Linda Rae Dornan – Guest Blogger
So you are sitting in your studio, or at the kitchen table, or occupying a table at your favourite café, and you are trying to concentrate on a new art project. As a visual artist, you are probably alone, deep into your thoughts working through how you feel about the work, what you want to see happen with the work, or you are maybe contemplating different directions. You make notes, you draw, paint, sculpt, tear things apart, record on video, do what you have to do to grow this new work. If you can do this daily, you are fortunate. But most artists cannot work in their studios on a daily basis. Paying the bills and having a personal life are prerequisites for survival before entering the studio. So how do you keep making art and having faith in yourself while working, living and being in the isolation of your studio?
Our art world is market driven, and often pretentious and absurd with many changing styles. It is a competitive business in private galleries and the public gallery system, another world from the protected and formal, material and conceptual meanings of art taught in art schools. Our art work is judged by the current tastes of curators, critics, reviewers (whose careers depend upon artists) and the general public. If you are a video artist or a performance artist you accept that your work has a different market value in comparison to other art objects, and you participate or not when opportunities avail themselves. Few artists make the “big time” where you are regularly reviewed, invited into exhibitions, and able to sell your artwork. But this does not mean that a life time of art making cannot be a satisfying career path. Thanks to postmodernism’s skepticism, the belief in grand art movements is over and there is plenty of room for individual creative visions contributing to the cultural community. We all benefit.
Research opportunities if you are willing to repetitively apply for grants, exhibitions, screenings, festivals, residencies, commissions, artist residencies and anything else. This is the business of surviving as an artist nowadays, getting your name out there and showing your work. With the internet, it is easier to be informed about the global arts community. It is also easier to be overloaded and influenced with choices as we navigate information and images. Who you are defines much of what you research and create in the studio. Hold onto it and grow it in your own sweet time. Give yourself the time alone to create. In the words of writer Catherine Calvert, “Solitude is for those with an ample interior; with room to roam, well provided with supplies. And I need a day or two every so often to make the journey.” It is your interior world for a life time.
Mark Igloliorte, a Labrador painter living in Sackville, recently gave an artist’s talk at the Owens Art Gallery, where he talked about how he keeps his practice thriving by setting goals (such as two paintings a week), and having his own studio space. He also has a full time job to support his family. At a recent book reading and Q & A in Sackville, 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner, Sean Michaels, encapsulated his work process as writing every day. Even when you don’t want to and have to dredge the words up. Every studio practice is like this. You have to spend the time to grow the work, day in and day out. Don’t give up, make it part of the daily schedule of your life. Remember who you are, what your interests are, and what is necessary for your creative development. Being an artist is a lifelong vocation, mixed in with family, friends, volunteering, and other work careers and interests. Meet other artists, keep abreast of the various currents in art, be supportive of other artists, and think in the long term when looking at peoples’, and your own, art practices. It is a pleasure to watch the richness of our individual studio practices develop. The art world can make you reactive to its desires instead of you defining your own creativity. So be strong, and most of all, enjoy being creative.