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Disability Arts Online

Getting Through / 12 July 2011

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Don't Follow the Crowd Be Yourself

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I’m not whingeing. It’s just a fact. It’s hard and no denying it. This has been the hardest, year I have had since being a freelance artist. I am in the hinterland, on the cusp, of being emerging and emerged – whatever emerged means. It’s like some kind of spurious notion like somehow things will be totally different when you have emerged. I am not some kind of butterfly who is in the process of artistically cocooning himself in the studio to break out that chrysalis one day and .....Da Dahhh!!!! Fully formed emerged artist and successful to boot! Hooray. Thrice Hooray.

I know artists – as I keep saying and keep encountering – always talk up their game about how busy they are. Well, Grizedale residency – over 100 applicants, Halle 14 over 130, Knowle West over 100 and I could go on.  I remember back in the day when you would apply and be unfortunate if 20 or 30 others applied.  So I presume not everyone can be really busy – working on this, planning that, something on the back burner here, fingers in pies there.... I have had very few paid days work this year in relation to previous years. I work every week – I put proposals in, I make new work in the studio, I try to keep busy, moving to avoid drowning in the fatigue of not having purposeful activity.

Let’s face it – work gives us many things. Not just money. It gets us into the world, it keeps us socialised, it can help our esteem and confidence, it can contribute to our well being quite considerably. Up until the end of June I was suffering from rejection fatigue. Absolute poverty was snapping at my heels. My moods were seriously affected, I was very very low – although as my not very helpful psychiatrist would tell me – I was not ‘clinically’ depressed. Then he would helpfully throw in that not every low mood is to do with me being Bipolar. My partner is an artist. Both self employed. How do you get benefits or help to get you through the lean times. You fall between the cracks of the welfare state.

I have had exhibitions this year and I have more lined up – but they don’t put food on the table. They are definitely jam for tomorrow. So how do you get out of it? How do you get by?  How do you keep motivated? How do you keep swimming against the tide? I was considering doing what I have never done before – take a non art job to support my art. Fortunately I never had to act on the decision. One day work came through my door, visiting like a long lost friend and bold as brass. I am enjoying it but I have one eye on the door wondering when that friend is going to walk back out.

Keywords: art,Recession, Work, Practice,