I feel as though I've come full circle, back to a place that I was many, many moons ago. Proof that time is cyclical. I suppose that sounds very esoteric, but what I mean is that I feel like I have returned to a place in my creative life that I used to occupy when I was much younger. A place of energised making and exuberant exploration in a lane that just feels right to me. My creative journey has been long and arduous. Art has always been my first love, it's like breathing to me - essential, nourishing and life affirming. But this culture we live in makes life very difficult for those of my disposition and financial demands and ideas around legitimacy have always plagued me. I have always made things intuitively and after a spate of random jobs and university stints (I have three Degrees!) I undertook a Bachelor of Fine Art at university whilst in my early thirties, thinking that it would help me legitimise my life as an artist. Unfortunately, it didn't. After my BFA I felt confused, cynical, lonely and almost completely depleted of any passion to create. I'd go through the motions of making things but I felt like all of the heart and soul had been stripped from my practice - it just felt completely joyless. Something about the four years of constant analysis, theory and critique sucked all the enthusiasm out of me. Not to mention that every exhibition opening I attended (you have to network!) filled me with an anxiety so great that I felt I would collapse - some of them are strange and awkward social events. I was gutted. I had imagined that life as an emerging artist would be bouyant, socially supportive, intellectually robust, but most of all, stimulating! Instead I felt lost, empty and anxious about it all. Oh no!
Long story short (maybe I'll go into more detail one day) I have spent the past decade redefining who I am as a creative. In hindsight I probably should have done a course in illustration or completed a series of more technically focussed short courses, rather than attending university. But I have to look for the good in those four years (there were many, I actually enjoyed my undergrad very much!) and the biggest is that at the completion of that course I knew what I didn't want to pursue. It also became clear to me that I was first and foremost a maker, secondly, a loner (I never enjoyed collaborations) and lastly, that art making is very much an emotional and spiritual experience for me - much more than it is cerebral or academic. I also learnt that I love making things that are tangible - using my hands is central to the joy I feel when making. So, in realising all of that, I found myself in my mid-thirties starting all over again! I did portrait photography for a couple of years and I loved it, but I don't really work well with others and dislike challenges to my creative impulses so that kind of faded out when I started getting serious jobs like weddings that required working with people! Haha! As that was petering out we moved to the West Coast and I started drawing again to fill in time and record the new world that I found myself in. We moved a block from the sea, I discovered the magical world below the waves, started putting what I was doing on social media, and the rest is history!
5 years later and I am still making my drawings and still sharing them via social media, but the social media landscape has changed drastically over that time. I have spent years building an audience on social media and it has been a space in which I've made many friends and creative connections. I have one of my works in an Icelandic Museum, a collaborative piece on an Indian Railway, my work on T-Shirts and merch for various environmental and conservation groups, and I have sold pieces to people all across the world - largely thanks to social media! So, you can imagine that initially I was resistant to any change in the social media landscape that would compromise my ability to communicate with my audience. But resistance is futile and the resulting changes are a drastically reduced organic reach to my audience, and a social media space that is dominated by advertising, marketing and a whole heap of content I didn't sign up to see. So after much whining I now find myself in a state of acceptance and ready to adapt to something new. And by something new, I mean something old...
I don't know if it is because of the pandemic (it probably is!) but lately I have been focussing in on ways of working that feel at once productive, but also very nourishing to me. I have pulled out my journal (it's been years since I wrote in it) and have written almost daily. It sounds silly, but this action has led to a level of clarity that I haven't felt in a long, long time. In contrast to the bite-sized chunks of disparate information that I've been producing and consuming on social media for years, I am tending to more focussed, fluent, coherent streams of ideas and elaborating on them, both in my journal and in my work. My latest 'body of work' was the first 'body' that I had produced in ages that had a consistency of style and a concrete idea surrounding it. I liked working this way. No, I loved working this way. It was just a taster, a little nibble of what my creative life can be. But this is not new, this is a way of working I used to undertake intuitively, before I sold prints in an online store, before I posted daily images on Instagram, and before university, back in a time when art-making was still a hobby for me.
So you see, I have come full circle and in returning to the beginning I see that the journey out and back again was all a part of learning to 'know' what is right for me. So, no more listening to outside voices. I trust this vessel of sinew and bone and its earth-bound intuitive instinct to create. It sounds so simple doesn't it? So simple and sensible and something that an artist should probably be aware of! I really can't believe it took me two decades to cut through all the poop and work it out. But here I am now, ready to deep dive into this space where I focus more on the material world and less on the virtual world. And if I miss the boat, that's ok with me, 'cause it is cosy here and I feel well-nourished. This space is home.