Friday, 25 February 2011
The serious artist
I'm in a bit of a maudlin mood about work at the moment. I'm returning to a topic that preoccupies me to an unhealthy degree - what it is to be a true artist. I know that a lot of people who stop by my blog are illustrators themselves, so maybe you will understand what I mean when I say that I wonder sometimes if I'm an artist at all.
You see, I draw a lot of animals and car parts, and I animate run cycles and dog silhouettes, all on demand and for clients, not myself. It's what I have to do to make a living and a lot of the time it's quite fun. A lot of time is is soul-sapping. When the work isn't coming in thick and fast I have the chance to work on personal projects. And that's when I come unstuck.
I have impulsively signed myself up for the open studios event in North Wales, Helfa Gelf, with the intention of building up a body of my own, what I call 'proper', work before September. It's not that I have to be a painter or sculptor to take part - being an illustrator is just as valid, but I have yearnings to paint and to make more things with my hands and this is a good opportunity to push myself. To this end, I have started to think about what I really want to do, but right now I'm frozen with terror. It's that blank canvas feeling, you know?
It's been a long time since I've seriously sat down and thought about doing something entirely self-directed. What do I want to do? Who am I? What do I want to say? I used to use my sketchbooks at uni as a kind of repository for my 'streams of consciousness' ranting and self-loathing. I wrote much more than I drew in those sketchbooks. It was a way of procrastinating about producing any artwork at all; I was 'thinking'. I'm procrastinating right now by blogging my insecurities rather than addressing them practically.
I look at other artists' work and am preoccupied by a few questions. What is it that compels artists to do what they do; to choose to paint humans or landscapes or whatever? How do they make choices and decisions about where to make a mark, which colour to use, how big a canvas to paint on? How do they know if what they have done is any good? Or is it the case that whatever you do, you have to believe that it's good enough or no-one else will either. Where on earth do I start?
What I do know about myself is that I am obsessed by dead, stuffed, pickled animals, deformities, notions of conservation and preservation, education and display. I like reading about sideshows and freak shows, the circus and the zoo. I am not a serious person and I should value my ability to make people laugh. It's not easy when most 'real' artists seem to take themselves so seriously - am I too flippant to ever be an artist?
I wonder if any of you also feel like this, and what you do to inspire your own work, to give yourself a kick start when the inspiration and self-belief are running a bit low? How do you know if what you are doing is any good, or does that not matter? Please share your thoughts!