Last week I posted about rockpools while this week, in the spirit of the idea that there is inspiration everywhere, I am posting a picture of my washing machine. (If you’d like more of a connecting thread then rockpools, when you think about it are natures version of a washing machine…)
The green dispenser inverted and smeared on the shiny metal, the reflected colours, lavender, green, orange, shimmering and the regular pattern of the holes in the drum caught my eye one morning and I snapped off a couple of photos from which I did the above watercolour.
As I painted I began to see more and more detail but I was also growing impatient and I realised that a slap dash watercolour approach was not suitable for the subject at all. The richness of the tones required more time and a different medium. Oil painting to be exact.
Two years ago I took apart my painting studio in frustration. I wrote about it at the time but in short I had been working as an artist in one form or another for over 25 years but with a number of shows under my belt I felt increasingly puzzled about what exactly I was doing. Not having begun to earn enough to make a living may have been a factor but I was also aware that I was reluctant to pursue that path:to paint and show and paint and show and on and on and on.
It seemed that if I gained any sort of larger success that it would impose a limitation on me. How many well-known painters do we know that keep churning out similar work?How hard it must be to break free of a regular income and the expectations of others who may become dependent on your output? Once you begin to sell your work, once people begin to want it, pressures both internal and external start exerting themselves in ways that are not always detectable, the work becomes less like ‘art’ and more like ‘the thing that you have to do to pay the bills’.
Being of a pragmatic turn of mind I began to wonder if I wouldn’t be better off selling less time-consuming goods with a better return on them. Some sort of solid gold widget perhaps?
As the paintings began to take up more and more space in my house I began to feel unhappy at producing more ‘things’ to take up space in the world and no matter how many people assured me that my work meant something to them the discomfort would not go away.
This all could be immaturity of course, an inability to buckle down and stick to a path over the course of a lifetime but if it is well my immaturity is one of things I enjoy most about myself and I am damned if I am letting it go without a struggle…
It didn’t help that the more I painted the more inspired I was to try different things and the more I felt, like large elephant trying to turn around in a small room (I always imagine Banksys elephant when I think that), that I was stuck to a particular way of creating, funneled onto a treadmill on which I would expire, like an exhausted and disillusioned hamster (albeit a very large one with a trunk) so I decided to rip painting out of my life just to see what would happen next.
The creativity did not leave me. It grew many more heads in the form of this blog and my cartoons among other things, work that can be done anywhere and which is fun and which do not take up too much physical space and which somehow does not induce long dark nights of the soul if I happen to sell them.
The curiosity about what being an artist means in the 21st century remains though and I have found myself doing a degree in visual and performing arts, something which I am enjoying immensely and which is beginning to give me food for thought about creativity and faint rumours of glimmerings of whispers of the possibility of creative resolutions with which I can live.
Maybe there is no resolution and the search is the journey (as we are reminded by the countless meme posting gurus of social media) but one thing college is teaching me is to become more comfortable with uncertainty. I suspect it is also teaching me to be less of a perfectionist about my work.
All this is to explain why I am posting a picture of a washing machine which I am unhappy with (no lectures on positive thinking please) and which does not convey the beauty of what caught my eye in the first place.
As an alternative I suggest you, my dear readers, look into your own washing machines. Maybe we can all do it at exactly the same time (or at entirely different times) and call it a Universal Art Experience.
Maybe this is the future…