Artists eh? Funny little creatures. Well some are. Some really aren’t. Anyway I was thinking about being an artist and I thought I would share some musings.
I have no idea why I’m an artist. I don’t know whether it’s a compulsion, a habit or a passion. All I know is that I am more who I am when I’m painting or drawing, when I’m making marks or thinking about marks.
When I approach each new work, in some ways I don’t have any set thing in mind. I just kind of know I want to get to work on it. I might know I want to work with inks, or paint, or pens. Then, when I’m sat with the paper, canvas, the inks, brushes or pens, I take a bit of time. It’s almost like a sort of meditation. I take a breath, I think about the marks I want to make, and then I start.
For me, I want a sense of finding some sort of peace in this chaos, or beauty out of chaos. It has to feel harmonious but have a real sense of visceral life. A lot of that is established in the first layer of black. If that’s wrong, it won’t work.
I’m also very conscious of colour and colour density, and of what remains still against the eruption of other shapes and lines. The pieces are all very spontaneous, and yet in some ways not, too. Ink needs to dry before you add colour. One colour needs to dry before you add another.
Of course, all the colours have connotations. A deep, vibrant red. A grey. A green. A strong, clear blue. There’s a multitude of stories associated them. You can say so much in what tone of grey you use and how it’s placed against something as visceral and solid as a black or a red.
If you put a red and a yellow together, you may suddenly feel more hopeful or invigorated. Putting orangey pinks, blues and yellows together can feel joyous. Some colours give a sense of opulence. But then I might add colours that relate to mid-century design and the London housing estates I’ve lived in or buildings I’ve worked in. Colour and form can be incredibly autobiographical. There’s a whole psychology of colour.
I have no idea what people see when they see my work, or what they think about it. I’m not in control of it and I’ve no desire to be in control of it. That’s not up to me. It’s none of my business. I wouldn’t be so grand as to think I make any particular kind of impression.
That’s why I can’t really offer any practical advice for fellow artists. And there is no real reason for me to make the work I do. There is no practical reason for anybody to make art. But when I see other people’s work that excites me, it gets my brain going. I get all itchy. And so regardless of whether people like my work or what their reaction is, it’s that as an artist, and as a community of artists around the world – musicians or visual artists or dancers or writers – we are a network of people that provide a kind of alternative universe, or a reflection, or an opposition. Our function is to unsettle, to reward, to excite, to question, to spark. And if I’m part of that, then that’s cool with me.