I have been asked by the lovely Eli Trier - author of 'The Book of Gratitude' to collaborate with 30 other artists to unveil the mystery behind what it actually means to be an Artist in today's society. Now my first reaction was... 'Gosh I'm not sure I really know what it means to be me, an Artist' ...I'm still working it out for myself!! But what the question has done is forced me to reflect, cogitate, and squeeze out an answer! So here goes...
This week is apt and poignant because 'Prince' - the musician, has recently passed away and he played a huge role in my development through adolescence into adulthood. I used to listen to his music (my many albums and bootleg vinyl copies) in my bedroom growing up. I know it will sound odd (but then I am a little odd), but he was my rudder in life's ocean at the time...
I lived a very quiet life with my parents in the countryside - no friends near-by, just 9 guinea pigs and the fairies in the woods to keep me company at weekends! So being able to go to my room and share my often confused thoughts and emotions with Prince was my saving. Of course he didn't talk back as such, but on another level he did...because his music seemed to tackle the very things that I was toiling with...love, religion, truth, despair, joy, loneliness, loss etc etc. I'm telling you all this because there it is - the thing that makes an Artist and Artist. He shared his Soul with people and projected the essence of who he was through his music to be heard by those who chose to resinate with it...
For this, I will always be truly grateful as he remains one of the most important influencers in my life, he has helped me realise things about myself, to let go of pain, to find joy and learn to navigate life's voyage. Luckily I will still have his music to listen to for years to come..and this is something that all artists (I believe) hope to leave behind - a legacy.
I am still toiling with how I can project my true essence into my art and ultimately leave my own legacy behind. I would SO wish to do this....it's the how that is more tricky. What I'm realising is that the 'how' is all about being authentic; avoiding the pressure to create what society may expect you to create. To avoid the little goblin that sits on my shoulder and says...'but if you make that it may not be sellable, it won't make enough profit margin once the galleries take their cut, or it won't have mass appeal'. It's really hard, because ultimately I need to make a living and want that to be through my art. I've come far enough now to work out that in order to be successful at anything, you really need to LOVE what you do and accept what your natural talents are; Mark Twain quoted:
"The secret to success in life is to make your vacation your vocation".
Wouldn't this be wonderful! Well art is my vacation, so I need to work out how I can make it my vocation...
In 2014 I decided to start painting again, realising that if it was to be any kind of success it needed to be based on something I felt passionate about. So, loving dance I decided to photograph Salsa dancers and paint from the photographs; often listening to emotive salsa music while painting in my studio I created a 17 piece exhibition which was premiered in Bristol at the Grant Bradley Gallery during November. Over 150 people came to the private viewing - it was a wonderful night. A few pieces sold and continue to sell but soon it was apparent how challenging it really is to keep momentum and consistency with the sale of one's art.
Blips of Arts Trails, Galleries etc keep my motivation alive but I realised along the way that I was succumbing to my little goblin. The tug of war between creating my art because I love expressing whatever is in me, versus making what I feel would sell or be attractive to the general public is every present. I've concluded that the best approach for now is to create a line of work which satisfies the commercial appetite as an income, and then a separate 'Vault' of work which is more unique and distinctive to my own personal expression....notice the influence from Prince here...he has, so say, hundreds and thousands of unreleased songs hidden in a vault at Paisley Park!
This year, my resolution was to put the goblin back under his stone and have a year of 'Play & Revelation'. I have always had a tendency to be a perfectionist - striving for precision, and keeping control. Even years ago, my thesis at university was based on 'The Perfect & The Free' where I explored how we (craftspeople) can use craft making techniques to force ourselves out of this restrictive behaviour and instead create with freedom, spontaneity and abandon. But I still hadn't mastered how to break free...
So, last month I took the largest of my 17 'Salsa Passion' paintings and decided to paint over it. I plugged my music in and painted in rythmn, synchronising the emotive force that welled inside me in response to the present moment. It was a liberating experience. Not just because the Abandon was painted during my divorce and signified a period of personal transformation in my life; but because for one of the first times I felt alive, devoid of fear. My brush glided with ease but furtive intent, I covered my hands with white acrylic paint, feeling the texture and smoothness between my fingers, then to caress and merge wth the canvas.
This is now my new working ethos...to try where I can, to acquire that feeling of freedom and release. Truthfully, it doesn't happen often, I have to put processes in place and create the conditions where it may appear and music often helps. But, at least the intention is set and I hope that with determination the feeling of 'aliveness' will frequent my studio more often as it becomes second nature. Or has it always been second nature? Just forgotten? This is perhaps what Pablo Picasso was talking about when he said:
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up".
So for me, an Artist means becoming a child once again, and in that beautiful naivety having the courage to share your Soul with the ones that wish to receive it...let your playful heart run free and build your courage to be greater than your fear ~ then hope that one day you can leave some kind of wonderful legacy behind...
My working ethos is 'Play & Revelation' where I continually explore new ways of working, sometimes even destroying works to transform into new!
From February 2019 Sonya will be selling her collections at 'Leaf Creative' in Huntley, owned by Peter Dowle. This beautiful garden centre specialises in unusual shrubs, acer trees and hand selected plants. The perfect place to showcase her leaf inspired ceramics!
Sonya is pleased to announce that having been a provisional member with the Cotswold Craftsmen during 2018, she has now been accepted as a permanent member and invited to be publicity officer on the committee. Sonya will be exhibiting her work at a number of County Shows in 2019 - watch her events page for more upcoming details.
Sonya is now offering 1 day 'Pottery Workshops' with a national craft course provider. Start 2019 learning something new! In 1 day attentive tuition with Sonya you will learn throwing, coiling and hand-building techniques.
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