What does it mean to be an artist?
Last year I decided to ask the artists that I support through my gallery, what it means to them to be an artist. Below are a series of responses from those that could answer, and those who had someone answer on their behalf. I really enjoyed finding out more about the artists that I support and sharing that with others, so I have collated it all together in case anyone missed it. I will soon be profiling a new series through my social media and website, and I look forward to sharing that with you very soon!
CHRIS NEATE: “I find it really hard to describe myself as an 'artist' which for me sets up all sorts of images of what I imagine an artist to be. I would however say that I draw. I feel I must draw and the act of drawing is a part of who I am. It is undoubtedly an outlet for my imagination/mind and it positively helps me to feel balanced and in touch with my inner self and so I suppose more real in the real world. Drawing helps me feel settled and more complete. It's strange that though I am categorised as an outsider artist the act of drawing makes me feel that I belong and have a place and purpose in the universe, so not outside at all.”
TERENCE WILDE: “It's quite hard to express what it means to be an artist. For me, to be an artist is to have the need to create. This drive is a fluctuating sixth sense - at its brightest it is joy and at its darkest it becomes something tangible and necessary to stave off feelings of the inevitable. I usually only have adequate words for it when I'm fighting for my life.” I know that many people will relate to this and I hope people find comfort in knowing they are not alone with these feelings.
KATE BRADBURY: “When Jennifer Gilbert asked the question, ‘what does being an artist mean to you?’ - I looked over my shoulder. And then again over the other one, before accepting that I was the person being addressed. In my everyday life I do not refer to myself as an "artist" and so the answer to the question was a long time coming.
It means my pockets are full of stones and feathers and my backpack weighted with salvage. It means I set my alarm for the crack of dawn so I can get a couple of hours drawing or sawing in, before I have to go to work. It means my tea-caddy is empty because last night I ran out of ink and so stewed up the last of the PG-Tips to a brown sludge, in order to finish a job that could not wait. It means that when the neighbours are screaming blue murder and kicking the furniture around, I can draw a door to a tunnel and go through it.
It means that I can listen to Hank Williams sing "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" on repeat from dawn to dusk, without ever tiring of it. It means my biscuit tin is full of splinters and my tea plates are turned to palettes. It means I see ghosts and am not always afraid. It means that when I hear someone say "It is what it is", I might think, "But what if it isn't?" It means the skin I am living in is not always enough.
It means that although I am not an architect, I can build. Although I am not a scientist, I can invent. Although I am not an engineer, I can make things work. Although I am not a child, I can play.”
MARCO SCHMITT BEING ASKED WHY HE LIKES DRAWING:. “Bild - I mal immer alle verschiedene Farben. Alle Farben." Translated this is: “Painting - I always draw all different colours. All colours." I bet many artists love to paint and Marco practices this every week in Germany.
SHINYA FUJII WAS ASKED WHY ART IS SO IMPORTANT TO HIS LIFE: “Drawing is the best part of my life - it makes me happy. It is good for my mind. My job is my art.” Fujii can only draw for one hour a day between 8-9am as the focus is so intense, and that’s then enough for him for the day.
SHINICHI SAWADA: As Sawada does not really speak I have used some speech from a man who supports him in his artistic creation, and this was featured in the BBC’s Imagine documentary: “He hardly speaks, so it is impossible for me to understand him through words. That’s why I read his body language and his facial expressions to understand him. We spend time in each other’s company like this every day. Honestly, I wish I could understand it. I haven’t taught him anything. He has a natural talent. Even though I am with him all the time I still don’t understand it.” When I met Sawada last year he had so much drive and was busy creating the whole time I was there. He had no books around as inspiration and all of his ideas were coming from his mind. It was fascinating to watch such a talented man at work.
MASAO OBATA: Unfortunately Masao Obata passed away in 2010, so I took a quote from a film about him made in 2008: “I am happiest when I am working and by working I mean drawing.” Most of Obata’s work features the colour red, which he stated was the colour of happiness and fulfillment. This goes against what others may say about the colour red, but the sheer joy depicted across Obata’s work is obvious to see!
MAKOTO TAKEZAWA: Unfortunately he passed away in 2010 so I was unable to ask him any questions. But when he was alive he was really passionate about having his work exhibited and so made these woodcuts that he could hand colour on the back, in order to mass produce them quickly so he could have a show quicker - what a brilliant attitude!
ROY COLLINSON: Roy passed away in 1999, but was a very prolific artist when he was alive! Since 1986 Roy created his work in the art centre at @barringtonfarmartists in Norfolk. He found his niche and an outlet for his memories and stories of the past. He always drew his visions, as well as animals and trains that he saw in real life, and aliens and western characters that he saw on TV. Martin Bastow (owner and founder of the centre) said that, “The art of others was never relevant to Roy’s own vision, and he often left it up to viewers to make up their own decision on his art and what it was and represented. He was very secretive about his work and never really talked to anyone about his drawings. Ultimately he drew for himself, either in the company of friends in his studio or in the privacy of his own accommodation. Roy often worked out of the art centre hours, covering his walls - the skirting board to coving - with hundreds of drawings together in common themes and he overworked/re-worked them until the paper tore.”