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One thing I used to do on a fairly regular basis on this blog was tell you what I was listening to.

I notice I have been so busy showing off what I’ve been recording and writing that I haven’t posted a list for a while. This is a little remiss of me really because I am possibly as much influenced in my work – audio as well as visual – by songs as anything else.

 

(A note about inspiration: much as I love going round the Big Galleries, I don’t often come away inspired, more informed and instructed perhaps, occasionally admiring, but not often inspired. Is this a dangerous confession for an artist to make? Especially one looking to make a living, gain funding, and exposure in those same galleries…? Shot myself in the foot maybe? But I’ll bet I’m not the only one. I hasten to add, that the artists I have actually met, I find tremendously inspiring, but it is more about who they are and how they think about life, than how their work eventually looks in isolation on the gallery wall. As I type this I am wincing…. have I gone too far? The Open Studio is more exciting to me than the PV.

I find inspiration in the more mundane places. I find inspiration in the junk shops…. overheard conversations… the way other people go about their lives. I think it is because I like art about life rather than art about art. For me, my response to the world around me, and other artists’ responses to their world is what holds me. If I see the hand of the maker, and a strand of thought, I’m hooked. If I see a different approach to ties in my own little bubble, that is what is inspiring.

I have made links through the conversations I hold here and elsewhere to other artists that will keep me going for years I am sure. That’s the real stuff. 

However  (trying to dig myself out of the hole) I retain the right to change my mind about those Big Galleries should one of them ever invite me to hang work in their hallowed spaces.)

 

The songs then…

The songwriters that I know – and I know a few – don’t write songs directly in order to get a song sung by One Direction, get to number 1 and be rich. It would be good if they made some money, but that isn’t what it is about. They write songs because they have to. A response to the world. Not much different to us visual artists… making a living would be the icing on the cake. Dan Whitehouse was heard saying recently “What’s the difference between a musician and a large pizza? A large pizza can feed a family!”

 

I can tell I’m rambling now… I hope this makes sense when I read it back…

 

So I think I need two lists here, a list of songs by songwriters I know, and a list of stuff I’m listening to by people that I don’t. If you are not familiar with these people, especially the first list, please click on the links and go to listen to them. They are talented people who deserve a wider audience.

 

First up then…my friends list:

Has to start with Dan Whitehouse. He is the one that got me started, built my confidence, showed me a few tricks, developed a few of my skills, expanded my knowledge. For this I am forever grateful. He is an extraordinary and talented man, and seems to be surrounded by wonderful generous people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COTfVv7aym4

He’s got a new album out… trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FWxwiPownk

 

Paul Liddell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFFl0H4I4ME I love this song so much… but he has loads of them! He is brilliant live, he’s based in the North East of the country, but has been known to venture south, if you can get to see him, please do, he’s funny, very entertaining, and very clever.

 

(I make no apologies that both of the above songs use loops, as I am working on a song myself at the moment that might do the same… if I can figure out how to do it!)

 

Anja McCloskey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG3KBtI8XVk Anja writes songs that defy being put into boxes. I am a convert to the sound of the accordion, just because of Anja.

 

 

Chris Cleverley:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbb1H6YBQH0 Chris helped me finish off my song “Numb” and played on the live recording that lurks around on sound cloud somewhere. He has a unique guitar playing style that I just love.

 

I will post more links at some point, but that’s enough for now.

 

As for the other stuff I’m listening to:

Jesca Hoop

Feist

Husky Rescue

The Whitest Boy Alive

David Lynch

…you can find those yourself very easily if you feel so inclined!

 

I don’t listen to much classical, jazz, RnB… none of the hippety hoppety stuff if I can help it. So in the wider sense I’m not very knowledgeable. But I know what I like! Hahaha!

 

 

 

 


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I’m going to talk about my hair. It might not seem like it at first glance, but I believe the state of my hair is all tied up with the state of my work.

A while back, I talked about my haircut.

I used to have lots of hair, really, lots, in a big curly mass. People described me by describing my hair. All my life, my hair had been part of who I was.

I was hiding behind all my hair.

During the last year, as I rebelled against my job, I have had increasingly severe haircuts, and up till very recently, it’s been really short. It is also most of the time, grey.

I’m not earning much at the moment, so my hair has had to wait. If my hair is shoulder length and curly and grey that’s ok. If it is really short and spikier and grey, that’s ok…. but grown-out short hair that’s grey, somehow, makes me look like a much older woman, from a different time… think about your mum or your grandma with a shampoo and set. Not right at all. So I dyed it whilst waiting for the money to get it cut. Mistake. Having dyed my hair for years when younger, recently I had got used to the grey, or the grey with bits of colour put in professionally. I hate the brown dye now. I feel like a traitor.

I am making work about middle aged women (I’m 53).

I am making work about the strength of them, and the way their lives are sandwiched between generations that they care for over themselves. I am making a stand in my work about these women. Dyeing my hair myself this horrible cheap flat brown I think makes me more invisible. I feel like I am hiding under it again. I am washing it furiously every day to get rid of it as quickly as possible. I am waiting for my next lump of pay to land on the doormat so I can make an appointment to get it cut (I love my hairdresser Tina she’s full of art, and really gets what I’m about, and never once asks me what I’m doing at the weekend or where I’m going on my holidays http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/lifestyle/birmingham-hair-salon-coustis-turned-7099188 ). Then I will feel like myself again. I will feel like I am presenting myself properly, not hiding behind my hair and the dye. I feel it closely allied to my work that the hair feels like it’s mine. I want short grey hair, possibly with some blonde bits in if I’m feeling adventurous… embellishing it, not hiding it. I feel I am worth it… no… really…. I am worth it. I am worth the cost of new underwear. I am worth the cost of a bloody good haircut and some highlights. I am unashamedly middle aged.

