Dear Art Student

You are probably about to start your studies for this year and are wondering what will be in store for you.

Perhaps you are just starting out in secondary school at maybe Yr11, your folks said yes to you doing Visual Art because you have taken on a bunch of highly academic subjects and this will be a welcome break from all that.

Perhaps you have done Yr 11 and you liked Visual Art for some reason and want to do more, something seems to be compelling you to carry on. Your folks are still happy(ish) for  you to have this as a break from other studies… Your Father wants you to go into accounting or some such, your Mother just wants you to be happy no matter what (sweet aren’t they).

The Art Teacher says at the parent teacher interview you should do Art because you are good at it… maybe it’s the first time you have heard that and it feels nice.

Perhaps you have completed Yr 12 and are looking at what courses to do. Your Mum’s words of ‘being happy’ seems to suit you more than some career choice your Father has in mind. Besides, the Art Teacher said you were good at it and the word career seems so, well, final, and long term.

“I want to do art Mum” (words which will may haunt you forever) – Your mum goes into bat for you, your Father tells you he loves you and with gritted teeth he says “whatever makes you happy” followed with “I just hope it’s the right decision” (the guilt starts early but now you start to notice it’s cruel bite).

Now with excitement and a dose of trepidation you stumble forward, the course is signed up, you spend the summer break telling your friends, you get a little arty in the way you dress and wear you hair, it’s all part of it right? Mind you any thought of drawing, taking photos or any visit to an Art Gallery seems like some form of imposition.

Then things get underway, you don’t realise it yet but the teachers talking at you may have had exhibitions (possibly quite a number of them), they have probably struggled to make any decent cash from the sale of their work, and they may suggest that “It’s art for art sake” and their argument then seems to get clouded in various forms of justification for the arts some of which may proclaim it as a lifestyle.

It’s all heroic, you, them, their stance on Art, learning about cultural things your circle of family and friends may never seem to grasp (philistines!)

Paint on canvas, clay in kilns, metal beaten into submission, computer graphics that defy logic and a bunch of theory work you just want to sleep through (the arty parties can do that to you)

Before you know it the study is finished, the folio is bulging (or not) and there you are standing all alone, as if on the edge of a massive cliff. The wind howling about you ready to push you off at the slightest misstep. Then words from the seemingly not too distant past echo in your mind ‘I just hope it’s the right decision’ and ‘Just be happy’.

There you stand pondering what next. Will I make it as an Artist, will I get that magical ‘creative position’, or will I be resigned to a life of working in an Arty Shop, or some other form of job you so willingly describe as slavery, which you could have done all those years before with or without a ‘qualification’.

Life unfolds before you, time fleetingly drags you into the unknown with a clear disdain for any dream you may have. In a stupor of positive energy you grab a list of Galleries to go visit. You tuck your wares under your arm and fall headlong into the misery of trying to get galleries to take you on board.

It’s then that you realise you know so much, yet so little about the whole “Visual Art thing” and that your qualification only stands as a reminder of a small part of your ongoing education and connectedness to art. It’s then you realise the hard bitter battle you have started and may not win (ever). It’s then that you realise your heart is an object to be trampled on and kicked aside by others who take a deep breath and say “Oh, here we go again, another ex art student… sigh.”

You also realise this journey is more than a qualification, more than a piece of paper with your name and a stamp of approval. No, you are just beginning to realise the world owes you no favours but gives you endless opportunities to explore, make statements, hold a flame of truth aloft and forge forward with hope and a rickety confidence stemming from who knows where.

Your journey has begun, travel well young person. Learn much and learn often, give everything your best and hold your head high. This thing we call Art is a beast to be reckoned with, which can test every fibre of your being and in exchange it MAY give you great gifts, but don’t hold your breath, if fact you might do well to give up now, walk away from the alluring beast, stand aside and let it pass by. Pay it no disrespect as it does pass, and you will live a life less tortured free from the shackles of it’s malevolence.

However if you do let it pass by will you ever know the ecstasy which can come from the angst ridden beast? Will  you ever know if you are the next Picasso or Rembrandt? Will you ever know if this thing which started out with your Art Teacher telling your parents ‘you are good at Art’ can give you an enhanced spirit, a sense of belonging, an edge in making sense of this crazy crazy world.

Go forth in this bizarre world and make your mark, but do so guided by more than just a throw away subjective line about your skills, or your retaliation against your Fathers advice and guilt throwing. Go forth in the world with wonderment and joy, explore deeply and rigorously and let all that it presents fill you with ecstasy. Then and only then, will you be able to hold true to your ideals of Visual Art, creative life and all it has to offer.

Creative Distractions

Creative idea development is a big thing for some, trying to explore and follow idea starting points to give their works added depth and meaning.

I’m a bit of a fan of using words and statements to explore with, so I thought I would share one method I stumbled onto recently.

My work has been following a couple of directions and one of those has been heading into ‘dark territory’ where malevolent ideas have been thrown about. I now find myself coming back to this point. But my visual ideas were seemingly going no where and so what to do.

My last visual idea had dark figures in it, so I did an internet search on that. This led to a few things and I jumped on the idea of getting to the “essence of darkness” so I then zoomed in on eyes and breathing, contemplating options about how they might be explored for my theme.

The visual options in my head were off on some tangent… the name Richard Serra (Artist) came up somewhere in the search, I was now off to look at some of his images and drawings. Interesting, I started to think more in terms of symbols and how I might tackle things from there (I already do a fair bit of symbol work so it fits).

I did some word work searching some more and coming up with more options, this is what I got.

– Dark symbols – Black liberty – Black place. Then my thoughts stumbled across the notion of what’s this all about? Persecution – Bad treatment of people – Liberty… but how are they liberated if they are killed in process? Hmm some sort of spiritual freedom might now be the case.

Therefore my final statement hit me as I pondered all this “You are now free”.

This could become a title for a show – a single work – a body of works – a series It’s now up to me to put my findings into some visual concept and see if it all fits to my notion of what I might want it to be.