Week 40: the last post

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The Poetry of Water (detail) Heather Matthew 2016

Many artists feels that their art is like a child, conceived, nurtured then born through hard labour. From gestation to birth is anywhere between 37 to 40 weeks. It seems fitting, that at week 37 my exhibition was installed and now at 40 weeks it is packed up, the sold artworks delivered and the birth is over. The baby is out and ready to breathe on her own.

Several of my artworks will be hung in new homes, and will need to hold enough of their own resonance to speak with their own voices. The rest will perhaps be available for other exhibitions or be reconfigured into new objects d’art.

In their book Art & Fear: observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking, authors David Bayles & Ted Orland make the point that survival as an artist means “finding an environment where art is valued and art making encouraged”.[1] For many people this is a university environment which can be both stimulating and encouraging. But there does come a time when you, like your artworks, need to stand alone to breathe. The hard part is to find those environments where the breathing is easy so that you have space and oxygen in which to create anew.

Often after university or art college, artists establish group studios or join an artist run initiative so that there are venues in which to exhibit and/or collaborate on new projects. When I first moved to northern NSW I joined a printmaking cooperative which gave me access to equipment and helped forge long lasting friendships with many of its arts members. Now at the end of my university project, I am thinking about ways to stay motivated and connected.

Artists need other artists for support and stimulation. Little clusters of like minded people to gather regularly to talk about work in progress, inspiring exhibitions to visit and new opportunities. Like playgroup mums, we need to get together to allow our art babies to have space to play and interconnect.

Author Julia Cameron talks about the same thing at the finish of her book The Artist’s Way.[2] Forming artist’s way “clusters” helps people stay connected and creates a community of creativity in which successes (and failures) can be celebrated. It is a blueprint for connectivity and one I hope will guide me as I embark on the next stage of my journey. Wish me luck.

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[1] David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (Santa Cruz, CA: The Image Continuum, 1993), 46.

[2] Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (New York: Jeremy P Tarcher / Penguin, 1997).

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