So it has been about thirteen months since my last post. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge. So I think a quick update of what I have done and what I have learned is in order. Watch this space.
So you have decided that it is time. You are going to follow a creative's path. What next?
Well you are going to have to be organised and disciplined. You may have to learn a few new skills. I don't pretend that I know exactly what I am talking about here. I am not talking about a subject with which I have experience. My sister was an artist and I had many discussions with her about goals, being commercial and picking material. Sadly she died, nearly ten years ago now, so I was never able to see her achieve her potential. She made ends meet by working part time at the Roundhouse Gallery in Sennen Cove. This was my first close introduction to galleries and their workings. I have been taking courses with some very accomplished local artists who are also excellent teachers. In fact, this is one way to make a decent living from art, combine it with being an educator. Pass on your experience and skills.
It is New Year and I am absolutely refusing to set any resolutions. This makes things sound like tablets of stone. You need to experience and learn from that experience. There will be elements of experiment and trial and error along the way.
How do I propose to move forward? Well, I really need more time to de-stress and to get myself on an even keel. I need to be rested and comfortable with my judgement again. I have not had the luxury of being on a level playing field for years and this has seriously upset the view I have of myself and of others. For me, this stage is essential.
Then I need to plan the year ahead. I will be starting fairly tentatively.. I only recently took up painting and drawing after a gap of more than 30 years. I am still building my confidence and relearning long dormant skills. I am also looking for my own "voice".
This idea of voice or style is something that jumps out when looking at established artist's work. They tend to specialise subject matter, say landscape, and often in one medium. This has the obvious advantage that you can establish a clear, identifiable presence in the market. You have a trademark style. It also has the advantage that the more of a single type of subject you do, then the better you get at it. This has got to improve your chances in the market.
So you need to start several threads. Build your skills and confidence, plan how you will market and set some goals. Underpinning this will be your new found organisational skills and discipline.
So when I do feel my batteries have recharged then I will be producing what I have been focussing on the last two years. Mainly botanical art. I love flowers. I am still trying to master water colour. This is a tricky medium. There are certain techniques you need to master. Opportunity for correction is limited. Botanical art is very exact and demanding and I like it because of the precision and detail required. I feel if I can at least become reasonably accomplished with this, then I can try more loose compositions.
Choosing media can be interesting. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. A few artists have matched the media with the subject matter perfectly. I attend workshops with an artist who uses acrylic to brilliant effect, painting wildlife. The acrylic finish is great for getting a believable fur effect and how she applies the paint gives real life and colour to the subject. Another artist, based in NYC, uses pastel to recreate giant images of the Antarctic. I think it is another perfect match of media and subject. So pick one or two media and stick with them until you know you have to drop it, or you are hooked.
Keep working. Every day.
How will you sell your output? This needs a bit of thought. You need to have an idea of the direction you want to head. You will need a plan. I have been loaned a copy of "A Professional Artist's viable Practice based on hands-on experience" by Harley and Cally Miller. They give a detailed, professional view, of how you can earn money through your art. I recommend you try and get hold of a copy.
It gives advice on assessing where you might fit best. Then describes and analyses six distinct paths to becoming your own professional art business.
I read on an artists blog somewhere that roughly half their time is spent in production and half is in promotion. This is probably a good rule of thumb when you are up and running. First though, I must work at finding my style. I also need to build up a portfolio which will provide enough content to open a shop.
I will then test my output on a small scale with local fairs and an on-line shop. If no-one is interested, then I expect I will find out soon enough and have to rethink.
I need to develop my photo editing and printing skills, or find a reasonable printer during this period. I need to do research on the market. Look at material on line. Go round local galleries and have a chat with them about what they do, and what they offer. I must keep up the courses I have been attending. Maybe add one or two more. It is good to interact with others, and you can always learn something new, from the teacher or fellow students.
I came across this web page recently. It will be my starting point for an online presence.
This blog and an etsy shop selling cards and prints will be my start position. And when I have them, a few originals. I want to add photos, too, but this might be a bridge too far.
Another idea is selling different material through different outlets. Some, like etsy, seem more like a market place. This will lower price expectation. Something you don't want if you wish become a commissioned artist. So it might be better to sell originals through a more specialised outlet. Similarly with photographs, although I am probably delusional about my ability in this area. Still it is good to dream. Rochdale AFC may win the European Cup one day.
