The Myth of the Isolated Artist

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The isolated artist is a myth. Impossible.
(If you have evidence to the contrary, do tell)

It is only by talking to other artists that you develop.
(Talking to non-artists is good too, but a different beast, to perhaps be discussed in a different post.)

I now share a studio with Sarah Goudie. Our conversations range from the ridiculous chatting with resident pigeons, to the theories and sensibilities that drive us in our various ways to make marks.
Both types of interaction are welcome. We both have a highly developed sense of the silly.
It is inspiring to delve deeper, gleaning insights from the other artist into what I might actually be doing.

Yesterday I spent the day in my studio with Dr Jacqueline Taylor (she worked bloody hard for the title so I shall use it at every opportunity). In talking to someone else about the work, I am challenged to find the right words to describe my process, my philosophy, my connections, rationale. Flimsiness and airy-fairness will not do. We are discussing a future project: we talk of process, materiality, semiotics, visual vocabulary, and searching for the possible common lexicon…
In talking like this, my work takes on a new dimension, extra layers are added to it. The things I am doing rather instinctively while on my own in that beautiful room, suddenly become clear …I know what the purpose is. I saw Jacqueline off on the train, and have spent many hours in deep thought ever since.

The evening was spent at songwriting circle. Up until very recently, ridiculously, I still looked upon my songwriting as a fanciful thing, an added-on thing. Since dismissing that, and taking on board confidently that is a very important part of my practice, I have dived in even deeper. Committing more thought and a mindfulness to that process too. Songwriting is the thing that increases my brain activity, providing opportunity for a completely different sort of intellectual process. I have often mentioned the meditative state that occurs during stitching or immersive drawing. My brain wanders off on its own, making connections previously unknown. Songwriting is nowhere near that, it is completely the opposite. In songwriting I am TOTALLY in that moment, unable to wander off and think about whether we have enough bread for tomorrow’s breakfast… There is no room for any other sort of thinking. I can listen to the piano chords played expertly by Bruford Low, and hear additional suggestions for lyrics and harmony from Nicki Kelly. When I concentrate on these chords, I can really hear, and now, after a couple of years practice, able to sing a topline over it. I hear it, and have now got the confidence to sing it, without fear of making a fool of myself. I am also pretty fast at writing the words, that scan, that pick out just the message I’m looking for.
I absolutely love it. It’s fast, and furious, when you are in the right group of people. Nearly better than sex. It is also exhausting, in that wired and buzzy adrenalin fuelled way. Monday nights leave me with a big grin on my face.

Today, I’ve had lunch with Carol Wild at BCU, discussing all manner of things… Now colleagues, she was once my MA tutor, who had the often dubious pleasure of marking my essays. She remarked on how much she enjoyed reading my blog and how much my writing had improved in the last four/five years. It suddenly occurred to me that what has happened is that the blog is even more integrated into my practice than it ever was, but that actually, very interestingly, my songwriting has had an effect on my blog…

In terms of structure, I now think that when I write the blog I have a greater awareness of rhythm. That my verses shouldn’t be too long. I should use interesting words, include metaphor. It should have humour and/or a bit of weirdness for the middle eight.

The the final verse should somehow reprise what has gone before, make connections.
The connections I have made in the last couple of days have pushed things on a bit further.
I couldn’t do that on my own, without conversation, laughter, music, reflective thought.

As the pigeons coo above me, and I contemplate what they might add to the recording of the song, I cannot help thinking how bloody lucky I am.

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