What do (struggling) artists do all day?

Photo 14-10-2015, 09 07 39I’ve been working as a “day job” artist for almost a year now. For most people this would be a cause for celebration but for me it means one thing. I’ll have to fill in a self employed person’s housing benefit form, not only that, I will have to, for every month,  get every receipt , sort it into order and stick them in little envelopes and stick each of those little envelopes into bigger envelopes and then into a big box file, like the most rubbish set of Russian dolls ever created. Oh! And to top it off, I have to drain a printer cartridge copying every single item to make sure it doesn’t go missing. This whole process will take about a week, a whole week where I will achieve precisely nothing. Obviously, being homeless is a big no no (been there, done that see previous posts) but I won’t be pushing myself forward in any way. As someone whose primary objective is to make “art” it really is amazing how little time I actually get to make any.  Take today for example. This morning I woke up shockingly early as I was deeply concerned about someone I love and knew that there was no chance of getting back to sleep. I had started work by 7.30 a.m, a very strange little making project…

Photo 14-10-2015, 09 08 32Back in another life, many years ago, I worked in fashion amongst other things, mainly doing knitwear but other stuff along those line too. I soon became very disenchanted with it all. I can pin point the moment things changed, I can even tell you that it was at some point between the 20th and 25th of February 1999. London Fashion Week used to be a big deal, I don’t know if it is any more as I take so little notice but anyway, there I was, walking past all the cameras and journalists and… It’s really just a trade fair. People selling shit. I saw the odd celeb, the odd major player but it was all just business, like any craft fair you’ve ever been to but with bigger and posher stalls. The moment the last of the illusion  came tumbling down was when I went to the toilet and whilst pissing something struck me(and it wasn’t someone who didn’t like my outfit) It was a chemical toilet! A very fancy one mind, but a chemical toilet none the less. The creme de la creme of the fashion world had less fancy lavatories than I had at home. The whole nonsense of it all started to get to me after that, the branding, the lack of individuality. Sure there was crazy stuff, but then as now when crazy becomes the norm it becomes just as tedious and uninspired. For a while I never made a thing and then after several years, I could take all the bits I loved, the invention, the cutting, the joy of the craft and use it in a better way. I started to make one off teddy bears. Twee as this might seem, it used all that knowledge and put it in something that was totally in disposable. The true irony of high end fashion is that you put in all that skill and effort into something that, once photographed on a celeb, can never be worn again. Whereas with a bear, it will be loved, become worn, be repaired (with a bit of luck badly, as it adds to the charm) and become a touchstone to someone’s childhood. I could deal with that. What I couldn’t deal with was the time it took and the little reward I got for doing it, so I stopped. Plus my painting overtook my life. But now I have opened shop again as a special favour for an old friend. I am making as many bears as I can get out of a pair of her late mother’s trousers. There is a strange comfort to it, I feel I’m doing some good for a change. There hasn’t been enough of that in my life of late and I think the need the karmic brownie points. When it got around 10.30 and my arse was going numb from sitting too long, pinning and sewing. I wandered down the hill to the printers, leaving the house right now is a bit of a gamble as I all waiting for some extra large bear joints to come in the post and they won’t get through my lilliputian letter box, as a wasted hour trailing to the postal depot really wouldn’t help right now. I’m very aware at this point of how locked in my life becomes and I think I am writing this today as it was a particularly good / bad example. When I got to the printers, my cards had been printed but neither cut nor folded, I have discovered that there are so many subtleties to the art of printer speak and their concept of time. I couldn’t do their job or cope with the numbers of people that want their stuff done NOW and I make a point of being a minor irritant rather than a full on pain in the arse. I did have a little chuckle though, one of the most pretentious chocolate box type painters who block me from having a one man show in a gallery she was on the comitee of was trying to get something photocopied and didn’t know what size paper was up from a4… Hmmm… Yes…

So off I went for a coffee and to give the sea a damn good looking at. I have learnt that going more than a day without leaving the house is not good. Some years ago now when I was full on nuts I wouldn’t  leave the house for weeks, and even months at one particularly bad point, so it is vital to get out every day. Unfortunately today there would be too much “out” as this neccesatated another outing after lunch. I spent the hours inbetween doing bears again until the doorbell went. Now this is an extreme rarity in my world as where I live is virtually impossible to locate by any but the most persistent of people. I spent a decade living on a main road in a large house (not mine) devoid of double glazing, brick driveways, solar panels and all the other shit that door to door sales people try and sell you. Turned out it was the heating engineer for the flat upstairs. People make a big mistake by calling heating engineers plumbers, there is a massive difference between channeling water and installing and maintaining  a boiler that, if fitted wrong, could explode and take out half a street or silently poison you to death while you sleep. I come from a family of heating engineers and true “plombiers” i.e workers of lead. Knebworth house, me my brother and my dad did the roof of that. I was only fifteen at the time. Anyway, I always like chatting to “plumbers” mainly because I could so very easily have been one. My family were obsessed with me doing a job where I never got my hands dirty… Ha! Well that worked out well! But I’m always fascinated and slightly envious of this other life I may have had where I actually got paid proper money.

So I finally get home after trip number two with my new cards and took a break from sitting on my arse in front of the telly sewing bears, to sit on my arse packing greetings cards. I do love a telly job, it’s so rare now I have one. It’s all staring screen  Photoshopping stuff nowadays. So there is me, sticking an envelope inside a card, then the card inside a cellophane bag, then slipping a little bit of paper with the card’s wording in the bag, then peeling of a protective strip, pushing the air our and finally sealing the packet shut. Whilst doing this I ponder at the notion of what value an artist puts into something that he or she has produced. Signing a print makes it far more valuable but, whilst packing greetings cards, the problem that I have is not covering them with d.n.a from numerous paper cuts, pin pricks and stray eyebrow hair and eyelashes.You would have thought that cloning material for and artis would massively bump up the value, but it doesn’t work that way. I was pondering the work of the, much disliked, painter over of other people’s stuff and dauber of potato heads whose name I refuse to mention. One of his master pieces must take less time to knock out than it does for me to package a card… funny old world and a deeply unfair one. So at 9pm it’s time to down tools and start sorting out clothes and equipment for the on site painting commission that I am starting the next morning and two hours later still and I’m falling into bed.  Well that’s it! But oh wait! I am actually doing something stereotypically interesting tomorrow. Shall I tell you about that? Hmmmm….. Let’s see…. Maybe another day.

In the meantime you can purchase my d.n.a free cards here. You lucky people!


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