And if all this isn't enough, I need to organise my web site with all of the supporting paraphenalia that goes with it.
So I can't sit here typing. I have to get some rest. See you on the other side.
Where to start? Let's kick off by wishing everyone a year that you can feel satisfied that you took part. Probably as good as it will get, with Article 50, Scottish reactions, terror threats and Donald Trump waiting in the wings.
So here is my first post of the year. I would like this to be a journal of my creative adventure. So I will be recording thought processes, what works and what doesn't and any tips and techniques that I pick up along the way.
I mentioned JFDI in yesterday's post. This is something that has been around for a long time. It is a side-swipe at the many software development processes which are usually known by their acronyms. Like SSADM (Structured Systems Analysis and Design Method) which is a weighty process and generated reams of documentation. But by using this term, I am making the point that if you wish to be creative then you need to get on with it. Stop thinking about it. Stop putting it off for reasons which are just excuses. Accept you will find problems you don't expect, but be prepared to deal with them. Accept your life will be different. Not as much free time, maybe. Quite probably not as much money. Progress will not be a quantum leap (unless you are phenomenally good, or lucky). Uncertainty will be a way of life.
These are all issues and obstacles, real and imaginary, that have affected me for decades. It is only because I have now reached a point in my life where I feel I have no choice but to make this leap. I hope this does not sound too desperate. I was planning to spend a lot of time being creative, but starting in maybe a few years time. But the events of last year, both at work and in the world, have told me to do it now. Later often becomes never.
So, you need to make a decision and a commitment. If you feel the need to make the leap then you might find The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron helpful. I am not a big fan of self help books - and this book does talk a lot about Spirituality and God - you might find it helpful to substitute The Force instead. But she makes a lot of sense. She also talks from experience. Even if you don't do the exercises you may encounter stories that echo and explain your experiences.
If you are up for it then let's get started.....
Will be next year's mantra.
I am partial to Robert A Heinlein's 5 rules of writing. One of my writing heroes.
Put simply, get on with it, and stay focussed. This applies to pretty much any creative process. Writing, painting, software. You produce, make a few mistakes, fix them, learn, and move on
Going to have to work on a thick skin and learn to accept rejection.
Also need to cultivate the mindset that it is the journey which is important, You do not get an instant result. It is a marathon and not a sprint. As someone who used to do the sprint events and hated running more than 200m this could be a little tricky.
I have had a curiosity about how things work and a passion for creating stuff as long as I can remember. This led to a somewhat varied career. I remain a proud Engineer. I use the term in what I consider the truest sense. I love making things, fixing things and making stuff work better. I like solving difficult problems.
I was very upset at the time we had to choose A-Levels because I was not allowed to mix Maths and Physics with Art and English. These subjects gave me a lot of pleasure and still do.
I spent the years after my Engineering degree trying to keep my many interests going. Night school improved my French and German. Weekends I worked on my writing, drawing and painting. I even found time to design and build my own computer, to play war games. I got my MSc in Computer Science. Part time. And started to line up a PhD. It would also have been part time.
Then life took over.
I am now a lot nearer to incontinence pads than nappies. I recently rediscovered a reservoir of creative juice. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I worked as a Consulting Engineer for a few years after graduation, but I soon got bored. You just can't be creative enough in many Engineering jobs. So I switched to software. This too, has run it's course, for reasons which will become clear.
So why am I making such a dramatic career switch, do I hear you ask? Good question. At my vintage, career is not in the vocabulary. I really just want to do work that keeps me interested and motivated and happy and that will be appreciated and valued. This is just not going to happen. And it is coupled with an environment which is both hostile and unhealthy. I have had it with bosses. One really good one in 40+ years is not a great record.
And I have to do something that will not get me stressed, because really bad things happen to me when I am stressed. I am genuinely fearful that I will have a stroke or heart attack.
