8 years ago I got a weekend job that paid enough to cover my bills and then some. The idea was the use the rest of the time to make a real go of painting as a career. 8 years on I can see this has not really worked for me. Sure I have had solo shows and sold quite a bit of work but ultimately now I am worse off then I was at the start.
Yes, I know the economy has tanked and that is the source of a lot of my struggles. I am earning€50 less a week that I was a few years ago(to pay for the pile of bastards who shafted this country but that’s for another blog…)but the reality is I cannot afford to invest in my painting any more.
I did not get into painting to make money of course but having said that being poor is no fun and I am finding increasingly that painting, rather than giving me pleasure, is becoming just another burden on my shrinking income and another source of stress. How to pay for the next show, how to pay for materials, framing, the website. I have got into debt painting and though I have sold well I doubt I have broken even. I could stop showing but showing is a part of the process not to mention the only sociable aspect of a lonely job.
Nor have I built any sort of reputation that I feel I could build a career on and I don’t really feel I am able to do that. I am not a ‘player’, I am not someone people automatically take to. I have had wonderful support mind, really, really wonderful and I have been floored by people who not having a hell of a lot income still buy and floored by the people coming to my shows, taking the time to let me know their thoughts but it’s not enough to keep me going. That is the worse part I think. I feel if I stop painting I will let these people down but I have to live my life too and despite what many seem to think living alone and working alone is not a great way to spend the limited time we have on this planet.
As for the process I have never enjoyed that a lot either and I have spent a huge amount of time avoiding it. It’s quite lonely though I will admit during any period when I am painting I am happier than when I am not. That in fact is one of the main reasons I have kept going but I suspect many sorts of work will have the same effect. Keeping busy is the thing.
As for life outside of painting, well, there is nothing. I have no family or partner and most of my friends are caught up in their marriages and parenthood but I would have more of a social life I think if I didn’t work weekends. Right now it is making less and less sense to work weekends so I can spend the week days alone painting.
As for the job itself, well its a bit mindless but my employers are great as are the conditions and a majority of my colleagues. Some of the colleagues can make life difficult and it can be hard stuck in a team with someone you don’t even want to know lives on the same planet as you. Still I can imagine I will have to stay in it or the time being but taking the painting out of the equation will at least eliminate some of my stressors.
The hardest thing about work is the repetitive strain issues I have had since 2007. It is recurring now again after a short period of unsuitable work(by a short period I mean 4 hours) and so for the last month I have had pain in my fingers, wrist, forearm and elbow of my right arm not to mention tendinitis in my left elbow. This of course affects my painting and my desire to do it not to mention my writing, my ability to clean the house, driving etc etc
The mental stress that comes with this kind of condition is hard to convey. The pain moves around and it HURTS but you still wonder if it’s real. You think no-one believes you. You don’t know when it will go away, if ever, or if you will cause further damage by working through it.
Having suffered this before and spent a lot on treatments I have developed certain opinions about the source of this pain-which is real-having read John Sarnos Mind Body Prescription I firmly believe this pain has its roots in the psyche. I planned to embark on a course this month using Howard Schriebers book, How to Unlearn Your Pain, an interesting expansion of Sarnos work that says our nerves learn pain paths and that pain recurs in times of stress.
After only reading a little way into this I woke up a couple of nights ago and thought,”I am going to give up painting.” The next day I thought about what it would feel like to dismantle my studio. The next thing I knew a lot of my pain was gone. A lot but not all.
And so I am going to dismantle my studio for the month of April to see how it feels. Funnily enough it mostly feels good right now but I realised I was going to miss my Surfers which I wasn’t expecting. Maybe I will have to come back to them…and of course I still have a lot of paintings to get rid of…
It’s a big step for me, to move away from this identity but I know I have to do it. It’s quite possible that the painting will come around again maybe even in another form and I will have to eat all these words but I wanted to share this as doubt and giving up and wanting to give up is part and parcel of the creative life.
At the very least I know I don’t want to continue with my life organised as it is so for now I need to stop and take a long good look at myself and my life because it is a life a built around painting and it’s a life that is not working.