Art practice is a long game, taking a lifetime. Many artists commit to their practice later in life, perhaps after travelling different paths first – I am one of those – I resisted art classes for years because somewhere in my thinking was the idea that I would be told what to do. Like many people, art for me represented inner freedom, even if that was in the privacy of my own room.
Most of us grow up drawing, perhaps covertly in our bedrooms, like confessing into a secret diary. We obsess over drawing certain ways, perhaps repeating variations on a theme. For me it was drawing a candle stuck in an apple, the wax flowing down in inky rivulets, scrawled in black pen. There was a school corridor where I often sat and drew some intriguing rooftops. Art and drawing becomes a place of connection with the self when all else is in a turmoil of growing up.
As we know, art at school can go either way: either it is not complicated for you to retain your connection with art, or it interferes with you identifying as an artist through judgements and assessments – as if a curriculum had anything to do with art! Those who go straight from school to studying art often come out the other side realising they are spent and need different life experiences in order to enrich their art.
In our statements and CVs we present ourselves as having a constant stream of artistic success, as if gallerists, curators and audiences have ceaselessly and deeply appreciated our work and found it of intrinsic cultural value. Perhaps that’s so for the odd few, but seldom talked about much these days is the inner struggle of artists – what is discussed are the very real difficulties of getting work shown and supporting ourselves.
What of that creative, artistic impulse, so often subsumed in daily life. Even if the art practice really takes off, similar issues remain – instead of constantly pushing, artists can feel almost ridden by extrinsic expectations, perhaps to repeat work they are known for. Many artists support themselves through allied professions: we all have different ways of making it up as we go along.
But what of the art stored under the bed, stashed in boxes, unappreciated, unexhibited, unrealised ideas, or perhaps already framed: all dressed up with nowhere to go. What of the secret and private struggles to keep that connection with the self, with the inner freedom of being an artist. We read of past artists and appreciate that behind their catalogue of successes and achievements were fallow years, failures and challenges with the world and with themselves – through that we understand what creativity is and what commitment to that means.
Creativity is not limited to artists - many people share this struggle with connection to self- expression, that inner dialogue between aspiration and disillusionment. It’s not a shameful secret: it is ever unfolding creativity over a lifetime.
14th July 2015