The Grayson Perry Reith Lectures have been a joy to me. I have listened to his words shouting “Yes!” at the radio. “Me too! I also have an inner shed!”
How to be an artist… There’s no instruction manual. For every thousand artists there are a thousand ways to be an artist. I can almost pinpoint the time at which this dawned on me. It took me a long time to get there. I can be extraordinarily naive and stupid sometimes. I can also pinpoint the time I first called myself an artist, out loud and in public. It IS a brave thing to do. It DOES feel a little bit noble. It does feel that I can only be the most Elena Thomassy when I’m being an artist. Anything else is lesser. Anything else is criminal. Anything else feels like I’m not living my life to the full. I’m wasting my brain, my thoughts, my love, my faith in humanity if I don’t make art. My supreme ability to make lemon shortbread is pointless, unless I am also an artist.
My motivation to teach, especially in primary education, is to catch them young, show them what is possible, show them that their thoughts and ideas are the thing that makes them unique, the thing that they can show to the world and leave their mark on it.
This month my diary is filled with opportunities to show myself as an artist to the world. Grayson is right: you have to grab them all, because you just never know who you will meet, who you will end up talking to. You never know what ideas will be sparked, what associations will be made between previously unrelated thoughts. I’m still reeling from the joint show with Bo Jones; I’m doing workshops with students; artist talks; The Art Party Conference in Scarborough; A meeting of the DfE Expert Advisory group for art and design… this last one, I still wonder why I’ve been asked, but I say yes to it anyway. By the middle of December, I will no doubt be almost dead with exhaustion.
The point of all this self-aggrandisement is this: It is a privilege to be an artist. It fills me with the deepest joy. I am thankful for every minute that I have to make stuff, to think, show, write and speak about my work. To be an artist is the BEST thing to be. To see the world around me, be able to process the tricky bits and make something that expresses my thoughts is something I am driven to do. Without it I am shot… shit… and shut.