exploring art and writing

Blind Ambition.

In Identity, Life, Stressed on March 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I thought a visual metaphor might be pleasant.

Last weekend I experienced something alien and provocatively disconcerting: I went home and, through various discussions with old friends, I realised that most of them had a general inkling of where their lives are heading.

It seems the tables have turned. Ever since I turned three I would incessantly draw (and talk, incidentally), proclaiming to the world that I was going to be an artist. Of course, as I began to sprout upwards it dawned on me that you don’t so much just exist as an artist; rather, you go to art school. You do art, you practice it.

And then you probably don’t become an artist.

I won’t say that this epiphany was entirely negative, especially considering art school provided me with my most memorable life experiences and achievements irrespective of this realisation. But whilst I was having the time of my life at university making friends, making videos, editing, socialising, dancing, drinking, generally questioning and challenging and doing everything else that flying the nest goads you on to do, I didn’t consider the detriment of graduating into such a casual state of affairs.

When I use the word ‘casual’ I’m referring to my own personal attitude towards art as a practice, but perhaps ignorance is a more fitting word. The social environment that me and my fellow graduates are inhabiting is far from casual. I fully admit that I completely and utterly underestimated not just the state of the arts in our current economical climate, but also the overall gist of society, in particular employment (and I’m not even referring to arts-related employment. That would be far too broad a reference). Luckily there are always individuals and groups who persist through such times.

All of these matters have prodded and poked me into doing some soul searching, and it didn’t take long to conclude that the ambitions I hold so dear to me are all but blind. I’m not intending for that to sound pessimistic – more realistic. I’m also aware that I graduated only eight months ago. However, I can’t keep my impatience and frustration fully submerged as I look for jobs only to find that art, surprise surprise, isn’t depicting me in the best light to a society where efficiency is everything. As I’m sure many generations have experienced prior to myself, life in general seems pervaded with all things (emotionally) inessential at the moment; the Important and Necessary are elsewhere.

If I wanted to indulge in the woes of existential homelessness, however, I would end up doing myself an emotional harm. (Although it is an interesting topic – these guys, Dreyfus and Magee, have nailed it). This enlightening ‘soul searching’ has reinforced the fact that I have never really thought about what I want to ‘be’, or achieve, or participate in and contribute towards. The only definitive’s are compiled and listed below, merely to clarify them for myself. The sentences following each point are my way of attempting to justify what now appear to be amusing follies. So in no particular order:

Write a novella – this ambition began as ‘write a novel’ but that now seems slightly too ambitious. Perhaps I should reword it: ‘write a few short stories, then a short novel, then a Proper Novel’. The premise behind the story shall for now remain veiled to all but myself; what I can tell you is that the idea sprang into my mind whilst watching a theatrical production of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman in Edinburgh. It was awful.

Make a feature length video – by this I do not mean ‘I want to make a movie’. I’ll admit, I’m thinking beyond what could be referred to as a holistically Fine Art-orientated video. I would like to work with other people (I hear it can be done), maybe even with actors. For instance, the idea of a script doesn’t repulse me, although it would be preferable for it not to be written by myself (and I can’t imagine embarking on a verbal equivalent to, say, the Gilmore Girls; perhaps something a little more Gus Van Sant). I want to get a point across whilst utilising skill, empathy and maybe even beauty. Just don’t ask me what it’s going to be about.

To learn another language – perhaps due to surreptitious feelings of guilt when I go abroad. At least this ambition isn’t quite as blind as my previous one; I would like to learn Italian. My great grandmother was Italian, and whilst I can’t even remember meeting her I have, over the years, got an idea into my head that I may have distant relatives over there. Plus I bloody love the place. This leads me onto my next two aims:

To live and work abroad – yes, preferably in Italy. I’m not even saying it has to be an arts-related job. It’s all life experience.

To trace my family tree – this is so easy to do these days, I can’t even think of an excuse as to why I haven’t started this already.

To breed dogs (preferably Great Danes) – at the moment I’m failing to see how this will fit into my life, therefore I am making it my Retirement Plan. However, since it looks like people my age won’t retire until they’re 80, I might have to discover a way of integrating it into my life before then. Also, I’ll only do it if the Kennel Club eases up on the canine eugenics.

