I was just browsing through my daily digest when I got stuck at Karin Bartimole’s a View Beyond Words, what I find a very impressive and personal blog of an Art Journaler who journals from within. Awestruck by her journal pages about her having cancer and being treated for it, I read on, moving backward into her journal. I really love her work; there’s so much depth in color in it…so much human vulnerability. Just take a look at this work for instance…thin layers of color, stitchwork, a human figure…and so authentic. With all these ingredients, her work could have turned out bland, fashionable and trendy. From what I’ve learned over the years, I know that authenticity only comes fromwithin…when you work not with the final result in mind, but when you work from within to the outside. Starting at what you feel deep inside you must express and then allowing that urge to lead you.
Somewhere along the way in her blog, I ran into a post about a Sally Mann quote from a documentary about her: “It never occurred to me to leave home to make art.” Months ago I saw the same documentary. It made a huge impression on me. I could relate to Mann and her way of working in many ways. In fact, to me she felt like an example of the kind of artist I want to be. There’s this preconceived notion about how being an artist should be ‘done’…how artists should dress, how they should stand out in the crowd as being eccentric, how they must be people of the world at home where they lay their hats down, how they must be illusive and mysterious, how they must be single without children and be part of the scene of the cool people and how they must endulge in sex, drugs, alcohol and rock ‘n roll. Maybe it’s an immature thought, but the concept I had in my mind of what being a true artist was all about, was pretty much this. A very limiting thought for it bashes down any sense of security. After all, with that concept in mind…where to start when seemingly normal, married with children being only eccentric on the inside?
And about being a world citizen…well, I never travelled the corners of the world to find inspiration. I love to know about foreign cultures and I love trying food from all over the world. But I’ve never felt an urge to hop in a plane with a backpack and hunt for inspiration. In fact, it has never occurred to me that I would have to go anywhere to be inspired! My head’s so full of inspriation and imagination that I have never felt the need. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. I was so keen to be inside the sacred realm of my own little room when I was a child, that my mother had even nicknamed me ‘the mole’ because she thought I was shy of the sun. Even in high school I was never one to ‘be in the scene’. I preferred – as I still do now – my headphones, a desk light, paper, pens and coloring materials. I’d write…draw and decorate my writing. Not every now and then. Every day…for hours on end.
With the pre-conceived notion in my head of what an artist should be like, I never ever for one moment thought I could become an artist. I never once considered that what I wrote could be artistic. It wasn’t until the final year in high school when I learned about Emily Brontë and how nobody thought she could have written such a book as ‘Wuthering Heights’ having been the hermit she’d been. Whereas perhaps this unique book could only have been written by somebody who wrote from within, from her own imagination. I thought at the time that it wasn’t fair that for living a rather solitary life she was denied authorship of the book for a long time.
But in fact, it isn’t fair to have any preconception about what artists should be like. It’s not fair to judge others, nor is it fair to judge yourself and thus not take yourself seriously. Perhaps the solitary artist who works authentically from within is much more of an artist that the one working hard on gaining acknowledgement for being an artst by painstakingly ticking all the boxes of this preconceived notion of what an artist must be.