The Unknown Matisse
I have recently received a message from a fellow artist and friend that mirrored my experience. He has been working away, hour after hour, in his studio. He seems to be producing quite a lot but is struggling to find exhibitions and other opportunities to show the outcome of his many hours of studio time. I sometimes feel like all the hours I put in to creating my products for Gee How Quaint or the hours I put in to my small print and textile creations are just a monumental waste of time. (I only feel this way when sales are lagging and I’m in slump).
When I get to the point of frustration and feeling low, I recall three quotes that have carried me out from the abyss (because sometimes it does feel dark, cold and lonely if you let the negativity envelop you).
Here my quotes of survival:
Said Matisse to fellow artist Manguin “A slowing down in sales or even a full stop doesn’t mean all is lost. On the contrary, if you lose your nerve and stop working, you justify your detractors and compromise your own future…. All you have to do is work. If you’re in trouble, it’s through work that you will get out of it. If you know clearly where you’re going, if your ideas are solidly based, it’s through work that you will make them succeed. Forget everything except what I say in these last two lines, and don’t hold the rest against me. It’s the advice of a true friend.’
George Bernard Shaw “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
Mother Theresa “Let’s do something beautiful for God today.”
This is what I know about my grandfather’s grandfather. He was a handsome man. And he was tall. I have located him on the family photograph with dozens of solemn faces staring back at me. They are lined up in three rows (bottom, middle, back) with the family farm house looking a bit sheepish in the background. I am sure on certain occasions, that house contained all those people. Running children, kitchen full of women, men…er…sitting? Pipe smoking? Their weather warn faces creased furiously around the eyes due to squinting constantly against the blazing sun. I am thankful I was born during the time of tractors and air conditioning. To be honest, I am thankful I am not a farm wife circa 1880. Or even a farm wife circa 2010 as I am not very fond of rattle snakes and I don’t like dirt swirling around my face. Let’s face it. I’m a bit of a priss and I have come to terms with this very obvious fact.
Today, with pencils and papers at the ready, I had a delightful session of mind mapping. I drew out the squares to be filled, doodled, scribbled notes, crossed off the bad ideas and listed potential good ones. I now have it tacked to the middle magnetic board on the wall of my studio and am happy with the results. Incidentally, the left magnetic board is for potential exhibitions and booked exhibitions (with work to be supplied). The middle board is for the sole purpose of keeping me organised for the art tour. The board on the right is full of clippings, cuttings and photographs of artwork I find visually stimulating as well as exhibitions I have visited and loved.
I am very excited about this week. It has started off rather well.
a great day out
For those of you that a familiar with Edinburgh, you will know that the above photograph is not The Meadows. It was taken on a splendid sunny day at the foot of Edinburgh castle. Today I didn’t take my camera with me to The Meadows and don’t feel like using someone else’s photo.
By 11am this morning I was feeling very much like I needed to take a break. I have been poring over funding applications for months now and today was the day that I just needed to step away from the computer. I so desperately just want to get on with creating the large works for this tour, but still need to tweak a few applications before I can really throw myself into the exciting part. The sun was shining and although it was bitingly cold, I donned my coat, hat and gloves, grabbed my sketch book and ventured out.
It was great medicine for the soul. The trees are budding and the light seems to cast a golden glow over everything. With coffee in hand, or more accurately, with coffee teetering on the arm rest of my bench, I sketched Arthur’s Seat and the buildings surrounding the large park. As I sat there, a group of school kids crowded into the space infront of me and attempted to play a game of football. It was rather funny. One kid shouted out that he didn’t know how to play football and that he didn’t really like it anyway. Oh dear. What will this do to the poor kid’s popularity now? I wanted to shout back to him ‘I hate football, too!’ but that would have just made me look like a mad lady, sitting on a park bench, clutching her sketch book in her shaking hand. Because I tell you…it was really cold today.
…so there I was driving my car in for its annual M.O.T. (oh yes, normal life carries on and on and on)… imagining the final outcome of this project. I imagined the pieces hanging in a row, picking up on a story hundreds and hundreds of years after the begining and leading to the viewer to the abrupt ending. How would I pick up, in mid-sentence, the continuation of the family story.
For months now I have been envisioning the final project and all the different possibilities of images, figures, even the lay of the line. I have wondered which figures and places should be honoured with the large statement sheets and which would be reduced to a mere 12″ x 18″ of fabric.
…after dropping off my car I came home, picked up the paintbrush and continued painting my hallway…will possibly make a bacon sandwich for lunch…maybe take in a movie…read a book this evening…then go to bed.