 

The women I represent in my work… the embroidered bras, the songs…. they are worth the effort too.

 

Edited to add: Cheque landed, appointment made, haircut Tuesday.


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I still feel the slump, but muscle memory and sheer bloody-mindedness have taken over.

I keep stitching – – – – – – –

(“Keep on swimming, keep on swimming….” (Finding Nemo, for those who don’t already know))

The stitching saves me. That repetitive, unthinking, thinking action is relentless. Unthinking: because all the decisions have already been made, my needle just goes up and down. Sometimes I don’t even have to watch it. Thinking: because the rest of my mind wanders where it wants to, needs to, to get the other stuff thought about. It’s like sleep, or hypnotism…. the state of flow.

When I rise from that state I am restless again, in need of action. Bloody-minded… determined and belligerent.

I open up the online Arts Council form and look again. I have written the words, they might change a little, but they are there. The numbers are a different matter. My heart sinks as I open it up, and look at my spreadsheet (previously the saviour of the innumerate). Numbers lie heavy in my head. I need to mangle them and make them stand up straight. I say their names slowly in the hope that understanding will suddenly dawn and they will dance in front of my eyes and do my bidding. Sometimes, I slam my laptop shut and swear violently. Sometimes I coax the numbers and myself into an uneasy truce. They promise to behave, and sit still, if I promise not to lose my temper. In this manner we ease our way to a cautious balance…

 

The Arts Council thing is for a longer bigger project that I am desperate to do, but currently don’t quite have the skills for, and will need to pay someone to help me, and someone to teach me. For this, money is required. It’s a corker… and I would just love to make it happen!

Meanwhile…. out in the big wide world, things are happening… I have been invited to put the little fabric scrap shoes into an exhibition called “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for the Oriel Gallery in Wrexham. How lovely it is that someone has found me through my brand spanking new Axisweb membership, and invited me to show some work! I am thrilled!

I don’t think I wrote about the Axisweb thing… I think it happened while my blog was down for a few days. I need to stop bloody moaning and slumping about, because actually some pretty amazing things have happened lately, and are still happening. I need to prise myself out of the slumpy armchair and enjoy it while it’s going on. These things snowball don’t they? If something happens to give you confidence, strike while the iron is hot and do something else before it fades. This is why I did the Axis thing… while there were lots of fresh and lovely things on my cv. After that, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment about my work, how it could really work as something bigger, and have dived into the Arts Council funding hoo-hah…

 

I’d keep my fingers crossed, but I’m too busy using them for the adding up.

 


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I may have some sort of personality disorder.

I am really quite anti-social for an extrovert.

I like to be on my own.

When I’ve had a few days of being out there having fun and being nice and smiley to people, the best thing in the world is ten hours straight on my own in the studio. It needs to be ten hours because I spend the first two fannying about with the kettle and the stuff on the wall, and going to buy biscuits etc.

I think I like blogging so much because I can talk and talk without actually having to deal with anyone. Also, I can leave my hair looking like a bird’s nest, and leave off the make-up, and wear the jumper I wore for the last two days because it is comfy.

I love to be busy and meet new people and old friends and be jolly, and then I retreat. Big time baby. I am in the middle of a grumpy retreat at the moment, only putting on the public face when I absolutely have to.

While I am in this slump/grump I am literally forcing myself to do applications, and search about for things to either get my work out into the world, or earn some money. I growl if the phone rings.

 

BUT……….

 

In one small part of my head, ready to turn into fully fired up enthusiasm, is a little spark of joy that keeps me sane, and keeps me going.

Collaboration.

I love it!

I think it is my thing. The conversation between artists and musicians. The ideas that ping about between me and them.

So in the middle of this grump, I ask a couple of people if they will help with a project. I ask in a way that will save face and feel comfortable for both parties if they say no (see, I DO have social skills!) and will enable the relationship to continue regardless.

They both said yes.

So now the little spark in a little part of my head turns into a bright blue pilot light. To stretch the analogy rather too far, I now need someone to come up with the gas so we can get cooking.

 

Collaborators, bless them. If you are lucky you get a collaborator who turns into a friend, or vice versa… I have a selection of each variety. They are able to spark you out of the dark mood…and if they are a long way away and only communicate electronically, they might not even notice that you look like a cat lady, and you don’t answer their emails right away. So their response is normal. And before you know it, you start feeling normal again too.

(just give me a while ok?)

 

*************

 

While I write this sporadically, between mugs of tea that I allow to go cold, I read another blog post, by Claire Manning:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/writing-as-learning

in which she also describes the slump… August apparently being a popular month for it. Also, she is “post MA” which, as has been reported, is a well known condition that is to be expected. All will be well, Claire!


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Weird day.

Probably shouldn’t post on a weird day, in case I say something I later regret. But I’m going to give it a go anyway.

I have angst.

I am in the midst of a crisis of confidence.

I should have known really, you can’t keep riding the crest forever, the slump always happens. There is always some sort of payback I find.

 

The high has lasted a while though… I can track it back to the last slump…

January to March = job related slump

April to July = New York, resignation, work exhibited across the UK (Kent, Liverpool, and closer to home too) freedom related high, I absolutely know for certain that I am Brilliant Artist.

August to whenever = Feeling worthlessness and uselessness of work, will never earn any money ever again.

Also August to whenever = I have a big idea, but the slump is rendering me mentally incapable of doing anything about it. And I also doubt it’s a very good idea anyway.

 

In rational moments, I know that this is a cycle, it will all be ok in the end.

In irrational moments, I scan the local paper for jobs at Aldi.

 

The slump is physical as well as mental. I slump in this chair, uncomfortable but can’t be bothered to move. Blaaaah……..


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