What painting would I do today, I wondered as lay in bed listening to the wind (the outside wind that it is) and the rain pattering on the skylight. I was feeling quite a long way away from any type of activity after a long work day and a late night out with a friend. So no painting, maybe tomorrow.
It occurred to me then that life is not just about doing things but about not doing things, something at which I am quite skilled. In fact doing nothing much probably takes up the lions share of my time. I excuse this by explaining that artists need a lot of down time, a time to let things germinate or as I call it, foostering time. It’s one of the biggest attractions of being an ‘artist’. The only attraction these days. The rest of it is all about sitting in a room alone making marks on pieces of canvas that are going to end up in a storage box.
I find it odd that so many people think being an artist is great. “It’s all right for you”, they say, “sitting around daubing!” Being an artist of one particular stripe, a painter for instance, can be incredibly boring. Most good painters I know hate painting and do almost anything to avoid it. A lot of housework gets done by artists. And then, when finally one coaxes the artist-self to the easel, 99% of it is frustration and doubt.
Occasionally you get that moment, that hour that day when suddenly everything is “YES!” and it’s sort of worth it. Only sort of though. I often think that people who diversify, people who don’t stay stuck in the rut of identifying themselves with one particular activity have a better time of it. Want to write?Why not?Try a bit of sculpture, mind animals(always ask the owners first though), bake cakes, sing, swim, make a garden bench, head to Thailand to teach children and have multiple bicycle accidents. There’s a lot of life out there and not a lot of time to enjoy it.
All these thoughts are wallowing in my head as I lay in bed this particular morning. Eventually I got up and made it to the kitchen in search of breakfast to find I had only fish and vegetables in the house. Admirably and annoyingly healthy though that is,it was not a morning for fish and vegetable breakfast. Toast would have been good. Even porridge. Imagine my delight when, on a second confused lap of the house, I found a half a packet of shortbread biscuits.
Biscuits, ah biscuits. People who know me will be aware of my deep attachment to biscuits through my famous lecture, Custard Creams:Can the Cream be on the Outside? and my admiration for Dr. M. Breyers lecture on The Mechanics and Ethics of Eating Biscuits in Bed, both from last years Croatian Spinsters Summit. I have since then, sorrowfully reduced my consumption of biscuits, after all when you find yourself selling family members for a hit of Mikado you may just have a problem.
You may think I am rambling now but the Custard Cream lecture and the Croatian Spinsters Summit that spawned it was a classic piece of displacement activity. One day when I should have been painting I actually dolled myself up and took pictures of myself giving the Custard Cream lecture. How sad is that?Actually it was quite fun and there in lies a conundrum of sorts:the most fun part of being an artist is avoiding being an artist. Go figure.