Saturday, 16 May 2015
Another thing I've been filling the idle hours with is drawing. As I have written before, drawing was my first love, and -- like any first love -- has been the subject of many a "what if?" fantasy in the subsequent years. On balance, though, I'm content with the choices I made. Most successful artists, in my observation, are either completely reckless in their self-belief or have a soft trust-fund cushion to fall back on; ideally, both. The rest teach. There is a huge amount of survivor bias in tales of artistic success ("I believed I could do it, and that's why I succeeded!"). Well, maybe, but it ain't me, babe. Given the need to earn a living, the oddly toxic atmosphere of the mid-1970s, and my Groucho-Marxian constitution (a reluctance to join any club that would have me as a member), it was never really an option. Besides, I suspect I'd have struggled eternally with that dissenting-protestant-heritage misgiving that drawing pictures doesn't count as a proper job.
Now, of course, I can afford to be a reckless, if backdated, trustafarian, or "pensioner" as we generally call my new tribe. I suppose I may have left it a little late, and am aware my tastes may have been permanently fixed somewhere around 1978. Nonetheless, I've been filling various sketchbooks, and to my delight have found that moderately high-resolution scans of these small original drawings (1200 dpi on my Epson flatbed) reproduce very nicely indeed enlarged on plain paper. Once I can find a suitable paper stock (perhaps a Japanese paper like a medium-weight kozo, provided it can survive the journey through the printer) I'm going to try editioning some of these as digital prints. In the end, there's no better test of whether you are just a superannuated Sunday painter than asking hard cash for your wares.
This may be doomed as an enterprise, but people tend to value only what they have paid good money for. There are fewer more deflating sights than seeing a drawing or photograph of yours, given as a gift, unframed and dog-eared, and blu-tacked to a wall in a guest bedroom. This lack of regard for the cost-free is reinforced by the prevailing business model of the internet, i.e. that content is free. This radical undervaluing of creativity -- hey, everyone's an artists now! -- is spreading into the real world. There may originally have been some sort of libertarian inflection to that word "free", but now it just means that nobody gets paid for colouring in the blank spaces on the advertising hoarding that is the Web and social media. Musician, photographer, writer, film-maker, journalist...These used to be highly-competitive, reasonably-paid careers, not sanity-saving hobbies for pensioners and the under-employed. That dissenting-protestant-heritage reflex mentioned above seems to have triumphed: wait, you want to be paid for this? OK, I'll find someone else...