In my previous blog post I told you about how my future plans were derailed by illness and I started on my art career with renewed enthusiasm. What I didn’t explain was that I had tried to go down this path around twelve years ago and failed. Perhaps failed is a rather harsh word to use. It wasn’t as simple as that. There were many external factors keeping me from reaching my full potential and I had no support or guidance from anyone. I had a lot of well-meaning people telling me to get a job that pays well, so that I can do my art ‘in my spare time’ and not rely on it to pay the bills. Sounds like sage advice, right? It makes sense to ensure that your basic needs are met before embarking on a career that is unstable, uncertain and risky…right?
Right? Really? Let’s pick that apart, shall we? First of all, lets all agree that being an artist isn’t a choice, it’s something you’re born into. It’s in our DNA and, even though sometimes we’re not physically creating something, it’s always there simmering under the surface with ideas and experiments that are waiting to be released. So, deciding to choose a job that pays well may help to afford the art materials, but may also stifle creativity and leave the artist feeling unfulfilled and lost. Perhaps that’s why so many artists I know have told me that they spent a long time ‘drifting from job to job’. I did this myself and, although some of the jobs I had were enjoyable to start, I always ended up feeling bored and as though something was missing.
I took other’s advice about doing art ‘in my spare time’. This phrase always gets me going. It’s so regimented. There are a certain number of hours in a day and a huge chunk of those are taken up by work (in the mainstream world). Those hours are no longer yours, they belong to your boss, your customers/clients, your colleagues. There’s no flexibility there and what’s left over (after sleeping, washing, eating, exercising, housework, family/friends time) is ‘spare’. Trying to create art in these random slots of spare time (ten minutes here and there, maybe an hour max at the weekend) was almost impossible. The quality of the work suffered and that time was used to create things that were easily achievable in a short space of time – so no experimenting, practising and honing skills or learning new techniques. My art suffered and so did I, until I just stopped trying anymore.
I wonder how many of you reading this have done the same?
This time around, with no pressure of having to conform to society and get a ‘proper job’ (thank you Ulcerative Colitis), I am starting to realise that the ‘unstable, uncertain and risky’ career that chose me from birth is actually what makes me feel stable, certain and safe in a currently turbulent world. Art is my therapy and self-expression; it helps me to make sense of world events and the emotions and experiences we all have. Every day is ‘spare time’ and I get to fill it with art.
Also, this time around, I have the support and guidance of the United ArtSpace (UAS) and all of the lovely artist friends I’ve made in the UAS Hub. Without them, I wouldn’t have made the difficult decision to not return to my Master’s course after getting ill and, instead, follow my heart and passion for art. Everything is now as it should be. Just for today, I am a healthy, happy artist…full time 😉