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?