Creative Purgatory

Sue Webster once said something like, "Art is a burden, whether you like it or not, you have to do it."

Over these past six months, I - in the larger expression of the sense - have lost my way when it concerns creative practice. Personal matters have come over me like a wave and I got sucked in and have been held there ever since, in the warm embrace of creative purgatory. Purgatory is definitely the word I want to use; I have been knocked out by this 'wave' and have been there ever since, not realising what has actually happened and been tricked into not caring.

Whilst I've been in the comforting, numb-minded embrace of the wave I have still had ideas, intentions, visions of finished artefacts swimming around in my head like an overcrowded fishbowl. And these fish have been copulating for six months now... The older fish have died off through exhaustion; I haven't written the ideas down therefore I have remnants of fin and bones crowding the fresh ideas breathing space. And I’m starting to feel a little bit guilty.

Therefore it's time to kick myself up the a**e and make use of these fish.


Conversation has become grossly underrated and I myself am victim of this. It has become so acceptable to rely on two things; technology and - god forbid - yourself.

Over the past few weeks I have held conversations with both people I know and have only just met in relation to what we're up to in our 'creative journeys' and what's stopping us from travelling further and believe me; most of the people I’ve spoken to are not moving very fast. I’m not saying it's the practitioners fault for being stuck in a rut - not at all - but more often than not, something stops us in our tracks.

The conversation in question which has spurred both me and the other to sit down and write about what’s happened to our creative flow happened a couple of months ago. Of course, with a brain like a sieve, I have forgotten this man's name but let's call him 'Dave'. I met Dave out back at the Manchester Student Union as the gig I was meant to be in was making me a bit ill. Dave, age of I’d say about 45 years, was a professional architect and also, like many of us, dabbled in a bit of creative practice on the side. He described his work to be abstract, planned and built layer up on layer of oil paint to reach an aesthetically pleasing composition. Fair enough.

Of course the conversation takes two so I explained to him where I was up to. This is where it gets gritty for me. No matter who I speak to, for about the past 2 years the answer has dribbled out of mouth with the same lack of inspiration every time.

"Well it's odd for me. I did portraiture for a while, then I did a bit of landscape (let’s be honest now, one project) and now I don't really do anything. I’m enjoying writing about art more and I can barely remember how to paint."

Yes, there’s my answer. At least I’m honest I guess. Anyway; this is where it got interesting. I was asked, “Well, are you good at portraiture? Is it a natural thing or did you have to learn how to do it?” My answers were “Well, yes really.” and “No, I started when I was nine.” Dave gave me a look of exasperation. “If you’re naturally good at something then you should do it.” And he’s very right.

No matter what talent you have or what profession you work in, there will always be someone different than you which is easily confused with ‘better’. Let’s take being an artist for example, more often the than not start of your creative journey is at about 9/10 years old. This is when you start receiving comments from friends and family like, “Oooh, they are good at drawing, set up for life there!” And this is when you realise that if you keep drawing you will magically end up in full time employment drawing whatever you want for whoever will take it and of course, requests will flood in. When you start high school you start honing your skills in, receiving briefs that relate to your artistic imagination perfectly every time. You proceed to flit about, having a whale of a time doing this, that and the other.

Higher education is where the problem begins. You start visiting galleries on residential trips and all in all we start seeing what is REALLY going on in the art world and this is just a little f**king confusing. Suddenly all the work you have produced in the last 5 years looks like scribbles and the word conceptual mists over your eyes and leaves stumbling around wondering what ‘art’ really is. This is when the invisible stumbling blocks begin appearing. You’re researching into all these wonderful artists who have their own processes and they all ‘just knew they had to be an artist.’ And you’re left wondering, ‘What was I meant to do? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?’

This is the point where I began my issue with producing art all together. I’m tied up in other people’s art, hanging on their meaningful anecdotes of being a creative spirit, blanketed and hidden from the reality of my own creative mind. In fact, the afore mentioned wave that sucked me into creative purgatory could have been in fact the soft welcoming arms of other artists, but now I’m feeling they were wolves in sheep’s clothing because now I’m trying the tear my way out.

So this blog is my way of expressing my new found love for art critiquing and hopefully in the long run finding a balance between writing about and producing art.

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