Good artists are connected. They do not live soley on their own inspiration, separated from the comings and goings of the world around them. This romantic notion of the artist starving in the garret as they suffer to produce a masterpiece, that will never be truly recognised until after they are dead from consumption, is not the case for either myself, my partner or other artists I know. I include writers, musicians and visual artists under the umbrella of ‘artists.’
The first thing to note is that artists are human beings and therefore responsible for keeping themselves and usually others alive and functioning in the world. This means shopping, cooking, cleaning, caring and organising, in addition to creating art.
The physical space for artmaking is often a shared one; not only with other activities but also with other living beings, some of whom may also be artists.
The space for both imagining and making art must be constantly salvaged from the demands of Time.
Therefore, an artist must not only be a responsible human being, but also have a sense of community and be able to manage time.
I will attempt to address these three conditions necessary for a good artist to be connected.
What is the artist’s responsibility?
The artist has two primary responsibilities. Firstly she must be responsible for herself. This means being able to nourish and nurture herself to the best of her ability so that she can function in the world as both a human being and an artist.
The artist must also respond to humanity. This means that her art must stimulate ideas, challenge conventions, explore concepts or offer a new perspective on understanding our environment; the world.
Artist’s live in communities; even if they live alone, they are still part of a global community. By its very nature, community demands co-operation, consultation and the sharing of resources. The artist may have to negotiate for access to and use of resources. Their claim may or may not be more worthy than other members of the community. Therefore the artist must learn to talk about their requirements to create art, even if they are not prepared to talk about the actual work they are creating. Not all artworks speak for themselves. Many artists also choose to collaborate with other artists in the creation of their shared work.
The act of art-making is a time-consuming one. It involves the processes of thinking, planning, research, experimentation, conceptual development and the physical production of making art. It may also involve the promotion and distribution of the work. Some artworks need a long time for gestation and others have a short conceptual time. The scale and intensity of artworks can determine their duration of creation. Like art itself, Time is made. The artist must carefully forge enough Time to successfully complete a creation. Often the process is in competition with other obligations in the artist’s life.
But do the conditions of being responsible, community conscious and managing time efficiently conspire to sabotage the artist?
If the artist is not vigilant, reflective and inventive then she may succumb to mediocrity; a good artist’s worse nightmare. However, the parameters set by these conditions can also contribute to her being a more disciplined, compassionate and creative artist; a connected artist.
My art practice is as a storyteller working primarily with children and young adults. This therefore puts me in a position of responsibility for mentoring and modelling to them, by the very fact that I am an adult and they are young people. I want to ensure that my artform can address a multitude of outcomes for my listeners. It must inspire, empower, affirm, entertain, educate and resource them, within a specific timeframe. I need to know what my purpose is in choosing particular stories to tell and the mediums I use for presenting them, regardless of whether I share that information with others. My worldview informs my artistic choices. I want to be an artist that nourishes and sustains children, a healthy alternative to mainstream ‘entertainment’ that so many of them are subjected to.
Being a mother has informed my more pragmatic choices in my art practice, such as programming, venues and time. I have had to learn negotiation and mediation skills and how to juggle time and the demands of others, because I have a family and work from home in a shared space. But this has enabled me to be a flexible and inventive artist, willing to collaborate with others or work independently, as my work entails. For these things, though often challenging, I am grateful and I believe my art is better for it.
“There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.”