Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Tuesday 2nd September; lunch hour.

Went down to my Mother's over the weekend - it was her birthday, so my elder brother Stephen came too, and we all went for a couple of excellent coastal walks, picked masses of blackberries at Western Heights, talked our heads off, and ate too much. Very enjoyable and relaxing, and we even had decent weather, especially on Saturday. We went to St Margaret's Bay and walked up onto the cliffs and along towards Dover, and ate a picnic sitting on the grass above the white cliffs, with harebells and scabious around us, and other walkers going by with dogs and kids, and seagulls flying past below us, startlingly white against the deep blue-green of the sea. It was hot and sunny, the sky perfect blue, and a light breeze blowing. Perfection.
Stephen remarked that he wished there were some chance for people like him (he's a freelance graphic designer) to do something creative occasionally without having to risk losing work in order to have the time. His idea was that companies employing people in so-called "creative industries" should run a kind of staff personal development scheme whereby their creative employees could take a day a month, say, to do something that was not work related but that would stimulate them and thus improve their productivity, enhance the originality of their thinking, etc, by letting them spread their thoughts a little beyond the usual end-oriented get-the-job-done way of working. I think that's a lovely idea! - if wildly idealistic... He'd been inspired by the discovery that during World War Two, when the war office hired artists to design camouflage schemes for naval and army use, they encouraged them to also continue their personal art practice in the belief that keeping their creativity flowing as freely as possible would enhance their ability to produce good designs for the forces.
A creative personal development scheme at work... Hmmm. How about trying to get Kew to set that up?!
I urged him to start carrying a sketchbook. That's been one of my solutions to the problem of finding the time to make art of some kind. I never read on trains, for instance, but I often draw. If I'm riding more than a few stops on the Tube I draw the people sitting opposite me (slyly!). I used to pick up a leaf and draw it at work, on quiet days in my old job at the gates (days like today with its interminable rain), or during those foot-chewingly boring hours of reception duty at the Herbarium (enlivened only by occasional moments of intelligent conversation with Herbarium staff passing through reception- I'm sure, looking back, that I must have sounded a little desperate as I tried to get those friendly souls to stop a few seconds longer!). The new job is more humane in hours and in work conditions, but doesn't provide me with those enforced quiet patches.
But still, one can sketch, or knit, or sew, or crochet, or make notes, or write a novel, on the bus or the Tube or the train to work...
Another thing that came up this weekend was a comment from a friend of Mum's, relayed to me by her in some irritation, & equally as irritating to me. It came from an elderly lady called Bennie who used to come to all my private views when I was living in Kent. She always had a glass or three of wine and always thanked me for the invitation and said how lovely my stuff was; last week she stopped Mum in the High Street to ask how I was. Hearing I was now working full-time, she exclaimed how sad it was as I would not now have time to exhibit as much. Very true; I don't have time to exhibit as much, or to seek out exhibition opportunities, or to meet up with other artists, or indeed to make new work in the first place. I plug away with it, but time is short compared to when I only worked three days a week and crawled along on financially what I could earn by that (& a bl**dy struggle it was, too). I am acutely conscious of how little painting I generate compared to four years ago. Apparently Bennie then went on to tell my mother that I had made the wrong decision and that she was disappointed in me when she had supported me for so long, and that I should be disappointed in myself, too.
Well, all I can say is that in the five years I was struggling on on about £4500 per annum, living in Mum's spare room, and painting and exhibiting every chance I had, this person never once bought so much as a £10 sketch from me. Her "support" of me amounted to turning up, saying "Oh well done", and drinking my wine. And she is not badly-off, and I know she buys original art works from other - successful - artists. I don't think I've sold out in wanting to make sales, but, hell, one must have an income from SOMEWHERE. If she supported me so much, she could have demonstrated it.
I am not disappointed in myself; I think I've done well. I'm still here, albeit right out on the furthest margins of creativity. So, sorry, Bennie, but it wasn't a helpful comment.
Thought for the day: If you know a struggling artist, BUY SOMETHING FROM THEM!!

No comments: