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?'
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.