The Weight of Greatness
Last week I read a tweet by the art critic Jerry Saltz, and it has been stuck in my head ever since. He wrote:
‘Artists: You do not get to choose what kind of artist you will be. It’s a need or drive that comes to you. Something that teaches you how to keep going and how to live. You have to give yourself permission to be totally open to those drives. This is how art saves and makes your life.’
I’ve been having a miniature identity crisis with my work recently. Like most creatives, I have these crises from time to time, but it usually leads to something positive - a new perspective or recalibration of how I want to do things. This latest epiphany has been creeping up on me for some time, but its roots lie in my time at university where I studied English Literature. I loved my degree, but the problem with studying great writers is they set a high standard if you want to be a writer, too. This isn’t a problem in itself; it’s good to have high standards. But ten years into my career, it’s made me focus too much on what I think I should be creating, rather than what I want to create.
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To put it simply: I’ve spent too long aspiring to be a ‘great writer’ or ‘great artist’, without following my own creative instincts and focusing on the work I really want to do - even if that work won’t win me a Nobel Prize. Sometimes I just want to have fun with it, you know? It doesn’t mean I can’t be esteemed by others at the same time. In fact, it’s only through creating authentically that we can even hope to create well, as I have been discovering with my latest art project. Last month, I started drawing wildflowers with a pack of POSCA paint markers. It was only a tiny thing to help me learn a new material and fit more quick sketches into my working week, but being able to experiment and let myself relax has reminded me how fun creativity should be, and ultimately how this freedom leads to better work. I love the wildflowers I’ve drawn with these pens; today I saw a cuckooflower and couldn’t wait to get home to capture it in my little sketchbook. It’s a bolder, more vivid style than I’ve produced for a long time, and I think it’s good!
As the sun begins to shine brighter and warmer this month, I invite you to join me in loosening up, releasing those shoulders and broadening your idea of what success looks like. The earth is full of newness at the moment; eggs clustered in nests, blackthorn and cuckooflower blossom, swallows arriving and brimstones dancing through the air. Now is the time to cast off the shackles of winter and start dancing with the brimstones - and that is exactly what I intend to do.