It’s surprising how writing a list actually helps; each tangent suddenly seems linear rather than being a spasmodic scribble in my head. There are other ambitions that I consider to be more universal: read as many books as possible, meet people, see places and so on. Priorities at the moment are to find a second job and somehow keep myself involved in the arts. Also, to bat away the rejections and learn from each instance of failure. Like so many of my fellow graduates, the best way to decipher the ways by which we can become ‘successful’ (however one may define the word) is to make mistakes and be persistent. Apologies if that sounds like an excerpt from The Power of Now or something – really it’s just what I’m reiterating to myself as the days go by. If you’re reading this and for some reason need a decent pep talk, J. K. Rowlings Harvard commencement speech is a good one for a quick enthused pick-me-up.

Lastly, I’d like to narrow my eyes pointedly at education, yet again. Universities should teach (or is it warn?) us of what they know in the way of self-employment and freelancing; invoices, taxes, funding applications, etcetera, etcetera. The opportunity has been and gone, however, and I’m not bitter about not having learnt these things; I like to think that I possess a relatively useful amount of resourcefulness and so shall hopefully survive. It’s just that, looking in retrospect at my higher education, I can’t for the life of me understand why these skills are not integrated into a Fine Art course. What they definitely forgot to mention in art school is that filling in a form is now as much a part of the art-making process as the creation of the artwork itself.

  1. Okay, just reading that,I was reminded in an instant, of the movie EAT PRAY LOVE. I had to throw that out there. I can understand how you feel about artists not really having it easy when it comes to finding jobs. I know the feeling. I really am passionate about art but simultaneously, I wouldn’t have the patience to pursue a career with it. I wouldn’t have the patience to pursue a career in it because: 1) poetry, stories, acting, singing, making videos, song writing, and photography would feel more like a demand by the highest biter. and.. 2) It’s very difficult to find a job that pays enough to get by doing the above anywhere where I live haha. I give you a lot of credit. You are a very talented woman and will go far with everything you strive for if you keep going! You can get your goals done!! Also, I saw that you want to learn Italian. Italian is a beautiful language. My aunt can speak Italian. I can’t of course, but I do know quite a bit of Spanish. I’m taking all the Spanish classes at my college to learn it not fluently but close to fluently. I have a huge passion for other cultures and languages as well. I love reading your blogs for some reason. I think it’s because they are seemingly written ( sounds corny) *laughs at self*
    from the heart. It’s an honor to see so many people on here, you included that write from their heart. I have always been told by my mom who is an actual writer that true writers don’t sugarcoat anything. They write exactly what they are feeling. I love that. I love that this site allows it and I love your blogs for that reason. Well, as usual, I wrote way too long of a comment. I do this to everyone I comment on this site.. Leave it to the over chatty American.. Anyway, nice new blog 🙂 and good luck to you . udachi!!! ( good luck in russian ) ~Britt 🙂

  2. Lucy,
    This is a well chronicled piece of musing.. And further more an extremely rare treat of brilliant wordplay which is so uncommon these days in the age of textese.. But why so self-critical?? If you were lacking in the zeal or the effort it needed to land a “dream” job, your thoughts might not have come under scrutiny.. But, looks like you know where you stand and where your goal is.. Honestly this has happened to one too many, when in school, I look around the 400 people who were graduating with me and wondered how it would be a matter of time before I beat everyone to succeed in getting a great job! Wrong! The pool of contenders with comparable amounts of intellect and ambition turned out to be ASTRONOMICAL.. ! To be overwhelmed is to be mediocre.. And your writing tells a different story about you!!! Cheer up, I know you have it in you 🙂 Think and highlight what makes you special, why you and not someone else and go get them!!! Let Hope drive you!
    Phew, I should run for President, don’t you think 😉
    Good luck!

  3. I just wanted to tell you that that video that you sent me was amazing! She is such an inspiring public speaker. A lot of what she said about creativity coming at awkward times- like when you’re driving or in my case ( in class at college), could not be anymore true. Mostly all of the times my creativity comes is when I am somewhere that it shouldn’t. I always try to get it all down on paper when it does come. Otherwise, I feel like I missed a golden opportunity for the day. Anyway, thank you for sending that to me. It definitely cheered me up on this boring, rainy day in PA.

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