The Bird man of Alcatraz shows Bert Lancaster is a ‘lifer’ who gets up every day to tend his collection of birds; he feeds and nurtures them lovingly. He cures their illnesses and becomes an expert on them.
In a way I see this is a romantic parallel to the expected life of an artist with a ‘true practice’!
My wife says that my life as an artist has been more like the Great Escape. I have worked to commissioners briefs, tried to define my practice and jumped through more hoops than you can shake a stick at. But still working inside the defined parameters of the brief I have explored a huge range of areas of interest to me. I have emptied many many hidden bags of soil into the commissioner’s plans and schemes without them knowing, right under their noses.
These bags of soil from the hidden escape tunnel of my artistic ideas and values have been distributed all over the country. I have explored and researched new mediums, new materials, new subjects, colour schemes, ways of working and topics I’m really interested in, just the same as non commissioned artist investigations. The difference might be I have had to wait some time for the opportunity to follow on with a subject which had formed part of an earlier work. Over a period of years and years revisiting certain ideas or techniques builds a body of work in that area. If you have lots of these little ideas following their own pathways simultaneously then you are always ‘finding yourself’ as an artist even though you are working to a specific brief. My training as an artist taught me to follow ideas in a straight line. My working life post education has taught me to meander, wait, work with other people’s ideas, work with things you never expected you would ever think of and work quicker than perhaps you want to.
The constant pressure to define my practice is intimidating and the use of language used by those who want to potentialy work with me or know more about me is creative, but it does not make me feel confident or able to talk back and allow me to sound like I know what I am talking about. I am sure me and many artists want to work as artists within commerce, education, local government, services and industry. Are artists expected to converse in the same language, and if they can’t, is their work rubbish? I feel intimidated by this and worry that if my letter of application or my expression of interest doesn’t use their language or their kind of visioning, if my ideas are not razor sharp and clearly described to reveal some kind of Blofeldian master plan, that I must be below the standard they are looking for.
Perhaps if I could describe that I didn’t have a deliverable concept yet, in a clever enough way that would be good enough and they would take me seriously.