Waving not Drowning

On Saturday (7th March) I attended a talk in the Birmingham School of Art & Design, Margaret St. It is a beautiful building but I once had an awful interview there for the MA, not suprisingly I didn't get on. SO it was nice to visit again on better terms.


The talk, called Waving not Drowning, was organized through Turning Point West Midlands as artist development.

The talk was giving an inside scoop from practising artists on the real art world out there : how it has treated them, how to make the best of it and how they have got on.

It started with a quick intro to Turning Point by Wendy Law, which given that Ideas Tap is soon ceasing to exist, is invaluable to presenting and creating opportunities to creatives.

Anna Francis of AirSpace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent gave great detail on how she has got to where she is now, then followed by Andrew Lacon, Ali Reed and Stuart Layton.

All artists had in common that they just did not give up. It is key that you really do have to 'be in it to win it'! You have to just keep making, applying for things and putting yourself out there. Even if you are applying for things that aren't really relevant and are clutching at straws, someone will notice you and your work if you are being active. It is all about persistance.

However, on that note, you must be selective with your work. Be careful what you are putting out there, does it get the message that you are trying to convey across? Have you got a lot of older irrelevant work on your website that is easier to find than work more appropriate for something you are applying for? Have a re-jig! Update everything and make everything relevant to what you are applying for.

What I found most valuable was that the artists were very truthful in their experiences, even if it meant not really selling being an artists or continuing to further education. I think it was Andrew Lacon who brought up being an artist is a mixture of Narcissism and crippling self doubt. Which couldn't be more spot on. One day we love our work, the next we hate it, which can make it even more difficult to persist.

Two of the talkers had both had negative experiences in doing their Masters Degrees, and both were studying in London - but in saying that, they both agreed they wouldn't be where they were now or making the art they were without the harsh and demotivating comments of their tutors - silver lining eh?

Although this blog makes it sounds like it was a terribly negative and dark discussion, it was outlining the truth of being an artist, the painful truth that sometimes institutions don't prepare students for. It is isn't easy, and you don't make much money. But to most, just being able to continue afford to make and display work is what being an artist is all about!

'Don't just wait for your ship to come in...swim to it' Graeme Vaughan.