Not Quite All Washed-up Yet…

I received a communiqué [well -a comment] from somebody who asked why I’d stopped posting to this blog recently. ‘Tis true -I have only posted seven times in the whole of this year.

To Anonymous.
The reasons for my lethargy were that I thought no-one was reading this stuff, for a start; so that’s one reason! It’s truly gratifying when I discover that someone is listening to my outpourings -especially when the comments are as cheering as yours. Thank you.

More importantly though, I’ve been through some challenging times, shall we say, along with many. First, a sudden and dramatic fall-off in editorial illustration work forced me to rethink how I should be directing my efforts; and really about how I should be living my life. What’s true is that I had become increasingly dissatisfied with life as a jobbing illustrator and there are several strands to this: The constant but fruitless promotional efforts [I had a database of well over a thousand two hundred names that sat in my computer ever accusing me of not contacting them].
The work that I really enjoyed ; illustrating for the Irish Times Business on Friday section was cut and I was left with one last editor who had the authority and desire to buy in my illustrations. However, the editorial approach was too heavy-handed for me and I gave it up. The only ‘work’ I enjoyed doing was sketching and posting them up on Creative Ireland!
The reality is; the problem has been mostly me. I don’t like being told what to draw or paint. Sure, most people who dislike their jobs just turn up at their workplaces and do their daily duties but the whole point of striving to be an artist is that you mustn’t compromise your soul and that’s what I was doing. I’ve been involved in too many projects where some cardboard-brained pillock has taken over and ruined a good idea. Furthermore, I’m brutal at negotiations and almost always short-change myself. The one piece of advice that I can offer to those wishing to make a profession of their art is: Don’t make your hobby into your job as I did. A good artist is an amateur in the real sense of the word. If money comes in as a result of my artistic endeavours, that’s great -it’ll allow me more latitude for art.
The upshot of all this navel-gazing is that I started teaching painting in my studio. That’s my day job. I turn up to work four times a week on two days and earn my wages. You can take a gander at my Art Classes Ireland site, if you like. In fact, teaching ticks many of the boxes for me:
  • Time. I work 12 hours a week -the rest of the week is mine, to do as I please. That includes the following: Painting my own compositions; taking on an illustration project from decent and respectful clients; staring out the window of a favourite café; playing the fiddle; doing raised-leg farts; organising paintings for exhibitions; thinking; farting while jumping up in the air and clicking my heels; catching up on my neglected blog[s]; meeting colleagues in cafés -and jointly staring out of the windows.
  • I meet great people -my students come to me because they like my work, so they want to be here.
  • I now know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing on two days of the week -that hasn’t happened for the last fifteen years. I’m the last person who should be left to organise my own week!
  • Choice. At long last I feel that it’s an easier prospect to reject offers of work by clients who I know won’t suit me.

To finish; currently I feel about as happy as I could be. I’m painting for myself. I’m not so pressured that I snap at my family. Sure, I don’t have much money but I have abundant other riches. I’m awash in a sea of love rather than swamped in the corrosive bilge-water of commerce.

Thanks for asking. How are you?

3 Replies to “Not Quite All Washed-up Yet…”

  1. Alas, I am in Cork so can't attend your course. I have admired your work and think it stands out by far from the rest, there's something old fashioned and lovingly honed about it. I love the characters you have come up with and the imagination you put into them.

    It's a bummer you can't just draw/paint things the way you see them and get paid well for it but the moneymen are generally bereft of creativity or imagination.

    Hopefully you will continue to post in the sketches and doodles thread on CI. I always keep a lookout for them.

  2. Kevin,

    I can't manage to attend your classes, as Baldoogle. Mostly because I live in São Paulo, Brazil.
    I discovered your work when I saw a post on about one year ago and have been looking on your blog almost daily since then.

    Your job is very creative and nostalgic at the same time and that is a very refreshig source of inspiration in this globalized but pasteurized world.

    Working with art (i.e.: illustratiom) can be very stressful, although people often think is very easy and for kids. Also is very usual that frustrated editors/clients think that they have better opinions and do whatever they can to ruin our work, I agree with you on that and with most of your arguments.

    Nevertheless, it was with deep sadness that I read your latest post. If someone with your level of work is desmotivated, what chances do people like us have?

    I consider working with something that I love a blessing. Sure is really hard and sometimes suicedely depressing, but certainly is better than not doing what I love and not have a bit of pride and be always depressed.

    Is art so important? Don't know. Is it fullfilling? Sometimes. Hope you keep fighting the good battle. Maybe you could do a book.


  3. Thanks for the kind words, Eric and Baldoogle-they're very much appreciated. It's not such a bad situation though. I still do some illustration work -it's just that there's less of it around; and I'm more discriminating about what I take on. All that stuff about not making your hobby into your job comes from my own inability to make a distinction between my day work and my art. Many illustrators who I greatly admire are perfectly able to draw a line between the two [pun intended!] and others seem perfectly happy completely immersed in the world of illustration. Everyone is bound to become demotivated sometime; it's just been my turn lately. There are people in worse positions. Remember the aphorism: Life is like being a pubic hair balanced on a toilet bowl rim: Sooner or later you're bound to get pissed off…
    Best wishes, Kevin

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