The fresh (& wet) air will do me good, no doubt. Goodnight, all.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Monday evening...

Very pleased today to get an email from an old friend from college saying she has been looking at this! I'm saddened by her remark that she feels now she was one of those who just gave up at that moment in the third year at college; but cheered to learn that like me she has found her creative drive simply won't go away completely. Maybe that is what distinguishes the 4% from the other 96% - come hell or high water, the Muse stays with us and, for want of a better term, nags us until we find a creative outlet of some kind.
I've always felt very strongly that there is a totally unnecessary prejudice (within the arts as a whole) against certain types of creative self-expression - cookery, gardening, but also everything classified as a "craft" rather than an art form, and all the illustrative types of art such as archeological and botanical draughtsmanship. It furthers a snobbish and heirarchical (have I spelled that right? it's one of my blank spots) art world, and creates a system that shows preference to its own, and dismisses most of the world as mere lowly mortals who haven't got talent. Considering some of the twerps who are officially sanctioned as being "talented" I think I'd rather keep company with the gardeners and the craftspeople!
Dear me, I'm ranting, and I'm cross enough that my grammar is slipping.
Change of subject, quickly.
I started trying to do some collography on Sunday - hindered by having rather thin cardboard, but bashing away at it nonetheless. Two plates are drying at home and tomorrow evening I'll have a go at printing from them. Who knows? - I may take one look at the results and retreat whimpering, but I thought I'd have a try.
I'm also trying to keep galvanising the Creative Arts Club I've started at the place where I work. Everyone is busy and burdened with other commitments, but we have managed to have a couple of sketching evenings, and three of us went together to the RA Summer Exhibition (this was the mixture as usual, and it was fascinating to go around the show with someone to talk-to). I don't like coming over as a badgery sort of person saying "Come on, folks, let's have a get-together!" - like some demented school games mistress - but if we don't meet we don't have a group. Everyone was so enthusiastic when I first mooted the idea, but we're all so busy.
I'm finding the tendency this system has to revert to this seriffed typeface every time I take my eye off it very irritating! Drat it, I want Arial! Give me Arial! Bah. I think maybe I'm tired; I will stop looking at this screen and go out dancing for the evening instead.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Thursday 14th August, 1.05 pm

Maybe a bit of background history would not go amiss.
When I left art school in the summer of 2000 I felt pretty cynical about my degree; it had cost me three years of my life, not to mention the proverbial blood, sweat, toil and tears, and a great deal of money I could ill afford. By contrast, my previous college experience, a two-year foundation course leading to a BTEC in General Art and Design, had been terrific, two of the best years of my life. But the degree course had in large part been grim. As a figurative landscape painter in a provincial art college determined to move itself into the leading rank of proponents and producers of Conceptual Brit-Art, I had had a rough time of it, and I was tired and depressed by the time I eventually emerged clutching my degree certificate.
I was lucky enough to get a small break straight away; a family friend was organising a fundraising exhibition in aid of the local branch of UNICEF, and asked if I'd like to put a couple of pieces up, with 30% commision on any sales going to UNICEF. I said yes, and a month later I had made my first sale, and could list an exhibition on my cv. It gave me a hell of a boost. All my college friends (that I was still in touch with) were either up to their necks in new career-type jobs or else sitting around at home, despondently complaining that there was no system for them to get exhibited and no established pattern for them to follow to move into being practising artists, and that they didn't know what to do.
We had been told at college, about three months before graduation, that statistics show that 96% of Fine Art graduates, unless they go on to do a Masters, give up producing any art within two years of leaving art school, and never go back to it (the cynicism of telling us this fact at that stage in proceedings appalled me, though it was par for the course at that particular college). I remember this as one of the defining moments of my adult life. I looked around the lecture theatre, to see faces falling, expressions of horror and disbelief, slumping shoulders and sour grimaces, and I realised that most of my fellow-students were thinking "Oh shit, that's me done for then", and were giving up mentally right then. Whereas my reaction had been to think "Okay, so how do I get to be in the 4% who manage to carry on?" To my immense surprise, it was a minority reaction.
It became my focus. How was I to get to be in the 4% of art school graduates who carry on producing art? And for five years I worked my arse off to try and achieve this.
I'll go on tomorrow; my lunch hour is over...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Second post...

Second Post!

It's gone half-five now and I have finished work but will stop for five minutes to add a little more to this. Then I am heading back home to cook some supper and amuse myself for the evening - possibly with sewing. One of my big tricks for keeping creativity going is telling myself that doing anything creative counts - and I really enjoy making stuff out of other stuff and in particular making interesting clothes by cannibalising things I bought in charity shops. Present project is a velvet skirt, which I aim to turn into a different velvet skirt (one that fits me!). I just finished making a hat - or possibly a fascinator, I'm not certain where the boundary lies - for a friend, out of a piece of net, 1/2mm gauge wire, some feathers and the right boob of an old evening dress (bust stiffeners are very useful things). Result was apparently a hit at her cousin's wedding, much to my satisfaction. It does boost the spirit when one gets some appreciation!

First post!

This is my first ever post in my first ever blog. I won't go on about that as it isn't terribly interesting, though.

This is intended to be a blog about being a struggling artist/writer/general purpose creative person, and about the bizarre business of trying to keep the creative fire alight (hence the title) when one has an "official" life of job, rent and bills, family and friends, etc, as well. That official, worldly life tends so easily to dominate the creative life, yet the creative life is one's reason for being here in the first place; one can end up profoundly depressed, floundering in unrealised projects and unfulfilled dreams.

OR not. Because one can also end up managing, by many and varied means, to keep the fire burning and keep the creative juices flowing. It can be done; I'm doing it (although at times I'm only just doing it!).

Sorry about the clichés, by the way. I'll get used to this.

My name is Imogen and I am an artist. I fought my way through five years of art school and five years of trying to "make it" as an artist after graduating, before I succumbed to the bitter reality of having to take a full-time job, and the seemingly-inevitable result of my work as an artist becoming effectively no more than a hobby. That was three years ago, in the spring of 2005.

But this is what is surprising; it never quite goes away. I literally CAN'T stop - creating things is one of my greatest pleasures and I have always felt very strongly that it is my main reason for being alive. And so, I have found ways to keep going.