I had a dream last night in which someone wondered out loud to me, accusingly and in front of a sneering crowd, whether being an artist was indulgent. It was one of those naked in public dreams, you know the sort. In the dream, shocked and feeling attacked, I ran out into the garden, crying, and wriggled my toes in the grass and stretched up to the sky (like in a Sun Salutation!), as if to demonstrate that I belonged in this world. It was a little unsettling, as dreams go.
I suppose when you’re in the business of making art you are naked all the time (I’m not actually naked sitting here at my desk writing this, I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt and a cardigan covered in cat hair and stripey socks, just to let you know). Putting work out there, on the internet and in real life, is the hardest thing I know. It’s so excruciating and fear-inducing. In fact, one may as well be sauntering down the digital highway with nothing on (save for a paint covered apron), every single day.
You do get used to it. It’s cold out there, you have to. But people, the comments!* Some days I long for a job with a uniform – something big and enveloping and thickly impenetrable like a roadworker’s donkey jacket would be perfect. Or like those uniforms in a hospital, where the colour of your scrubs clearly denotes your level of experience and authority, and automatically demands respect.
Well, let me tell you this (I’m really telling myself, dear patient reader. As if you didn’t know!). Artists are experts (and the good, proper ones, are also lifelong learners) in the visual expression of ourselves, and life. We make sense of the world, each in our own way, in whichever media appeals or fits, and then we step back and let you all have a look. The colour of our uniforms is bright and unequalled. We’re that strange bird flitting through the forest, the one you almost didn’t see, but now want to watch out for again and again. The one you’d love to land on your binoculars one day.
The world needs artists of every sort expressing themselves more than ever.
I’m so happy to be watched out for, like that exotic little bird, and followed, and supported, and encouraged, and the feeling of swopping work for monetary reward is always amazing. (Though chasing invoices is less appealing!). I’m grateful, yes I am. Truly. But I’d make work anyway, all by myself, just like the tree that fell with no one to listen to it. If you don’t like it, jog on. Art is not self indulgent, it’s necessary – for the world, and for me and my well-being too.
*Nothing specific to see here, just a sort of build up of haters**, some of them inside my own head.
**And we all know what Miss Swift is apt to say about that!
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(The pencil drawing above is a ten or fifteen minute one of Brendan – I went back to life drawing after a break concentrating on other things. It was magic!).