Facing down failure: AA2A, enjoying the tech stuff and building a sustainable creative practice
Well fair enough, but also, you know, failure sucks. And I can tell you that during 2016, after a year of rejections, I was getting profoundly discouraged. The effect on me is that I came to rely heavily on deadlines for open shows to bash out a piece rather than developing my creative ideas. The pressure builds as you can’t talk about it because as artists we feel we need to project ‘success’ in order to market ourselves. And I became more and more isolated as I don’t tend to go to previews if I don’t get into shows - well not if it requires an expensive trip to London.
Sometimes you need a boost. Sometimes you need contact with other artists, and a push to get things out of your head and notebook and into a more public realm. Sometimes you need to blow failure a big thumb-to-the-nose raspberry. In this respect I want to tell you about something that has helped me to take a step forward and face off the year’s rejections. Thanks to an ‘Artist Access to Art Colleges’ placement that ran from October 2016 to April 2017 at National Glass Centre at Sunderland University I have had an adventure into the world of miniature glass painting, reverse intaglio carving and Essex Crystals. More about these in a bit.
|Work Station at National Glass Centre|
Aside from this, I’d been feeling a need to find a different way to sustain my creative practice. The way I have worked in the past is that I do loads of reading and thinking, and eventually a piece of work pops into my head almost out of nowhere,and then I work out how to make it. But in order for that to work I have to be ready and attentive for that ‘poppy out’ moment. And as I (usually) sustain my work financially with part time freelance contracts which are often very complex and demanding, I find it harder and harder to cultivate that attentive moment when work pops out. As a result things emerge VERY slowly, one piece at a time over several years.
|Making a ballroom Dress.....|
So, back to Essex Crystals. These - or more accurately reverse intaglio painted gems - are wonderful pieces of weirdness that emerged in the Nineteenth Century. Intricate carvings (often animals and plants) were made by hand into the back of rock crystal cabochons, and these were then painted with oil paints to give an intense luminosity. They often depicted hunting dogs or favourite pets in tiny, colourful, almost three-dimensional form, that are somehow animated by the optical space of the gem. They have become popularly called Essex Crystals after the Nineteenth Century painter and miniaturist William Essex, and the name has stuck even though Essex’s work was never carved.
I’m going to write in the next few posts with more stuff from the Essex Crystal research. In the meantime though, I wondered what your experiences of facing down failure and the creative process have been? How do you sustain your creative practice? Does getting involved in technical stuff help or hinder this?
Update: This article also appears on my new blog https://victoriascholes.wordpress.com/. As of August 2017 I am posting on there - I'd love it if you would sign up and follow me via email - you can do that from the landing page. See you there!