A month on from an amazing artistic experience as a student visitor to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair I am still buzzing with ideas and working on polishing my work to competition standard. Being there at the fair, in the presence of so many great creators and those supporting them (publishers, editors, agents, rights dealers etc) has reinforced my commitment to this new career path and made me want to succeed at it even more. If you wonder what success means to me, imagine having your own book deal and seeing your illustrations in a nice book on the welcoming shelves of Foyles or Waterstones or in your local library during a story time session run as part of their literacy programme – and I know that means an awful lot of hard work and idea generation….
I will go off on a limb and risk a generalisation based on my personal experience - the majority of artists / creatives are introverts. We are the ones behind the camera because we dislike exposure and wield a pencil because a picture is worth 1000 words. Where does that put us in relation to social media? How do we use it?
The most successful artists on social media appear to be extroverts but note a caveat that under the shroud of anonymity everyone can gain a few extra pounds of courage. Most artists I looked at a little closer use several platforms at the same time, trying to reach a wide audience. Some remain faithful to one or two platforms only.
So what is the recipe for (online) success? Does virtual success translate into a busy offline career? If at this point you feel yourself holding your breath for a definitive answer, stop reading – I don’t have an answer, but can offer a small overview.
I was reminded today, attending the MFA Symposium at the UCA Farnham, of the importance of artists. Far from just putting work out there for everyone else to scratch their heads at in wonderment, good artists research, analyse, interpret information through a myriad of creative filters and then present it, all the time referencing writers, critics and artists before them – because the inescapable truth is that we constantly reference the world around us, our culture, our DNA. The phrase that comes to mind is that we are, as T S Eliot and before him Bernard de Chartres put it, dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, ie we need that which has passed before us to give us an understanding of that which lies ahead of us. So, in that context, I was both impressed and disappointed with my fellow artists in the room whose presentations were aimed at bringing together their research to date, something like a justification of what went ahead and what they were doing in consequence.
Of course, I accept that the artist is also an activist, and satirist, and historian, and archivist and possibly also a scientist and many more other things all rolled into one, but to me the ethical responsibility of the artist is also very important. There was one speaker whose work left me
As it is Christmas Day and you are all out there celebrating, this is my first chance in the past few days to put my feet up and update my website. I won’t take long of your time, after all who wants to spend longer than necessary on their electronics when they could be spending this special time with their family?!? That said, this is also all of our chance to stop, look around and think – how could I have done this better?
I haven’t sent Christmas cards this year. I like to have new stock every Christmas and somehow, between the realities of life and a feeling of bah-humbug towards the holidays I resisted buying or making my own this time. It wasn’t until the last minute yesterday, in the middle of wrapping presents, that I thought what a shame it was that I didn’t even have a couple of cards to hand for the people I would be seeing over these few special days. What follows is an account of my quick fix solution:
"Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears and never regrets." (Leonardo da Vinci)
Attributed to da Vinci, the words above illustrate my philosophy and open attitude to learning. I love learning new things, especially things that relate to subjects that interest me and that can push me as a growing person a little bit further to question and explore the world I live in.
I am an owl, not a lark....
I don't know about you other owls out there but I work best and feel at my most clear-headed and most creative in the dead of the night. On the other hand, mornings have always been a bit of a challenge and the motivation of an exciting day ahead has never been enough to prize me out of bed without a grumble.
When it comes to making a successful linocut illustration there are quite a few things to consider. I am still learning the right way through various bits of project, the latter on the theme of ‘nonsense’, as part of my course.
I find nonsense to be quite a fascinating topic and so my little sketchbook filled up quite quickly with brainstorming ideas, from ones based on typography to more involved ideas, including one suggested by someone else (tip: talking about your project with others outside your usual group can spark new ideas which have the potential to be quite interesting). However, generating ideas and roughs is not the problem I am up against. Most of the time I get so excited by new projects that the actual problem comes from choosing the right image to complete.
I won't pretend that I am not a walking contradiction - I am that as much as any other person. Notwithstanding my last post here, I want to share a poem (?) I wrote not in jest but because something tugged at my heart so strongly I simply could not stop the words from flowing out. It was a scary and extremely intimate experience where I found myself looking straight into another's soul, feeling their palette of emotions and responding. This isn't something I experience every day, nor do I write any kind of poetry (I remain firmly discouraged after my 9th grade experience) - this was a strange one-off compulsion I am yet to understand. For you:
Letter to a broken heart
I read you like a book
- cover to cover -
and went through your seasons with you;
In their mismatch, you jumped
from summer to winter.
If I were a poet, which I most emphatically am not, not since the day back in high-school my ode to Paris was dismissed by some trainee French teacher... I would try using images for each line. Imagery can be so very effective at evoking mood, feeling, emotion, memory. It tells the story for the author without a sound being required, using its own unique magic. Add sound (music) or word and the story takes you elsewhere....
Do you remember your first day at school? Or, for that matter, do you remember your first day in any new environment where you knew no one and it felt like you were on show all the time? Were you afraid that you will somehow fail to fit in? What if you made a mistake? What if they disliked you? What if...? If you happen to be the risk taking, outgoing, extrovert type with no worries in the world then you won't know what I am talking about so you'll find it hard to connect with the 'first time' feelings I am hinting at.
For some of us, every new situation and new environment are a source of anxiety and self-doubt. I am in the category where putting myself out there takes a bit of effort. I see it as taking a (calculated) risk. Sometimes I win and come away with great new friends or connections; sometimes I walk away with a battered ego and loads more self-doubt...