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It's complicated being artistic …

A recent piece in the magazine Frieze about the concerns contemporary artists have caught my attention, and made me wonder what preoccupies those OCA students who are striving to be better artists?
The article contends that artists’ main preoccupations are to have the space in order to do whatever comes next.  But then, what does come next?  And what’s the point? This is the cause of even greater angst. Artists are constantly weighing up their role, their ‘place’, how to make a living, how to have integrity, whether to exhibit, how to exhibit, whether its important to exhibit, whether its important to create ‘stuff’ that you know will sell, whether to spend the time on social networking sites pushing your work, and over and above all these great anxieties, to consider how much this takes you away from your family, or detaches you from others in the inevitably lonely pursuit of visual creativity.
Being a bit of a geek (maybe you are too since you have at least found your way to WeAreOCA) I love the idea of promoting my work via social networking sites: but boy it is exhausting. And then you have to keep track of what you’ve set up…. I mean, I tweet my images, and these go straight to Flickr.  They also go straight to my Facebook account, or do they?  Did I change that setting?  And then there’s my website, but I don’t like the look and feel and need to spend time improving it. And my blog? Oh I haven’t been keeping it up to date, and do I really want to be honest about all the workings through of what I do on there? Perhaps I should have two blogs and have the second as an avatar, so I can say exactly what I want.  And maybe I should have a purely commercial site too?
Does anyone else have these or other nail biting angst about their creative activities, or is it all smooth running, relaxed, integrated, and fit in like Lego with the rest of your life?

Posted by author: Jane Parry
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8 thoughts on “It's complicated being artistic …

  • YES! then add in being a mother and wife too, so you have to help everyone else with their stuff first! I recently read A Due Voci – The photography of Rita Hammond. (A woman who took up photography in her forties after raising her children) In the intro Kim Waale quoted Virginia Wolf’s attempt to explain the apparent lack of a significant women’s contribution to Western culture and civilsation.(Regarding literature particularly) Wolf surmises that ‘If women have 500 a year…and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality, and the sky too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves… then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she so often laid down’ (1957) p117-118
    We let ourselves get sidetracked by our societal roles is what I am trying to say, if we didn’t our work would organically just grow through sheer practice. As a woman I find this especially true, even in these enlightened times the burden of family and increasingly salary comes before art. I wonder how the men at OCA feel about this issue, are they just as conflicted?

  • I gave up everything except family to do my art with the OCA it’s like a drug I have to see how I can develop next and the ideas make me loose sleep.
    I know what I want but don’t know how to get there and I do need the space to create my ideas!

  • I was a single mother of four teenagers while volunteering for a newspaper on the production team and as contributor while looking for work and living on a high maintenance bush block in a highly bushfire prone region outside Melbourne, Australia. Not surprisingly, after several years of that, I crashed.
    It took that for me to find my space and peace to work. Not recommended! I live in the same home which, for six months of the year (ie leading up to, during and immediately after the bushfire season)requires hard physical work several hours a week, especially after a strong wind or storm, and packing the car like a refugee if it’s a north wind which can send a matchstick flicker into a fully-blown forest fire in one full swoop. I used to be an obsessive timetabler to try and fit everything in but you can’t fight nature.
    Which is my source of inspiration every morning when I write my journal. I notice dewdrops on the tips of pineneedles, a spider’s web caught by the sunlight and the bigger things like the colours changing at sunset and the different textures and tones of trees and bushes … I’m enrolling in textiles!
    Write, paint, draw, sew, design when the moment hits. Get up at dawn or light the candle for special hours of peace and space for our creative work which will illuminate other people’s lives for years to come. Hopefully.

  • I am struggling with setting up a Blog and wonder whether it would be better to write a Word document and put it in a folder as a blog, at least that way I have a copy on my pc, somehow these “out-there” places seem less secure, what if it all goes down? OK, so I’m a pessamist. I too have a website but I keep that as more or less commercial or for interest. Have set up a Flikr account and it links to my blog as a slide show, once I start uploading relevant pictures to my course. I don’t want it to become overloaded with irrelevant stuff. I am a mature student so issues of salary become issues of pension, which are even worse with the thought of sending Assignments and ringing a tutor etc. The thermostat is already down to frost setting and you do need to have warm fingers when you paint.

  • Its just plain hard work that drains energy from the creative process. My web site has been working well for almost two decades but last year I was talked into Facebook. So set up a profile which became fun although time consuming. Then I was informed by one of the firms I do art wrk for that I needed a face book page to attach to and show on my web site. Now I have two face book things going on and am not really sure who sees what or when or who are friends or not. Trouble is it can become a full time occupation all this technology and all I want to do is creat art and teach. So apologies to all who see my facebook accounts and note they are not always up to date. But please still sign in as a friend -I will get better at it.

  • The careful nurturing and development of what I call ( and others have called ) the ‘Artistic’ Spirit is probably the
    most ‘sure-fire’ method of introducing a balanced and consistent approach to ones lifestyle as a ‘serious’ artist – that is of course if one wants to remain ‘productive’, happy and yes
    sane, while embarking on such a journey!
    I think it was the 19th century critic Mathew Arnold in his
    influential book Anarchy and Civilistion who said above all else ‘Art is Criticism’.
    ( *Nb Arnold is not the first to argue that art is essentially a moral endeavour and that the artists duty first and foremost is to be a kind of ‘social’ conscience for their society. )
    Anyway the point I am trying to make here is that by introducing
    a sense of mission into your role, a meaningful philosopy as to what you are doing or want to achieve as an artist, you will evoke that powerful overwhelming feeling of ‘higher’ purpose that is the hallmark of all great artists and the very stuff that will ultimately drive you along the path to success in what you do.
    Combine that sense of purpose or ‘mission’ with a clear vision
    as to what kind of ideas you want to express in your work and you will begin to harnass the kind of motivation that has thru eternity lifted otherwise ordinary people to climb the worlds largets mountains or to perform some otherwise impossible act.
    – *Remember, the job of an ‘artist’ is to make powerful and interesting statements abour topics they care passionately about in an entertaing or artisic way! –
    With this kind of motiviation ( i.e. clarity of direction and intensity of the will/’intention’ ) you can go onto to achieve practically anything you want ( working around or
    indeed ‘bursting’ thru’ and percievable obstacles or hurdles yu meet on the way.
    Anyway enough proverbial wisdom for now so good luck with your artistic endeavours and remember ‘stick with it’ and never, never, ever give up ( and this is a command not a suggestion! )
    Ha! Ha! Ha!

  • If you are interested in the nitty gritty of how to live and function as an artist then Emily Speed’s blog is quite interesting. She was commissioned to write it as a piece of research on the viability of an artistic life and it is quite well written.

    • Thanks for highlighting my blog Emma. That link goes to my ‘news’ section on my website, which is really just updates on what’s going on with me, it’s pretty random content!
      I write another blog on a-n magazine’s website called ‘Getting Paid’ which attempts to tackle the difficult issue of making a living as an artist and managing it all in general.
      It is not seamless and isn’t always strictly on topic, but it’s what I can manage on top of work!
      I did just want to point out that none of my blogs are commissioned, they are just written out of a desire to start a conversation with other artists. Commissioned writings around advocating for artists can be found here:

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