I stepped onto a rock that felt secure…

After my last post about the frantic activity of bid writing, things have turned around a little…

For some reason I always forget what it feels like, The Slump. I know it is coming and I predict it. But somehow I forget those nuances. It isn’t just that I don’t have the focus of the project, or that I don’t have Things To Do, it’s something to do with the work itself, and how I feel about it.

Over the last week I have been playing and experimenting with different paper, different colours and different marks even, but I don’t like any of it. I had forgotten this. The door has closed on Drawing Songs, I feel that was successful, and I’m proud of the work I did and how it was received. But despite having a list of ideas to work through, I had forgotten that this period of experimentation will feel rudderless, pointless, and that I won’t like anything I make.

It is impossible to feel successful and proud continuously. Part of me feels like I should push forward with bravado, and professional confidence, the job has been well done, so here I am… but that isn’t how it feels. There isn’t some smooth even-stepped art career ladder that starts at 22 and gradually climbs. Maybe for some it is. But for this 60 year old woman that feels like she’s only just started, the terrain is rugged. I stepped onto a rock that feels secure, but to move on from here? I’m not even talking about UP (whatever that means) just to move ON…

Over the last few weeks I have been talking to other mature artists (by which I mean over 50) and we all have a sense of weariness sometimes. I stare at the up-and-coming with a sense of scepticism and cynicism and wishing I had their energy, a little bit of that attitude. We are here though, still at it, because we are still at it. With this tenacity, determination and yes, bloody-mindedness, comes that world-weary sigh.

I am actually quite good at telling others to keep at it, that I think they’re great, their work is terrific – because it is! The artists I am talking about have made work that really means something to them and to me. It comes from a real place, their heart and their real lives, not some pretentious art-life. 

But I’m not very good at telling myself. It’s not a thing that’s easy to do once the slump has hit. Although I do have some tools. When people write to me, or send messages saying they liked something I made, I keep it. So that when I have trouble telling myself I can do this work, I can read those words and start to build again, post-project, mid-slump.

I also wondered if I should write this? Because there’s nothing less attractive than self-pity. Especially from someone like me who has had good fortune. Nothing more boring to listen to than moaning. But… this is real life as an artist. It is the only work I can do that makes me happy. Without it I would quickly go down.

I’m not sure it is self-pity really. Perhaps a self-awareness. This too shall pass. In amongst all the crappy work I will do over the next few months, will be little nuggets of loveliness I can build on. I am ever optimistic!

I suppose I write because it is my truth. I have just completed an Arts Council funded project to a great level of personal satisfaction. That’s true. It’s also true that it took me about seven attempts to get it funded.  And now it’s true that I feel that all the work spread out on my studio floor is rubbish. I’ve got out of the habit, over the last 18 months, of knowing this is mostly how it is. Hopefully the tenacity that kept me re-applying for the funding will stand me in good stead and I’ll keep playing, producing crap, until at some point, it’s not.

3 thoughts on “I stepped onto a rock that felt secure…

  1. Moira McNulty says:

    I admire your openness here E.
    Your work is consistently good so I’m surprised you ever feel unsure about your work. I’m not one to heap praise on people but I’ve always thought how talented you are. This slump will pass soon.x


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