Tuesday, 12 July 2011

It's A Tough Job, But Somebody's Got To Do It....

Hello everyone

The blog has been a bit quiet of late because I have taken advice from the wise and caved in to the pressure to create an 'official' Union Gallery facebook page.  Feel free to 'like' it or become a friend there.  To be honest, I've had trouble adjusting to it: until now all social 'meeja' stuff has been done by me, a person, and have been personal observations and thoughts which I hope have been done with some kind of insight and empathy.  Trying to post messages on a facebook page as another brick in the wall, or as a fly on the wall, really isn't my style.  I can do measured, but I like a bit of passion too.  I am sure I'll get the hang of it so please bear with me.  However, this particular blog has been brewing for quite some time and really can't come from the viewpoint of a brick....so here goes:

I want to write about what it entails to be an artist.  I say it's been brewing for a while, but like most artists it's probably played on my mind for as long as I can remember and, until now, I haven't really had the means to express it.
Possibly it's all bubbled to the surface now as I recently attempted to catch up on some painting of my own.  Until now it has largely been a secret that I went away for a weeks worth of art 'boot camp': because I feel guilty when not at UG, which has become very much my 'second home'...a second life-line if you like, I had been neglecting my painting.
I got quite a lot of 'stuff' done at boot camp and, although I found it somewhat traumatic (to say the least), I am very glad that I did it.  I took an awful lot away from that week, the most important thing being that I reacquainted myself with the harsh realities of what it is to be an artist.  This may sound a little strange or even over-dramatic, but seriously it's a tough job.  And it really is a 'calling'.
I am sure many artists have, in their time, experienced comments such as, 'it must be great to be doing what you truly love', or 'I wish I was gifted'.  Well, yes and no.....I've often thought of it as something more like a curse than a gift, an addiction or, at its worst, an abusive relationship.
There is no doubt that if you are a creative type, that menace inside you will not let you be.  It is a calling and it will niggle and goad you until you do something about it.  At boot camp it brought home to me again just what a strange and uncertain profession being an artist is.  It's a lonesome occupation, often involving long, unpredictable and unsociable hours.  Indeed, many artists have to juggle their calling with other jobs, so that they can subsidise the making of their artwork.  It's often dirty, smelly and involves all sorts of nasty chemicals that we are told to avoid:

Then there's the self doubt and personal angst/torture that is compounded by working in solitary conditions.  What am I doing?  Is this any good?  etc. etc.  Then, there's the best part....it's often unpaid!  Any artist will tell you that it's an expensive business; paint, brushes, canvases and frames all cost an arm and a leg, and it all adds up.  The cliched image of the starving artist all alone in their garret is not so far from the truth....

However, just like any addiction, there are fantastic highs:
To create an artwork that is truly unique and which you believe to be one of the best you've ever done is enthralling, exciting and totally untouchable.  If an enlightened individual gets that kick too, and invests in your creativity....well that really is the ultimate high.  And yet the majority of artists who are true to themselves will carry on regardless of sales.  You develop a 'thick skin' and continue to battle on with your 'gift'.  one day I will post a blog about thick skin syndrome - I promise it will be shorter than this one!

I thought I would leave you with my picture of the week:

This is the seriously gifted artist Norrie Harman.
Norrie graduated from ECA in 2001, and won a number of prestigious awards whilst still a student - a remarkable achievement.  I am really pleased that his work, which has not been seen in his home town of Edinburgh for many years has been so well received.   In this informal, relaxed photo, I feel that a lot of that worry and self doubt is captured perfectly.  To be fair, Norrie Harman is most likely exhausted in this picture, having worked to the wire to get the work done, arrange the framing , travel from Leeds to Edinburgh to deliver it and attend a busy, busy opening.  It's only at the time of this photo that he finally gets the chance to reflect on all his hard work.  it was definitely worth it.

Leaving you with my other picture of the week:

From left to right: artists Norrie Harman, Sophie McKay Knight, Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE and David Hosie all looking genuinely happy and comfortable at the opening of their exhibition Head to Head at UG until August 1st.  Beautiful!

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