Being an artist is messy. Hell, being human is messy. And this year, my Year of Self-Realisation 1, I am embracing this messiness in all its rich, dirty, chaotic beauty. It is going to mean challenges and changes. And it is about time.
I have mentioned my challenge of having an arts practice and a day job (or two). I know I am not alone in maintaining this taught juggling act.
For me, the tension heightens when my day job is one of self-employment.
When employed by MegaCorp, the people you work with know you as the artist who happens to work at MegaCorp. If you are self-employed in another creative field, graphic design, for example, an identity crisis of sorts may (but not necessarily) be imminent.
I exaggerate for effect, but it is a real dilemma for artists I know.
Should I run two distinct businesses and wear different hats? Do I have one Instagram account for my art and one for my design? Do I try and bring two contrasting things together.
Being self-employed means always having to be looking for the next job. It’s tiring. And I acknowledge it is my own choices that have led me here, so please don’t think I’m complaining. Right now, I’m looking at what other options I have.
This balance, some people appear to manage this. Kerry Ann Lee is one. I also admire the way Sian Torrington is managing her practice and career. Over the last few years, I’ve seen it change, become more professional, more focussed. I know how hard she works.
Other people I’m looking at are Marti Guixe and Frank Chimero. Both designers come across as having a solid sense of who they are.
Marti Guixe is an interesting ideas-based designer doing experimental commercial work. (I enjoy the old school style of his website. Plain HTML. Clunky, not giving two shits and unfortunately not mobile-friendly.)
Designer Frank Chimero comes across as someone who knows himself, who enjoys his work. He thinks, reads, and is articulate.
Of course, this isn’t to say there’s an ocean of doubt behind the scenes. But, despite, or perhaps because of this, they crack on.
I want to bring together all the various aspects of my professional practice, the skills and experience I have (art, design, critical thinking, design thinking, problem-solving, being savvy, talking with people, asking questions, listening, and more).
It may be unrealistic, unwise and impossible. But I figure it’s worth trying. It may be I go all-in on being an artist. My gut says there’s a perspective shift needed on my part, an adjustment of how I see myself. Such a fundamental shift will bring changes in how I operate.
I’m tired of wearing different hats, of having separate identities. Rather than be an artist, or a designer, what if I’m a person who makes, creates, thinks, draws, paints, builds, listens, reflects, probes, provokes, and adds immense value?
Why do this publicly?
While I could do this hidden from the public eye, I’m drawing back the curtain. It’s probably going to be messy, there will be mistakes, and I hope, lessons learnt.
In sharing my process, I hope to help others who are in a similar situation. I don’t have all the answers. I hope you find this process engaging, that it increases deepens your relationship with me, my work and whatever I end up doing. It also helps keep me accountable.
While I don’t see myself not making art, I am open to transforming how, what, and why I create.
This is an experiment
For me, this is an experiment, an experiment in self-realisation. It’s part of my ongoing attempt to “fill my skin”. To make my work like I don’t give a fuck (because I really do give a fuck). This experiment may fail spectacularly. I may risk damaging any reputation I have built, risk losing and confusing people. And while I’m uneasy with that, I’m ok with it. I know this work isn’t for everyone and, I know you, my audience, my supporters are intelligent people.
The artists’ artist
I was talking with a friend last night about Guston being an artist’s artist. It is something I wanted to be. Want to be. When peers recognise the work you do, it is something special. Other practitioners understand the efforts made, risks taken, the price paid. They know why you are doing it. That kind of recognition – it rocks. It fucking rocks.
I want to be an artists artist. And I want to find a way to bring my various skills and experience together, to work with fascinating people on exciting and valuable projects. I want financial and emotional rewards. I want to contribute to society. I want to be challenged, to be on point, to be learning and to be open-hearted. Engaged.
And who knows, maybe I realise I do need two or three hats. Or perhaps I will create something new.
How this may manifest
More writing. Reading, feeling, questioning, meditating. A possible blowing up of my website, or at least a temporary reworking. The creation of a LinkedIn profile. Who knows. It is an experiment and is probably going to be messy for a while. Be in flux, like my painting. While this could all be self-indulgent twaddle, I feel it needs to happen. I trust my gut. Something is going to shift.
If this resonates in any way, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The notion of having a theme for my year, a focus and guiding North Star. ↩