Narrowing it down

Yesterday I attended a workshop run by artist Julian Sutherland-Beatson called New Year Resolutions for Artists: Developing a Strategy for your Future.

I now have a plan.

I’d made a good start already this week by having a good clear out of work (prompted by finding a large quantity of framed work stored in our loft had gone mouldy) and being ruthless in letting go of work I either no longer like or will never complete – I chucked very little in the recycling bin, most of it I chopped into pieces to be reinvented. But yesterday morning I woke up to sun streaming through the window, cats curled up on the bed, a cheque clearing into the bank for a picture sale and a lovely warm and contented feeling so I then found it difficult to think of a 5 year goal other keeping the status quo. Nice but not conducive to  furthering and developing my career !

lockSo our long term plan to retire onto a canal boat become part of my goal – living on the canal boat BEFORE we retire so we are both working at what we love to earn our living. The challenge is to be specific – it’s a red canal boat, of course, moored under a willow tree and as we have realised that our lives will not compact into a narrow boat, the mooring will need to be next to storage space.  This storage space will also need to incorporate my art studio and Jim’s music practice room – why not an exhibition space and performance area for music and drama? This can generate an income on top of our earnings from art sales and gigs. I love to teach so the studio space can be adjacent to a class and workshop, other artists can hire it to run their own classes. Location is important – if it’s an arts centre it will need to be accessible so not just beside a canal but fairly close to a road and in an arty area, preferably wealthy. I’m currently thinking heading west but that’s open to negotiation as there are limited stretches of navigable waterways.

Funding the start of this idyllic life will be … fun – short term actions range from getting a heater on a timer for my current little damp and cold studio and sticking to specific schedules every week, to spreading the net far wider for my art demonstrations and commissions and selling more work online. There’s lots more but right now my schedule says I need to be sorting the storage of my work.

illustration by Andy Willard

(I started the day by ‘eating the frog’ – getting the worst job of the day out of the way first: today’s frog was emptying the cat litter and hoovering the living room)

Now, to continue (lots of work now safely stored on shelving in the warm and dry) – one of the exercises was to identify our strengths and weaknesses in our current art practice. One of my weaknesses (lack of commitment to a particular style or medium) is something I am going to make use of as a strength (versatility and willingness to experiment) by widening my scope of commissions and the demonstrations I give and classes I teach. I LOVE to give demonstrations, as I have mentioned here before. Standing in front of an audience for 2 hours, painting a picture and talking about what I am doing is a real buzz, especially when people are coming up to me in the interval and at the end with questions I can actually answer! This links with my love of being in amdram, meaning I can quite happily keep on chatting away to an audience for 2 hours.

A more serious weakness is my tendency to rush pieces when I am tying to complete a body of work for an exhibition. This is usually the result of too much faffing about at the start as I experiment with mediums. Although spontaneity and flow sometimes is the result of the final rush, sometimes I do end up hanging something I’m not completely happy with just to have the correct number of works and I’ll change medium or style half way through.

Conclusion 1 –  I will focus my varied work on classes, commissions and demonstrations. I will commit to a single medium and style for each body of work I create for exhibition and carefully (and realistically!) plan my working time taking into account the experimental stage.


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