Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Fish out of Water!

A little while ago, an artist I’ve been in touch with through various forums and social networking sites, surprised me with a comment. She loved the way the internet provided glimpses into other artists’ lives, she said. And she was pleased that this made her feel less ‘weird’, a feeling she gets around other non-artist friends.

I can relate all too well to this ‘feeling weird’ - feeling 'different' from the people I knew. When my children were young, we lived in a very nice village in the South East of England, in ‘commuterland’ ie within commuting distance to London. I had lots of friends, made mostly through shared activities with our children, but I didn’t know one single artist.

As our children grew up and reached school age, most of the other ‘mums’ went back to work. Their jobs were often part-time, so were sometimes referred to as ‘a little job’ – mostly in some secretarial, administrative or receptionist field. I didn’t go back to my teaching job. I began a correspondence course in Interior Design.

It was fascinating and I threw myself into it wholeheartedly. I learnt technical drawing, colour theory, all about building materials etc and I wrote mammoth essays for the ‘History of Design’ module. But, even though the course was somewhat on the outer fringes of ‘arty’, I was still met with puzzled looks whenever I replied to the question, ‘What do you do?’

I felt altogether like a ‘fish out of water’!

Luckily I found my fishbowl full of water when we moved to Norwich. Not only was there an Art School in the city but the Adult Education centre had a thriving Art Department, which spawned a kind of ‘cafe society’ social life. But that aside, Norwich is the sort of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that your cleaning lady paints mandalas or the surveyor you employed for your house refurbishment dabbles in watercolours.

But then again, in places where I’ve lived since, it’s been back to the ‘feeling weird’ though it has come to matter less to me as time goes on.

It seems as if there are still remnants of the notion of ‘artists’ colonies’, where artists gathered to live together, outside of the mainstream of society, thought of by the rest of society as ‘weirdos’ because of their unconventional ways of dressing and behaving. In the fifties, my mother wouldn’t allow me to go to Art College because they were ‘full of beatniks’!

But the internet has changed all that! Once you become aware of just how many people are pursuing artistic careers, it seems as  ‘normal’ to be an artist as to be anything else.

Another factor has changed that ensures that an artist feels like a part of society as a whole, not separated off from the mainstream, either as an individual or as part of a community of artists. Nowadays, in large measure because of the internet, artists need to be business-people as well if they are going to earn a living from their art.

When ‘bricks and mortar’ galleries were the main source of sales, a lot of the business side of things could be left to the gallery to take care of.  Not any longer! We have to learn about marketing, promoting, networking, Search Engine Optimisation...all of which brings us into contact with non-artists. Although we might not necessarily enjoy this side of things, it does seem to have blurred the dividing line between ‘artists’ and ‘others’ and chances are we are feeling at least slightly less ‘weird’ than in times past!

But I still struggle to explain to friends that my 'work' as an artist/designer is NOT something I look forward to taking time off from at the end of the week; nor do I look forward to 'retiring' - quite the opposite, in fact!

Anyone else have that problem?


art2cee2 said...

Ok, first of all, when you love what you do it's not a job it's a passion. Even though I run a tack shop with my sis my real job (in my eyes) is painting. And if you think explaining being an artist is something hard for people to accept, try telling them you run a Tack shop when they know nothing about horses! Those confused looks are classic! Anyway there is a huge art community in my town and although I have lived here all my life and most of them are from other areas, they are not very accepting. They are clique-ish. I belong to several art groups and enter the shows, but most of the time no one even says hello. Guess it is just the area. Anyway I do it because I love it and I don't feel weird. Well, maybe a little have to have some oddness to feed your creativity! Have a great Day Judy, my friend.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Crystal - your piece about explaining a tack shop really made me laugh! Thank you! I should think you have some funny stories to tell!

You've also reminded me that there can be cliques amongst the art community - I discovered a couple of very 'closed circles' here when I was exhibiting my pastel paintings and although they were accepting of me, I really didn't want to be part of all that. Artists on the web seem far less prone to pretentiousness, I think?

Betsy Grant said...

To quote Kwai Chang Caine from one of my favorite old TV shows "Kung Fu" - when asked "What do you do?" He answers "I live!"

Judy Adamson said...

That's a good one, Betsy! :)

sandrarosedesigns said...

I love your sketch! You are very talented. I'm glad the internet is around, also! Make sure you post your newly scanned image on the GCU forum.
Sandra Rose

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, Sandra. :)

I'm glad you like my sketch. My 'naughty pencil' gets up to all sorts of nonsense if I'm not careful. I'll try to remember to post the next one on the forum, but it will certainly be linked to on my facebook pages.

Jayne said...

I suppose it's just as well I'm not expecting to make enough money to live on with my art, because I'm painfully reluctant to "come out" and admit to people I meet that I'm an artist. Perhaps it's because of the medium I use, digital art, as opposed to a paintbrush and oils. Even when I've participated in art shows I've been the quiet one in the corner and not the one in the middle, telling everyone about her art and inspiration.

Judy Adamson said...

I don't really think you need to worry about that nowadays, Jayne. A lot of people are completely digital in their art and a whole lot more of us wouldn't be without our editing software! I have more of a problem these days with the fact that I work in my 70s, let alone spend most of my days on one computer or another. People of my age think I'm completely mad!