The Underpants Gnomes’ master plan…

I seem to be having endless new starts or new directions in my sporadic blogs. I hope my next one will be different.

But here I am again!

This blog is going to be a stream of consciousness as I’ve been in turmoil all week and need to write down all my thoughts to try and make some sense of what I want to do. By writing, the words have to make sense to a reader, therefore formulated logically in my mind beforehand. I need to formulate my thoughts and get them down, in the hope that tomorrow I will enter my studio with more clarity and focus.

Before we moved house I’d got in touch with our (wonderful) local Arts Officer who was recommended by a new artist friend. After a couple of postponed meetings (moving house), we finally met to discuss what I’m doing, where I’m going, where I want to be and how she can help.

That’s a lot to discuss!

These questions have been swirling around my poor foggy brain for about 2 years, hence the many new directions and false starts. I’ve been feeling lost since I joined the Crafts Council and tried to move forward with Socktacular by having pieces in galleries and trying to get to the next level, but I felt it all came crashing round me and this failure knocked my confidence and feeling of worth. Despite how it may look, I want and need to succeed in something I’m good at, but I’ve not known how to achieve this. I’m like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park.

What went wrong with Socktacular? In order to have work in galleries, I had to raise the prices to cover the commission a gallery take from every sale (up to 50%), but by doing that I went from selling every piece, often before I’d even finished it, to not selling any…not a single one. I can’t tell you how crushing that was. I realised there was an upper limit to what people would pay for an art doll made of socks, perhaps because of the association they have with the toys. And as is the case with a lot of textile work, the prices I’d been charging in no way reflected the hours that went into each and every doll. That was the start of a Socktacular decline for me. I love those little sock art dolls and they’ve given me so much pleasure to make, most of the time, but it seemed like I got as far as I could with them and there was no future to work towards. Maybe I gave up too easily; I didn’t stop making them, but the spark had dimmed. I’m not one for churning out the same thing like a machine; I need different challenges and to make an actual real living from my work and I realised Socktacular couldn’t offer me either of those things. Books and animation had been suggested along the way and are on the back burner to maybe revisit. I have pondered setting up workshops in how to make a Socktacular doll and my arts officer has suggested a way this could be achieved…so that door hasn’t closed.

So, once I’d recovered from my self pity and licked my wounds, I started to think what else I could do, maybe alongside Socktacular (or not) and printmaking bounced up shouting ‘pick me, pick me!‘. It’s been an interesting and challenging journey of experimentation, relearning techniques, getting back into drawing and really working hard at deciding what kind of images I want to create, with a very strong desire to make it work. Although I discovered that there are a huge amount of exceptional printmakers out there so the chance of getting noticed or being ‘discovered’ were very slim, and my confidence wavered a little (hello again), I was/am happy with the point I’d reached before we moved house and was starting to sell pieces. I had lots of ideas for new work and developing a range of lampshades.

Photographic evidence of my procrastination this week.

So back to my meeting.

I was nervous about meeting the arts officer, though she came highly recommended as very professional, enormously helpful but also a lovely person too. I hoped I was good enough to deserve her help and that I won’t be a disappointment in the future. I’ve reached a point where I need help, to stop me going round in circles. Going right back to my art college days, I’ve never been exactly sure of what I wanted to do. I enjoyed sculpture and focused on that area as I had to choose, but I loved printmaking too. Since graduating the sculpting has been difficult to achieve due to various reasons (the kind of sculpture I love doing is very messy) so in order to satiate my need to do art, I’ve ended up dipping my toes in lots of things. And 23 years later I have realised that I have become Jack of All Trades, Master of None! I need to hone in on one aspect that I love, whether that is a subject matter or technique.

This week has been so very hard and my inner gremlin, my biggest critic, has been working over time. My arts officer gave me some homework to do before our next meeting. I’ve been instructed to play! Which sounds like the best homework ever! But my goodness it’s sent me into a spiral of self doubt and the realisation that I have no idea what I want to do in order to achieve stage 3 of the Underpants Gnomes’ master plan. But my arts officer can’t do anything for me if I have no clear path to follow and no solid consistent work to show anyone. Every decision I’ve made these last 5 years has been powered by the need to try and sell what I make. It’s become an all consuming driving force that has taken over every aspect of my creativity, and now I’ve been instructed to abandon that decision maker, leaving me empty and with questions I can’t yet answer. Do I want to make sculptures, do printmaking, drawing or a bit of everything? Do I want to go back to Fine Art? If I choose Fine Art, do I now have what it takes to succeed where I haven’t in the past? Do I want to follow an Applied Arts path, which I’ve often thought would have suited me better than Fine Art, if those courses had been available when I was studying? Do I have what it takes? Can I overcome my (recently identified) imposter syndrome?  Do I want to find one thing that works and stick to that without deviating…I’m starting to understand and appreciate why many artists, once they’ve found a ‘product’ that is successful, don’t deviate from it because starting again is exhausting and risky? How does one play with no clear structure or objective?

I have managed to answer a few questions though. I have identified that I am not a landscape or cityscape artist, nor figurative…so that leaves me with the natural world of animals and other creatures, which I like doing. Tick. I’m not a painter. Tick. I’m not keen on doing or having to think about backgrounds. Tick. Question, does that dictate I should re~explore sculpture?  What else…? Another question, if I’m an ‘Animal Artist’, do I want to be making social/environmental statements, just celebrate animals and creatures for their beauty, form, colour etc, explore myths and folklore (all these things have been mentioned in previous blogs), or produce a range of ‘products’ along the lines of lampshades: I do like designing, printing and making up lampshades but can I sustain that indefinitely? Another thing I’ve identified that is important to me is I enjoy the physical process of making art far more than thinking of the initial ideas…though the lack of ideas of which I’ve always suffered, is due I now realise, because I’ve never answered any of the above questions, ever!

So how does one play, with all these things swirling about? I’m approaching 45…not a carefree 20 year old!

My attempts at playing this week:

 

If anyone has been in this situation and cares of offer any advice or insight, I’d be enormously grateful!

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