I have had a rotten sore throat and have lost my voice for the past few days. I don’t feel particularly unwell in general, just weary and jaded, so I am trying not to allow my virus-enforced Trappist silence to affect me. I had a particularly fertile morning and have started to explore some slightly new directions in my work. Today’s #Letter365 piece is a small version of one of those new thoughts, modified to fit within what I am doing with #Letter365 specifically. Delighted with both this piece and the bigger picture.
It’s odd that there is a pressure in me to produce a completely new and unique work each day. While I intend each work that will be unique that doesn’t mean that I have to summon up a totally new idea each day. I have only just realised that I could work on developing a single idea over a period of time – I had already thought of doing special series, say at Christmas – and I had sort of forgotten that part of this process is the final installation, so perhaps I will do series of similar work for stretches at a time. It will perhaps be like the wave-carved ripples on the wide sand beaches, the same but totally different every day. And some days there will be a rock or a crab. But mostly it will just be the same but totally different. There again I may not do that!
I thought it would be sunny today but it turned out dull and drizzly. So today’s #Letter365 offering got everso vaguely damp in the 30 paces to the post box.
It’s one of those things that when you read it you think, “yes that’s interesting, probably true” but when it comes down to it you don’t follow through. It was – and don’t know who wrote it or where – something like, “Accept that all those things that you think of in the middle of the night that you know are brilliant ideas but that you can’t remember in the morning, accept that really they were rubbish.”
I saw this to be useful wisdom for those nights when the brain is overactive: excited by all the brilliant ideas for brilliant things that you will create or do or think next day. Telling yourself that they are all crap and if there are really any good ones you will remember them in the morning, can help you get back to sleep, the sleep you need to have a creative day next day.
Last night after just 40 minutes sleep I was disturbed by the cats, or my parter, or a putative burglar or a good/bad idea and found myself awake for the next two hours wondering if I should risk the disturbance of recording the creative maelström in Evernote or getting up and making a calming tea whilst jotting it all down in my notebook. I did write a couple of words in the dark on a small scrap of paper – one of which was a useful memory jog, the other was a superfluous reminder of something I really would not have forgotten anyway! I did manage to tell myself that “all these ideas are crap anyway” but ignored my advice and stayed awake desperately trying to imprint my brilliant ideas so firmly in my mind that I would be able to instantly access and use them this morning.
Well, what a success! I woke to find I had clearly remembered 3 or 4 of the dozens of good/bad ideas I had had in the night. These must be the worthwhile ones! So I was quite excited to get to the studio quite early and start working with them.
The first indication that something was wrong was my lack of confidence. Instead of just wading in and doing it I decided to try it out on a piece of paper the colour of which I was unlikely to use – no way I was going to risk wasting a piece of expensive hand-made paper… Hang on! What kind of idea was it that was so shaky I wouldn’t risk wasting a piece of paper on? This was an idea that I was so convinced was interesting that it kept me awake for two hours – yet I hadn’t the confidence to back it to the price of a piece of paper! In any case, I believe what my dear friend Jill Beagley once told me, “You are an artist and anything tha an artist does with a piece of paper can never be a waste.”
Well I fiddled with this idea for about 30 seconds more before I realised that it really was crap. I reviewed the other ideas that I had packaged up from the night and concluded they were not much better.
The good thing was that this left me totally clear to approach my #Letter365 piece open and fresh. Immediately I had discarded the rubbish I knew exactly what I wanted to do and as I worked it developed a purity and clarity that almost brought tears to my eyes.
I wonder if now I will be able to remember next time that thing I read somewhere about things that are crap in the night
One nice thing for me about this project is that the content of each envelope can be completely different to what I am doing with my main flow of work, a relaxation of concentration that can let fresh, new ideas pop out. Or it can be a little detour and experiment within that flow where I can develop a different fluency and freedom with those ideas and processes. But I am not saying what is going on today!
It’s the end of three weeks of the project and I am starting to put other things in place: things like looking at this website and adding a sales facility to it; putting together the foundations of a work book that might be a saleable artwork in its own right; thinking about sponsorship and grants; PR; etc. It’s exhausting and exciting just thinking about it!
Well the sun went in but I had already printed the envelope – though I expected change so was hesitant!
I was a bit disappointed that the Post Office had run out of the Bridport News so I was unable to maximise my journey 30 yards down the road!
I spoke to Pete Bryan at Arts Development UK today (I set up their website) and he thinks I should apply for a grant from the Arts Council. Should I? I could make the application process part of the art process. Anyone got any thoughts?
Yesterday I was surprised that something other than the idea I had planned wanted to get made. Today it was me that doubted myself: I had a clear picture of what I wanted to create for today’s piece but as I was making it I began to doubt if it would work. I was beginning to thing I might bin it and start afresh and just made a final adjustment and bingo it suddenly became perfectly what I was aiming for. It’s magic all this!
I am always interested how I can go to the studio with a clear idea of what I want to do and something else will turn up and it all changes. Today’s #Letter365 piece (not quite finished so it could all change when I go back to the studio!) has turned out different in size, shape, colour, technique and textures to what was in my head. It was as if this other idea was hanging around waiting for me to sit at the table and plug my head into it. Until the moment I sat down I had no intention of deviating from the idea tha had been brewing all morning! So what goes on? Am I just easily distracted? Or is there some other process going on in me beneath the conscious that is alert to opportunity and is prepared to, has the freedom to, run with the new.
This piece came together with certainty, clarity and speed and is a much gentler and calmer piece than intended: perhaps my systems were telling me to slow down.