Reviving my art was going to be a long term thing that I could build up as a hobby. Something I could do when I am no longer able get up at 6am to commute. But I have spent the last 5 years with at least one boss who has actively and relentlessly interfered with my work environment. His lowest act was to install someone to sit next to me for several weeks, This person was his willing mouthpiece and a monitor. He manufactured leading conversations and then reported on me. While pretending to be mates. LinkedIn was the topic when I cut myself off from it because of targetted interference with my account. Another shameful period of interest attempted to discover if I had ever been diagnosed with a certifiable mental illness. Sick bastards.
There are numerous examples of manipulation and interference over the years. And many others have joined in. One, very obvious, tactic has been to get everyone to behave like they are my best mate. Like I can't tell it is artifical behaviour. This has made me a centre of attention, something that a devout introvert like myself totally hates. (And you probably don't actually understand what being introvert means, you just think you do.) It puts me in a position where I cannot trust, or believe, anyone. Not even my own judgement. It has really messed with my willingness to form normal relationships. And that makes me look odd. It also affected my ability, and willingness, to perform at work. This has given a false impression of me and what I am capable of.
The main, everyday, consequence of this treatment, has meant it has been open season on me. Getting people to be nice, and telling them things that should not have been discussed, makes me look pathetic. And folk being what are, they think they scent the blood of easy prey. Many believe they can do what they want. Like talk about me within earshot, as if I am not there, but clearly taking the piss. Sometimes openly taking the piss. Exaggerated "friendly" behaviour that is, quite frankly, ridiculous, but pretty aggressive. Attacks, and interference, on blogs and web sites. Multiple abuses of my email address by different people at different times for different reasons. Multiple abuses of my mobile and household phone numbers also by different people at different times for different reasons. To the point that I had to change my mobile phone. And renew my internet presence. Did I mention the passive-aggessive behaviour? And being watched? The list just goes on and on.
Messing about with my personal relationships is bad enough, but the same interfering and controlling behaviour has been governing my work content. Like the entire development team I was in taking themselves off to a 3-day development conference without including me. A clear message, if ever I saw one. Me getting shunted from pillar to post and being told by my boss that he has no control and can't make any promises, when it is clear that this is a lie. I have now spent years having my chain pulled. It is pretty obvious there have been machinations going on, which quite possibly, cannot be undone. Once you start with the bullshit and the lies it is hard to backtrack
I don't know what you can call it, but it certainly isn't management. Management is about creating an environment in which people can deliver their best. It is not about manipulating people or situations. You should be honest and open and build trust and understanding. You don't get others to do your job. You don't make assumptions. You don't decide you know what's best if you are ignorant. If you want to know something about an individual then you talk to them yourself. You should make an effort to understand individuals. If you never talk to them you will never understand them and you will struggle to get the best out of them. You have to get people on side before you start messing with them. If you don't listen you will never begin to understand. The bigger the company the more the whisper effect comes into play. In these situations a lot of people get information second hand. Opinion, rumour, gossip take the place of facts. It is open to abuse. You have someone who doesn't like you and it is likely you will be tarred and feathered.
It continues relentlessly. A significant incident happened as recent as about a month or so back. This individual, with whom I have never previously had a conversation, was pretending to be my best mate. And making a big deal of being buddy senior citizens. But he was obviously phishing, under orders. Trying to find out my pension and retirement plans. Whatever happened to the art of conversation?
I feel deeply uncomfortable and get very stressed about this kind of behaviour. It produces physical pain and anxiety attacks. Both reactions are legacies from my time at the Employer from Hell. There have been two major stress related incidents in the past month. On the first I had to have a week off ill because the pain was so bad. During the second one I was told it is my fault this happens. I am too sensitive, apparently. Empathy. Boy, I don't know.
Enough is enough.
So here I am. Welcome to my new career. Starting with art, something I have a better start with than writing. But I do want to write, too. I love the escapism that both activities provide. And the pleasure and satisfaction of creating something new. No doubt this time next year the turkey will have to be substituted by a dripping butty. But hey, musn't grumble. Besides, I like dripping butties.
Help and advice is appreciated. Especially advice from practising artists. I wish my little sister was still alive to tell me how she did it. She was a printmaker, photographer and painter based in Polgigga and Sennen Cove, her final resting place.
Anyway, musn't grumble....best get weaving. 2017 beckons.
Curious. Huge fan of the natural world. Ex-Consulting Engineer. Ex-Software Engineer. Budding Artist. Amateur Photographer. Asipring. Writer.