Here’s the thing about money. And the lack of it.
It both inhibits and encourages risk. Risk makes for interesting work. Risk makes failure. From failure comes growth.
Take the large scale paper drawing, and my subsequent expensive paper habit: If you don’t have much money, like I don’t usually, you have to save up for it, then order it, at just over £100 a time. But then it is a precious resource, so you are careful with it. Or you don’t use it until you are SURE. Sure is a dreadful state for an artist… for me anyway… because I am also lazy and will fall into easy patterns of behaviour where the work ends up looking pretty. Skillful, yes, but pretty, and SAFE. But the thing is, when I take my nib loaded with ink to the expensive paper (300gsm Bockingford watercolour paper if you are interested) it behaves differently to when I use it on the cheaper paper. Therefore the drawings are different.
So… wind forward… the ACE grant lands in my bank account and the first thing I do is buy another load of paper. And I have the money to buy more as and when I need it. Suddenly, I don’t need to be so precious, so I start taking more risks with the ink, paint, pens and brushes, and squirts of water, and pencils too. I can experiment more freely, knowing there is more if I mess it up. Being able to take the risks has paid off.
But the converse can also be true, for me, and I have observed in other people. If you have a disposable income, you don’t enter the state of “What the hell can I do with old newspaper and charcoal and a bottle of gravy browning?” (substitute your own materials of non-choice here). The newspaper/charcoal/gravy browning scenario also allows risk. Approached from the other side, out of necessity.
The urge to create is irresistible. But it follows a cycle of boom and bust, risk and security, confidence and terror.
At the moment, I am in a position of relative (for me) wealth, a time when I can take risks, and I lurch from the confidence to just do it, to the terror of “what the fuck is this??” And a resigned “well that was £20 worth of paper down the drain!” Which is always coupled with a sense of guilt about being wasteful.*
I’ve started getting scratchier with the old nibs… and I’ve taken a bit of sandpaper to the drawing… I’m a bit of a materials and methods purist, so this does hurt a bit…
*although I have discovered that the expensive paper will take a bit of a scrub, and will dry flat on my table over a weekend, so I can actually use it for another bit of ink-based jeopardy on Monday morning!