I made this drawing sometime last year. It occured to me today I never smoke while walking with my son. Like all modern kids he condemns my “disgusting” habit while not understanding the nature of addiction. He is afraid I will die and leave him forever. A tough notion to face but yet I don’t really want to stop. As a single father and self enployed person I run around mostly like a headless chicken for most of the time. I smoke few fags. Maybe 5 a day. (I can’t manage that for fruit n veg). When I do light up I am never walking. I sit down for however long it takes, 5mins maybe? I stop. Pick my nose. Do nothing. I think. This moment of stopping the worl has become precious, especially in the studio. That moment of putting an unfinished picture on the wall, lighting a fag and just looking at it has become part of my process. Read Philip Guston’s biography, Night Studio, by his daughter. He describes doing the same thing convincingly. Of course both of us are lying to ourselves. We are both simply drug addicts enslaved by the demon weed. A great artist friend of mine, hooked on the same ritual, gave up by holding a carrot in the same manner as a smoke while viewing her work. Carrots are in season. Perhaps I’ll have a crack at it. I reckon I’ll still be lighting up Christmas though.
There are arguably more people making art now than ever before. You can’t move for the stuff and most of it is bad art. Eg. Since the bbc featured the open entry art exhibition, the Royal Academy Summer Show, the application has risen from something like 5000 works to over 20,000. So many the RA has no room to store them so the first round is now judged online via laptops. Most of these artist are untrained. I know what some of you are thinking. Some great artists had no academic training? Sure. But they are rare. It’s like saying my uncle Reg smoked 50 fags a day, never got cancer and died at 110 yrs old. For every uncle reg there are thousands dying of lung cancer every day. You’d be daft to use Reg’s example as a reason to carry on smoking. If you’re serious and good at your art how do you get it seen above the sea of dross?
Could there be a kitemark for art? How would it be judged? I have a suggestion:
THE DUMP TEST
Take your art to the local tip. Throw it on the pile. If it blends right in and doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb then chances are your art is rubbish.
Today I scrapped 3 paintings that were not working and had reached a dead end. I worked on them for about 3 months and invested at least £300 on materials in their production. It happens, part of the job, etc.
It occurs to me that I am lucky enough to call “the job”: my job simply because I can afford to make sometimes big mistakes. It’s how we learn. This way of working is a luxury and a major factor separating amateurs and professionals. If an artist can only afford one canvas and a few tubes of paint then they will be understandably frightened to make a mess of it.
We talk a lot in this business about the illusiveness of creativity, inspiration and all that but somebody once said the answer to 99 out of 100 quedtions is money.
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