We are all individuals and we all do see things differently. We have different childhoods, different jobs, different pressures, values, experiences, perspectives, desires, ideas, skills, and sometimes make mistakes.
Unfortunately we inhabit the world where there are always individuals who seek to try to put you down, ridicule you, even seek to inflict psychological anguish and pain, and if you let it this can cause irrevocable harm! To the point where you may begin to put yourself down and your own thoughts may then become your enemy. You will perhaps reach the point where you think; why to bother; I am wasting my time, I am no good. What is the point?
Then you may even give up, stop trying, and at its extreme, you may begin to feel that life is not worth living. By way of example, we simply need to look at the experiences and ways of being, as demonstrated by the Artists of the past. Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890), for example, an Artist who was dead by his own hand at the age of only 37. Like me, his heart was full of joy when being within the landscape and trying to make marks which capture an impression of it.
As a child during my last year at School, I was labelled, processed and rejected!
Any ideas I had about my future between the ages of 15 and 16 were crushed during what was then called; ‘Carers advice’ where I was told; “You are just a working class lad and you will never make an Artist, and you will never make a living as an Artist.”
“We would suggest that you join the Navy!”
This was DEVASTATING news; because at School, all I wanted to do was leave as soon as possible and try to get a place at the local Art College to study Art.
It is easy to take on board at such an immature age, thoughts such as I am poor, I am low class, and I am a Bad Artist!
So with my dreams and aspirations crushed, I gave up on trying to be an Artist.
What I did not realise at the time was that being an Artist is as I have discovered; all about rejection, and not being accepted. It is about being exploited, and not making any money from your work.
Actually, I now see it as more of a vocation! A way of raising funds for charities, of feeling, seeing and living. I don’t need or seek celebrity, a fine house, fine wine, or riches, I am happy with trying to Draw, and in hearing the sound of the Lapwing, or Skylark, taking in good fresh air, observing the Sheep, and a splendid country view, or even simpler a jam jar of flowers. A found object, stone, or a shell.
What I have come to realise is that the words of the careers adviser were in farming terms; ‘horse s**t’!
For me, to try to be an Artist is about learning, and trying, and not giving up, no matter how many knock backs you receive, and you certainly have to learn to expect negatives, and non-constructive criticism, ESPECIALLY, from those who are in a position to promote or not your work, these are individuals who have their own agendas.
Having your ideas, efforts, and creativity rejected, could if you were to allow it, as I did in my early days, make you give up, stop trying and in reality stop living.
To quote Alain Arias-Mission; “The purpose of Art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate—it is life, intensified, brilliant life.”
Because I go looking and looking again my life is full of beauty, positivism, and endless possibilities. It is a place where I can create my own narratives and eliminate the negatives, the damming derogative voices who seek celebrity, and the individuals who aim to get ahead at the expense of others. Or those who simply feel driven to bully, harass, control, or put down anything or anyone that they perceive to be different.
I make the marks which I make because I am driven to, and wish to, need to make them, and I am feeling contented when I am looking out in the landscape. I have learned that I don’t need acceptance to feel happy, and I don’t need permission to try to be an Artist.
To quote Jean-Jacques Rousseau; “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless!”
And as Pablo Picasso said; “EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL”
What I do consider to be ludicrous, however, is that the people who do the ‘selecting’ and ‘rejecting’ are unable to give any, or, a clear coherent rationale for their decisions, or conclusions. By way of example; selecting one piece of Art above another.
Is it not the case that all Art and Artists are equal? In the same way that we ought to view each other as equal.
By way of a post script, (post careers advice) I left school, started work in jobs which I detested, and went to night school. Over the years I worked full time; and during separate periods studied for two different BS(c) honours degrees, via the part time study route, both of which, (despite long working hours), I attained the pair, at; 2;1.
Sadly these were not in Art related subjects, as any desire to try to work as an Artist had been crushed by the School and Careers advisor, (among others.) long since. Despite all of the negatives and negativity I kept on trying. There is, however as I discovered in 2014, one big, bright, compassionate, insightful, shining St George!
Working exceptionally hard for Artists and the Arts in Cumbria! I found the St George of Artists who goes by the name of Adrian Lochhead who is the Director of Eden Arts. Here is a man who ought to be a Knight who goes about slaying Dragons! Mr Lochhead knows what it is to struggle to be an Artist, but most importantly he values difference! And when he looks, he does not simply look, and then pass by, he looks, and is able to see.
Without my determination and extremely hard work in trying to become an Artist and the efforts of Mr Lochhead, and his team at Eden Arts, on behalf of Artists, I doubt that I would have been able to begin to fully emerge from my Cumberland landscape. Nor, perhaps, would any of my work have seen the light of day.
I don’t have all of the answers for you, as no one has but what I would say is; “don’t worry about not being Selected”, there is no magic solution as no one has, however, what I do have to keep me going is an Extraordinary Place! My place is in Cumberland where I was born, and for me, it is a Sacred land where I can go to physically, or more simply in my head. My extraordinary place is beautiful, restorative, tranquil, inspirational, peaceful, is full of textures, smells, big skies, stunning plants, animals and birds.
A land where even the ancient stones are incredible. An area which has survived the scars inflicted by past industrial exploitation, and which sustains gentle non-intrusive farming, and wild game. It is a landscape held within my head and in my heart. A place of recovery, abundance, possibility and escape, this is a land which has helped me regain my sense of self-protection, acceptance, compassion, strength, safety, autonomy, faith, Imagination and feeling of place.
My extraordinary landscape enables me, not to have to conform, to other people’s models, and recognise what is in fact ‘constructive’, or not, when it comes to criticism.
Life is a journey; however, what I have learned is that Creativity and attempting to be creative is in itself an extraordinary place!
And it is the space like my homeland where I feel most connected; the location which is, and I know to be ‘Home’.
When it comes to defining words I find it easy to know what Extraordinary is! However, it is not always easy to define and find one’s place!
To quote my own writing; “Art has become life, expression and meaning.”
In conclusion, as I have said many times; Art does, in fact, change your Life! However, let’s not forget that it can be changed irrevocably by others.
It is true! I am at Home in my Cumberland.
What I have learned from attempting to live my life as Artist, and my experiences of struggling to try to earn the title of; ‘Artist’ and from a review of Vincent’s life and work, and the lives and impressions made by other Artists, is the following; “if you cast a veil over a Sunflower; you can’t see fully its
“God Bless my Cumberland, the ‘Working Class’ Lads and Lassies! And God Bless Saint George!”
Copyright; text and images, Robin Oliver 28 July 2017 All rights reserved.