So I’ve been thinking recently... a lot. Dangerous I know.
But I’ve been thinking about the act of sharing your artwork with the world. Sometimes I put things on here and often forget that people may read them, and recently a few things have happened to remind me that actually people do see this, and the impact that can have on them, especially if they are right at the beginning of their creative journey.
It made me stop and think that maybe other things should be included on here. For example, when things maybe are not going so great in my practice.
I think back to when I was at college reading about my favourite artists that seem to constantly have everything together and thinking “wow if only I could be like that”... just making, getting it right every time and being completely confident in knowing what my practice is about. I realise now they probably were not like that at all, and that actually that would be a dangerous place to sit with your work, as if you are completely happy with it and think you know exactly what you’re doing, then where is the space for development.
Since then I have found a few bits written about artists rocky patches of their practice hidden away in the corners of books and spoken about in interviews but only when asked. I'm not sure if this is because as artists we all assume that we know that there are struggles involved and so no need to mention them, or if it’s to do with the society we live in where it is standard behaviour to paint the very best version of yourself to others. Blogs often show off your most successful or finished work. They paint the picture of an artist who is confidently making work in a consistent way. However, I know that often these moments of not making work, tearing your hair out because you are talking yourself out of every idea before you have even allowed yourself to have a go at it, and sleepless nights of having conversations in your head about your work, although they feel frustrating at the time, are the most important and developmental parts of an artists practice. Yet more often than not we don't record them or allow anyone else to know about them.
Well, for any of the few people who read this, the aspiring young artists, and I suppose my future self… I’m writing this for you. I'd like you to know that I most certainly have these times. I haven't made any work for over a month. I’ve been allowing myself space to think about what is going on in my practice. I handed my work in on my last deadline at university and haven't made anything since. I had made lots of work, I was happy with how it looks and iv since had my grades back and I did really well but I just wasn't happy with it.
I have felt for a good few months now that my heart's not been in my work. I’ve been experiencing this strange sensation that the work I am making doesn't feel like mine. And I’ve only just gathered why this is. Before I started this MA, making work for me was a way of processing things that I struggled to process. Spending hours on one piece allowed me periods of time to think about situations in a calm and constructive way, without too many overwhelming emotions becoming involved. When I had finished the work, I felt a sense of relief as my whole self had been put into the piece. Although the work was about personal events it was also things that most people can relate to and I kept it ambiguous enough that people could attach their own meaning to the work. I have used making in this way for a while now. Just before my MA started something happened that was harder for me to process. So much so I couldn't allow myself to access those feelings in any calm manner at all. They would come out whenever they felt like it in angry bursts or disappear and leave me completely numb, something a lot of people can relate to I'm sure. Creating art, the one thing that would normally get me through and allow me to process things, was not helping. It was too painful to try and make work about this situation and so I just made, made, made, made, and made loads of stuff to at least keep my hands busy whilst my head was filled with other things. It was like my head and hands where separate. My hands would make loads of work and then when I'd stop and have a break I'd finally properly look at it and it wouldn't feel like it was mine. It was a really odd sensation.
In this long break from making, I’ve been to see a lot of exhibitions, done a lot of reading and research and most importantly took time to process what was going on in my personal life. Now, naturally my ideas for practical work are starting to process the remaining feelings I have around what's happened and I am feeling ready to make again. My mind and hands can come back together and I can't wait to see what happens. I have learnt you can't rush these things and you can't force things into your artwork. It will naturally happen when the time is right. I'm excited about the work I'm about to create and I feel like I own these new ideas and my heart is back in it.
I suppose I just sort of want to highlight how important these times of not making are, and instead of stressing that you’re not making work (like I have so often done), settle into it and see what happens. Everyone gets times like these, even though we sometimes hide that they are happening. Being an artist is not supposed to be a smooth process of making and exhibiting, and even though it often appears that way for a lot of artists in books and blogs and social media etc, there will be plenty of struggles involved. But if you love it, it’s all part of the crazy but wonderful parcel of being an artist. Embrace these times and see what happens :)