Am I able to sustain my practice at the same time as maintaining a blog, I asked when I started writing ‘Keeping It Going.’ In the absence of a studio and access to this blog over the past two weeks, I’ve been giving this question some thought. My hope is that I can and that the two will coincide and complement each other, the writing in some way providing the groundwork and the impetus for periods of creativity.
I thought that being away from the studio would make me want to get straight back there on my return – to get busy, creating the things I’ve been thinking about making while I was away. The space will still be bearing the marks of Going for Gold, created for the Deptford X Open Studios just before leaving for my holiday – there’s clearing up to do when I do get myself back in there.
And yet I’m drawn to prioritising writing this, not quite able to motivate myself to be in the studio just yet; there’s work to be done in preparation for two upcoming exhibitions in the Autumn and I’m still in holiday mode – nothing like easing yourself back in gently, I suppose.
The family holiday I’ve just returned from was good – everything I’d hoped for, in fact – hot, sunny temperatures, warm sea to swim in and time for being together as a family as well as plenty of time for relaxation and quiet, reflective time to myself. I’m conscious of trying never to take things for granted and I feel very lucky.
I’m also conscious not just of how ready I was for this break, but also the feeling I had that, this time round, I’d somehow earned it. This marks a real change in my thinking because up until now I haven’t believed deep down inside that I had any real entitlement to a holiday. It’s all part of the ongoing reservation I’ve written about on here before – about how hard it’s felt for me at points over the past few years to quantify and justify my existence as an artist; that inherent Protestant work ethic worming its way to the surface.
It’s all tied up with why holidays have proved problematic for me since giving up my ‘proper’ job and becoming an artist. I knew where I stood as a public sector worker in relation to annual leave entitlement and other terms and conditions of employment. Hours of duty, salary, sick leave entitlement and so on were all clearly defined – boundaries are useful. It’s been a real learning curve working in a profession where employment rights have been considerably thinner on the ground, and of course, I was able to rely on guidance from the unions who have traditionally been strong and consistent in support of their public sector workers. Thank goodness, then for A-n – I’ve just literally, this minute renewed my subscription!
But as I said, this year was different in that I felt I had earned and deserved a break. But what had changed to make me feel this? I’ve always worked hard. What was different about now?
As is so often the case, it comes down to timing. Changes taking place for me on the work front were happening because I was receptive and ready to embrace them. I was at a crossroads when I made the decision to move into the ZeitgeistAP studio hub in February of this year. I made the decision to continue and move forward within the hub and on a personal level, made a further commitment to sustaining my life as a working artist.
There’s been a significant internal shift as a result and the way I feel about being an artist has altered. I feel like I’ve grown comfortably into the role and a lot of the anxiety I felt in the past has reduced as a result. It’s taken time, but I feel liberated by it, this trust and confidence in a new found vocation – hence I believe, my strong desire for a break, for a chance to stand back from it all and celebrate how far I feel I’ve come – not just in the past six months, but in the past five years, too.