HAMSTERS AND ELEPHANTS : GIVING IT ALL UP PART FOUR

washingmachine smLast 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.

red-elephant-banksy-338521_800_501-600x220

BANKSYS ELEPHANT

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…

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18 responses to “HAMSTERS AND ELEPHANTS : GIVING IT ALL UP PART FOUR

  1. Hi – thanks for writing that. I enjoyed reading it.

    It’s that word ‘artist’ isn’t it? It’s got so many ‘shoulds’ stuffed inside it. I can imagine being given a commission, creating something to satisfy the commission and then being paid for it – because the intention and the purpose is clear from the outset and you’re creating something to fill a need in somebody else’s life. Like a surrogate mother.

    When you’ve created something yourself, out of inspiration, sweat and tears, I have no idea how you put a true financial price on it. There doesn’t seem to be a clear connection between art and money – is it hours worked? paint used? the price of the canvas and the brushes?
    Or an amortized version of your life?

    Sorry – I’m writing as I’m thinking. I’m sure I’m not saying anything that you haven’t mulled over yourself. All good luck with your quest.
    Elaine

    Liked by 1 person

    • And thank you for writing all that!…I’m not sure I agree with all of it but thats OK. Every artist is different and I know many who struggle with the problems you mention.

      I have often thought the word art needs redefining because of the amount of people who use it to label work that is anything but art. You have hit on something in that I think…the deconstruction of what it means to be an artist. Which I suppose has been under way for some time now…both personally and universally… though it may take some time for it to be all teased out.

      I don’t have that much trouble pricing things more that the very fact that artwork becomes a commodity,
      but of course the pricing is another problem and getting people to buy at the price!

      Those issues are smaller ones inside a structure that is a bigger problem which is larger than any single artist..that since the 20th century, since the demise of the patron and the church, for instance, as sponsors, art has been driven by the market and it is something that seems impossible to get around. It has been said that the only way to overcome this is to have a complete and total collapse of the capitalist system!

      I personally hate commissions with a passion. I can’t see the point in being an artist if you don’t get to create what you want. You might as well be in a regular job getting bossed around.

      I have found that it is virtually impossible to create the vision that another person, especially a lay person as opposed to another artworker like a director, has in their heads. And whatever you charge it won’t be enough as they will often want you to keep at it until its ‘right’. Every time someone asks me to do a commission I invariably run screaming in the other direction…

      Many thanks for the comment, it is much appreciated, its a conversation that could go on forever…

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  2. Washing machines are very noble beasts indeed, the unsung heroes of the kitchen or utility room and well worth a portrait or two. From the 20th century onwards these machines liberated a large number of people – mostly women – from a huge burden of domestic drudgery. Most of their wonderful design is on the inside rather than the outside, and there is a certain beauty to it. I just wish the drums wouldn’t break down so often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so true Mel!I was so busy looking at the pretty colours the social implications escaped me…I have in past ruminated on how anyone found the time to wash their clothes at all. Even with a washing machine I get swamped and seem to be living eternally in a jungle of drying clothes. I have been lucky with my drums…so far. But even if you keep having to replace your washing machine the glass doors make great salad bowls!

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  3. That’s a lovely thought-provoking post that resonates with me… I think some(most?) creative folk aren’t satisfied to be shackled to any one discipline. I agree too about creating “stuff” that takes up too much space and the frustration of watching it gather without serving any particular use. By the way my old washing machine door is now a dog bowl! Water – he’s not crazy about salad 😉

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    • Thanks Mizz Winkens…’most’ is probably right. I have found the more time I spend doing creative things the more ideas I get. Ah well, part and parcel of the creative life seems to involve rethinking our path on a day to day basis. At least with our creativity we get good use out of things like washing machine doors though… 🙂

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  4. The challenge is, as in any area where aptitude meets occupation, how to maintain that emotional energy & joy of doing while earning a living. Satisfying & sustaining that creative impulse without getting overly caught up in churning out product to satisfy the target audience is difficult to achieve, especially in our current society of consumerism and mass media technology.

    If the art piece makes the viewer reconsider their environment and reality – “I shall never look at my washing machine in the same way!” or “I never thought of that before” – then it is successful. 🙂

    I did a photo post on our dryer & what it produces. Hope it amuses:

    https://darkpinesphoto.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/monochrome-comes-out-in-the-wash/

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems to me its a constant balancing act alright, like walking a tightrope. It is great to make people look at things anew as well…I think I need to find a way to be more flexible in my creativity too…but it seems wrestling with these and other issues are lifelong, but maybe the constant tension between earning and maintaining the joy keeps us alive…? I LIKE your dryer! 🙂

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