My photo for me, art and photography.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Wow! You're an Artist.

Whenever anyone asks me what I do, and I say 'I'm an artist', their first response is either 'wow!' or 'cool!' or both words together.

I don't really get it. I kind of get it. If someone told me they were... an aeronautical engineer or a professor of existentialist theory, I'd be impressed. wow. cool. But I suppose that the appeal for other peoples work is because it's kind of a mystery - if it's something we don't understand it's more interesting when we meet someone who does understand it?

I don't know. I'm freestyling with ideas here because as usual, it's half two in the morning and I'm still dead behind the eyes yet buzzing with insomnia. Can you 'buzz' with insomnia?.

But back on point: People think wow - artist - that's cool. Cool because it's different and unconventional. Bankers and sales assistants and secretaries are abundant; but for most people it seems the world of the arts is one very much shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Who are these mythical creatures who sleep til midday and wear cravats? exactly that. Mythical creatures. I know one person who wears a cravat (*waves at Ollie* but he's a singer, not an artist, and is in denial and insists its a tie. It's definitely a cravat.)As for sleeping til midday its probably because creative people seem to be at their most creative at absolutely insanely antisocial hours of the night. Like now, for instance, normal people are sound asleep - what am I doing? I drew a picture, seeking advice from arty friends on a painting I've 'finished' and I'm writing a blog about artists. So for those of us who don't sleep til gone 4am, it's not really such a crime to get up at midday, because, unlike you suit-and-tie bedecked people, we've been working all night.

And again for the mystery: scruffy art students are seen everywhere. I'm not among them. I like to think I get dressed with the lights on and have a mirror handy, and I've never been to art school. So that counts me out. Students have to be in classes, so they're out and about at 'conventional' hours. I haven't actually left the house for over a week - my studio is at the bottom of my garden. I don't need to go out into the outside world to have my senses assaulted with pollution, bauhaus architecture and chavs sitting around on benches with half their arses hanging out over the back of their trousers and spitting in the street. I'm a hopeless idealist. My studio is my little oasis from reality, and I don't leave it unless I have to. Read as much into that as you want.

In the art world, you never really see these people - these singers, dancers, artists... actors aren't quite the same - go into any Starbucks and you'll find someone who insists they're an actor... You never see them going to and from work, packed into trains like sardines, and all you see is the finished product - the show, the opera, the play, the painting/exhibition. Adds to the mythical element.

And again with the art-world mystery. For me, 'real' life is a mystery. I can't imagine, in my wildest dreams, wearing a suit and working in an an office or a bank or something - A day trip to Mars would seem less alien to me. That holds the mystery for me. The art world does not. I've grown up in it - it's all I know. My dad was an opera singer, and I used to act, so my upbringing has been music and drama and everything associated with it - set designers, costume designers, ballet dancers, rehearsal studios, lighting designers, directors throwing hissy fits, stage managers who can never be found when they're needed, tins of scenery paint, ghostly shapes in the props store when the lights are off, inhaling clouds of dust from the pit, and carrying armfuls of heavy costumes up and down stairs and trying not to trip over an Elizabethan cloak that's dragging on the floor because I'm too short to be able to lift the whole thing up... waves of scales being sung up and down corridors, the talcum powdery smell of pancake makeup, The maze of backstage corridors and the sickly smell of sweat and deoderant combined in dressingrooms, the buzz before a show backstage, the buzz before a show in the foyer, taking tickets, counting tickets, counting heads, blinding lights, heat on your face, makeup melting, butterflies before cue, relief when it's over and you didn't balls up, leaving from the back door to meet with friends for drinks while the audience leaves through the front door. 'i'm just popping backstage to see Mario' said pretentiously by someone who vaguely knows someone who knows someone in the show. 'I'm going throttle Mario if he bloody doesn't hurry up. Sod this i'm just going to go backstage and tell him if he doesn't get a move on he can meet us there' said unpretentiously by someone who does actually know someone in the show. Daaaaaaaarling. Said by nobodies who want to be somebodies. loud air-kisses.

To other people, this is alien territory, to me this is home. It's what I know. This is why I don't get why people say 'wow'. It's not something i thought 'when I grow up I want to be an artist' - it's just happened: because it's what I do. I can't imagine myself doing anything else other than something in the arts.

And with a career in the arts there are only a handful of guarantees:

1. There ARE no guarantees. There's no guarantee that anyone will like your work, but you carry on making it in the hope of achieving something greater than yourself, and that you will one day feel that you've accomplished something worth 'wow'

2. You will be poor. Unless you are extremely lucky, in which case you will be less poor.

3. You will never be satisfied with anything you do. Art is not something you can just shut the door on at 5:30 and go home. It follows you and worms its way into your brain, until you find yourself at 3am in the morning STILL creating. Even when you want to switch if off, you cant, because it's taken over your mind.IT controls YOU, not the other way around.

4. There are more things but i'm far too tired to think now. So i'll leave it at that.

basically the jist of this novel, is that the only 'wow' about being an artist comes from people not knowing the realities of living with a creative brain and the lack of a regular income. As soon as that mystery is revealed, it becomes less appealing.

1 comment:

Ralph Ivy said...


I dig your extended post on "wow! you're an artist." (Note i use the word "dig" to show I'm old "Beat" school cool to. - grin.) I relate to much of it. My life (70 years and counting) in the arts has been the most rewarding take on life I can imagine. No, it's not monetarily rewarding, attention is too often not given, but the compelling, continuing inquiry into life, into creating, finding one's own path in life, coming to a fork in the road and taking it (to use the old quote)...give me 70 more years of stumbling forward (and occasionally falling backward) I would go for it in a nano-second. Thank you for the comments on my blog. A few words can make one's day. You've made mine.