Why do I make art?
It's a question I sometimes ask myself, usually whilst lying awake at 4am worrying about the future, about money or the lack of it, about how it is that I find myself here, at the age of 44, still 'making art', still day-dreaming, still conjuring stories from the recesses of my perpetually distracted imagination, some 30 years on from the frowning words of the careers advisor to 'have something to fall back on'.
Tomorrow we have a general election.
For the last several years, whilst I busied myself with the massive leap of faith from my old life into the new, I chose to ignore politics in much the same way as I once chose to ignore the naysayers who suggested I find a more sensible line of work. For the two years I attended Falmouth University, undertaking an MA which I loved with a passion, I chose not to worry, to focus on my work, to follow my heart along the path which felt right, the path which I have always known I was destined to walk and where all my strengths as a human being lay.
Growing up in the 1980s of Thatcher's Britain, I was told by somebody older and infinitely wiser than myself that as you 'grow-up' and acquire all the trappings of an 'adult' life: A house, a car, the kids, the ski-ing holidays, the 'proper' job, you inevitably become more Conservative. To me, this translated as meaner, more selfish, more distrustful, so I made art and I created stories as a way of rejecting this fate. Art, stories, music, film, these were the places where truth and beauty and hope could be found. A way of learning about the world and a way of connecting with other human beings in a kinder and more sympathetic way.
Of course, I did indeed get older, and as I got older I did indeed begin to acquire the trappings of an adult life. I watched as my friends and peers, as predicted, became gradually more Conservative, more protective of their lives and the 'things' they had acquired along the way, and I disliked what I was witnessing.
Eventually, I turned my back on the life I had built up over the years so that I could return to a more innocent state. I returned to my art and to my storytelling and I made the decision to be the person that the younger me would recognise and be proud of, and in doing so I chose to ignore politics and the fact that the society I was living in was more right-wing than ever.
It is a sometimes difficult path to follow, particularly now that I am older. Swimming against the tide of society is harder in middle age than in youth because the expectations and judgements of your peers are so much harsher. To be a 44 year old idealist in a cynical, grasping world is, at times, a lonely and frightening experience, but the more I follow this path, the more I come to realise that I am not alone, that there are others, and many more beside who yearn to give voice to the human kindness stifled away inside them.
So I make art.
I make art, despite the financial impossibility of it, because I still believe that human beings are, on the whole, good and kind. That human beings each yearn for beauty and for truth and to feel connected to one another. This, I believe, is what art can do. It is what books do. It is what music does. It is in the power of stories that we find each other. That we rise above the mess of consumerism and capitalism.
Art has value because it nurtures the soul and connects us to other human beings. And human beings, every one of them, rich and poor, old and young, have value too. We are all connected.
Remember that when you vote tomorrow.
... And from somebody infinitely wiser than myself, here is Alain de Botton and The School of Life's view on the subject in 'What is Art for?'
Almost two months have passed since I graduated from my Master's Degree at Falmouth University, and as winter creeps in, I find myself struggling to adjust to Post Graduate life once again.
It's not a time of year that I enjoy. Give me the long, light days of summer over the dark, damp days of autumn anytime. When you work from home it can be all too easy to fall into claustrophobic hermitude, a condition I am unfortunately pre-disposed to.
It's a well documented fact that, as we rely more and more on technology and social networking sites for our contact with the outside world, we are becoming lonelier. It's all too easy to fall into this trap, but as we cut ourselves off from the natural world and from real life contact with our fellow human beings, we are becoming more lonely and depressed as a result.
But then I began to wonder ...
Although many of us now spend more physical time alone, when are we ever really, truly, properly alone? Could this general depression be caused by the fact that we are actually living in this halfway house of being alone but never being left alone? As a recent convert to the iphone (which I am already ridiculously addicted to) I realise that we are at the constant mercy of texts, emails, instant messages, bleeps and rings and buzzing constantly forcing us to check our inboxes. So think about it ... When was the last time you were ever, really alone? When was the last time you chose to be alone? When was the last time you switched off your phone and allowed yourself to breathe in the moment?
I was thinking about all this when I set off for a walk today. The first walk I've had alone for as long as I can remember. I used to go for walks like this all the time. From being a teenager I was always happiest trailing through the woods, exploring beaches, roaming across fields ... alone. Properly alone. I love people and consider myself to be a very sociable person, but I also love being by myself. These long, getting lost type walks are when I do my best thinking, when I let my imagination take over, when I dream up stories. When I live in the moment and breathe.
It took a while to get into it.
It is half term and there were too many people in my sight line for me to feel completely at ease, but then it started to rain and the families and their dogs gradually drifted away. Then I started to enjoy myself, unselfconsciously rummaging amongst the leaves and pebbles and shells, skimming a few stones (badly), slipping inelegantly on the rocks, pretending to be a mermaid who hasn't found her legs. It was blissful.
So maybe that's what is missing. At least for me. Yes, it is sometimes lonely, working from home. But when I'm fully immersed in my work, I don't feel lonely. I enjoy being alone. (I also enjoy being with people). What I don't enjoy is being continuously, vaguely, distractedly, 'connected' via the internet. What is sometimes missing then, is this: Real alone time. Time to immerse myself. With nature. With ideas. With work. With dreaming. Time to be still. Be quiet. Listen to the earth breathing. Listen to my imagination.
With this in mind, perhaps the oncoming winter isn't so unwelcome after all. Suddenly, the thought of long, desolate winter walks with just my imagination for company seem like exactly what is needed.
I am a ...
... Teller of Tales. A Creator of Books. An Artist, Illustrator and A Boatbuilder. A Professional Daydreamer, Occasional Mermaid, and always The Eternal Optimist.