Edinburgh Printmakers Studio
When planning for this art tour, it became apparent to me that I would not be able to create all of the artworks in my home studio. It’s a matter of size. My space is far too small for the large works. I also lack the personal finance to buy in those big printmaking machines and all the fancy accessories that come with them. This wasn’t offputting in the slightest as I have found being an artist is largely about problem solving. I want to do ‘A’ and now for the plan. To be honest, I have become quite risky (but in a calculated kind of way) and have put myself forward for various projects, not knowing exactly how I am going to make them happen. But I guess I know myself enough to know what I am capable of, to know that I am hard working and to know that I make stuff happen. Gee How Quaint and the Newcastle Craft Mafia are just two recent examples of this.
The Edinburgh Printmakers Studio (www.edinburgh-printmakers.co.uk) is just the space I need. I have booked myself in for some 1 to 1 tuition to learn their system, how to use their space and a refresher on Digital Screen printing. I have my own small device at home, but I need to use their large exposure units, machine, etc for projects bigger than a tea towel.
Although the research for this project has been both interesting and an exciting adventure, I just cannot wait to get my hands dirty and ink covered, to make some mistakes, to learn from them, and to become better. In my not-so-humble opinion, I do feel that this project is dynamic. In my head it looks amazing. Now to make amazing happen in a tangible product.
It has only just occurred to me that in all of this blogging about the art tour, I haven’t actually talked about my current work, how I work, what I make, etc, etc. The thing is, I am so encompassed in it I hardly take any notice. I open the door to my studio space at 9am and keep working until 4pm (to take the dog on her afternoon walkies, of course) return, then work until 6pm. Depending on how much into the zone I am, I may even carry on into the evening. Unfortunately, attaining the zone is not always possible and on those days, I venture out for inspiration and change of scenery.
Yesterday I put the finishing touches on an artwork for my ‘I could be anywhere’ series. Today I plan to carry on with detailed work on prints of tenement buildings I printed yesterday using my Gocco printer. These small pieces I intend to take to a local art gallery in Edinburgh for possible display. There are a couple events I need to start creating work for, besides preparing the large pieces for the art tour. I have been accepted into the START cultural festival in London as one of the featured artists on July 10th. The Itch Gallery in Leicestershire has also requested 5 artworks for their new gallery space. I am also considering putting my work forward for another London show and must get the pieces to the organisers by the 2nd of May. And then of course there is my work for my online accessories shop, Gee How Quaint found at http://www.geehowquaint.com.
With all of this work to be done, I find it necessary to listen to music that helps me get into the mindset of creating, getting me to the zone where I can block everything else out and get done what needs getting done.
My current play list for this:
Grizzly Bear (the remixes)
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (can elevate any mood)
Now that the funding applications and sponsorship letters have been posted, it is finally time to plan, sketch and make decisions about the end product. I can’t be too organic here as the whole piece needs to work together and not feel like several bits of random things thrown together. So, the plan.
But the thing is, as I sit here and plan and stare at the blank page in my sketch book, my brain starts ticking over other thoughts that are of a different nature.
I have stated in a previous post the reasons for the Heritage and Generations art tour to have its final stop in Newcastle’s Centre for Life Bioscience Centre, instead of moving it on to Edinburgh, my current city. I wonder what the women going in to the fertility centre will think when they see the exhibit. Or read the explanation. When going through my own treatments, how would I have responded to the work from an artist who had gone through the same battle and did not win in the end. Would I want to face that possible reality for myself? What am I doing to these poor hopeful families with my visual and written statements that explicitly show that IVF does not work for everyone and that there is life after that kind of failure. It doesn’t all just end because you can’t have kids. It is the place where I realised that my dreams of continuing the family ended. Abruptly. It’s like having somebody slap you hard on the back, the quickness of the hope being expelled from you. Just like that.
So, here’s the empty page in front of me. And now I am thinking about my recent conversations with friends. One of them has been sending texts and emails regarding her fear that she MAY NOT ever have children because she is in her mid 30’s and is dating someone that is not ready for kids just yet. Trust me, there is a huge chasm between thinking and knowing. Another friend, 2 months pregnant, is asking me when I think she will start to feel the baby kick. It is taking quite a lot of will power to not blurt out something like ‘Why the fuck are you asking me this?!’ A cousin has recently given birth to a baby boy. And of course it was up to me to buy their present, get the card, write something nice and pretend my heart is not aching as I do it.
And the paper infront of me…still empty. Perhaps I should just start scribbling all over it to at least cover over the blankness. But instead, my gaze drifts over to my bookshelves. Among my research books, I can see my copy of ‘The Adopter’s Handbook.’