Sunday, 9 September 2012

The ballad of an artist

Today is a day that each year, traditionally, I do not lift a hand to do any work. This year marks a difference – I have spent time in the studio and I have painted. For all that it is my job, painting is also something greater. It means more to me than pretty much anything else, because it is all I have ever wanted to do.

Not that painting is some unachievable goal, some fantastically difficult to attain dream, unlike my boyhood ambition of going into outer space (blame Star Wars) which seems quite laughable now, not least in the face of my dislike of being in motion. No, painting is something that can and should be a part of my life, considering how long I have, well, longed for it to be so. Yet for a considerable time it was not a desire that I was willing to admit, for to admit such was to make a necessity of trying to make it real. Fear was then and, of course, still is a dominant force. (Is there anyone who can say otherwise?)

I had no intention when I walked into my studio this morning of spending time reminiscing, or reviewing my place in the world and yet here I am. As an abstract artist whose work relies upon self expression, events such as this are not uncommon. I'd go as far as to state that they are pretty much part of the job.

I have been calling myself an artist for some years now and I have tried to live up to that title. In many respects I believe I have succeeded, in others I know that I can and should do better. I try not to pressure myself, however I am my own boss and so there is often little choice. After all, I have quite a comfy and tempting sofa and someone needs to keep me from fully exploiting its potential. I recall a genuinely brilliant maths teacher I had at school, who was of the opinion that the best mathematicians were the laziest, for they always work to make the simplest and therefore best explanations. I am not certain that the same can be said of artists.

Today, standing in my studio, I looked at the paintings I have worked on in the past month. There are four that are mostly finished and one that I have just begun (my fingers are ingrained with pigments as I type). I realised that I am not painting 'for a reason', as was more often than not the self-imposed necessity of the past. For most of my life as an artist, I was always working for an exhibition, a gallery or a commission. Presently, I have none of those things to work towards or for. I am painting, simply, for me. This is who I am and this is what I do. Painting is not just part of my life, it is what I do. I am a painter. I do best when I remember this.

It might seem like a rather ordinary revelation, yet it is one nonetheless, at least to me. Painting is not just something I do when I need to, it is what I do and it seems there is really almost no reason that I can't do it every day.

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