Magic Beans & The Myth of Artistic Poverty

Magic Beans & The Myth of Artistic Poverty

Art nourishes...who?Poverty paralyses art.

It doesn’t inspire.

It murders.

For twenty months, while my life was fat with “material” (running away from domestic abuse with a freshly-two year-old), it was thin on cash. As the months went by, the rent went up, the flexible hours vanished and the hope of ever getting a mortgage and stable home shrank into the distance.

I planted every creative seed I could think of (and that energy allowed): theatre and film competitions; TV pitches; feature treatments…all unpaid, but them’s the breaks. Alongside, I applied for jobs, jobs, jobs…

Some of it was hilarious. There was an Officially Exciting BIg Theatre Interview. On the application form, it said, “Tell Us Why You’d Benefit From This Opportunity…” – and they got a shame-faced / chin-up statement about being a single parent writer  hundreds of miles outside London: the lack of bar-led chances to gel, the niggles of childcare and travel… Then kalloo-kallay! I got an interview! At 9am on a Monday morning…

After that long period of fallow, and superb support from other artists (you know who you are; and it’s not gone to waste), I had so many seeds underground, I was eye-high-filthy and spent – both financially and creatively.

No single project could justify my focus – because no single one showed any more hope than any other. I ended up running up and down empty rows of soil, again and again, doing absolutely nothing of value and no-one any good. Surely ONE of them must grow? There must be a magic bean in there somewhere? Now? Now? Now?

= Eventual panic.

And then…

I was very lucky.

Someone put me forward for a job. The Other Job, the one that pays the bills. It allows me to work as a well-paid, qualified professional and even gives me the flexibility that single parenthood demands. I travel hundreds of miles a week to do it but it’s worth it – the considerations are not My Art (yup – bum firmly in air as I say it), but whether my just-four year-old is OK with it.

Being an artist is a luxury. It requires head space, an absence of survival-fear and the room to roam in your mind.

These things can be taken for granted by people who have others to fund them, care for & protect their offspring. …Is it any surprise that white men dominate the arts when they – perhaps more than any other group in this country – can most easily avoid the imaginative and creative paralysis of poverty?

I’m extraordinarily fortunate and I know it. If you’re looking for a lesson, then the only one is don’t panic. (And if you’re still in school / college, always make sure you have a Plan B….)

Art nourishes...who?
Art nourishes…who?
Developing this oniony play – in pictures

Developing this oniony play – in pictures

I sometimes feel I don’t get visual enough on this wee blog. So I thought I’d try to raise a Friday afternoon smile from you (I just hit 7 hours with only a short breather, working on this oniony play’s structure/s and need a break).

I’m going to show you my scribbles that have taken me from maelstrom to today’s Draft 1 beat sheet (60% of one, anyway) and 30-odd pages of “usable” text so far.

Exhibit A: some time in March. Was it one play? Was it three? Ummm. Well, this spawned an offshoot, so there’s two in there, at least…. (like those flowcharts? dead easy, great app for messy scribblers like me: PureFlow. Gorgeous.)

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Exhibit B: April. This is all about that man called Bob and his dilemma that I mentioned in yesterday’s post. Peeps who know me and my writing will have heard me blether on before about how I use Buzan’s mindmaps for all kinds of things. This is with a paid version, but you can get free (keepable) downloads from the Buzan website.

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Exhibit C: Last Friday. Had some actual text. All very loosely related. Bit of a jigsaw, to be frank. So that’s what I did – laid it out, found what was related, what wasn’t, what mattered, what fell out and where gaps needed thinking about (but not necessarily filling). Deeeeply satisfying and big help in getting rid of the heebie jeebies. You also don’t need special software for this one. It just makes you tidy up.

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The last one (that “exhibit” thing got a bit annoying): A few hours ago. The play has several inter-connected stories in it (colour coded, no less – except yellow is for 2 different tales, my post-it rainbow being a tad limited). And yes, it’s a woolly spiral. I wanted to see / feel where the resonances between the stories are. Each post-it note is a shorthand for a scene or event, or perhaps just an emotion or comment. The stories grow from the centre outwards. So this is just me testing what might work with telling tales in different orders. Since this, it’s been transcribed, and re-ordered – twice.

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And now I really have to stop so I don’t dream about this stuff. Hope you liked them. TTFN!

What Dali can, Su-bo can’t? Artist / audience gap

What Dali can, Su-bo can’t? Artist / audience gap

An artist works, gives their sweat and soul to communicate something in a form that is somehow different to the everyday-expected. The audience engages, pays, comes, listens, studies. Different activities. If these two then disagree on the art, whose opinion matters more? Which one defines the “art”?

When there’s a jarring chasm between what an artist aims to communicate and what the audience receives,  it’s either the “wrong” audience (in time, space, culture or other demographic) or it will never get one. The bigger that gap (disagreement), the harder the personal hit (unless you made no effort and are now being hailed as a genius, in which case, this blog comes with a price; please email me.) And the harder the hit, the bigger the questions for the artist. …Perhaps, the bigger the solution.

This is an interesting space: the gap between art(ist) and audience has to be subjective interpretation, an individual’s reaction; their experience. It might be laughter, joy, confusion, boredom, anger, frustration.

But there is something in this subjectivity about the wrapping that the audience’s experience comes in: a trendy gallery v a church hall; an 85-year old past-master v a 25-year old wag; a £50 ticket or three-for-a-fiver. Dali is permitted where Susan Boyle would not be allowed to do precisely the same thing; Shakespeare gets away with a lot, because he is trusted to make it good, if not in this piece, then in Hamlet/Lear/Tempest. Many a writer feels Waiting for Godot wouldn’t get past a literary manager these days. It might be true; it might not.

So is art about intent or reception? The transmission or what is heard, experienced? This is the home of great potential pretentiousness, where people get cross about “I know what I like,” and “I don’t understand art,” vs. “they just don’t get it.”

Isn’t it clear that if “they don’t get it” then you’ve singularly failed to communicate? Art can’t exist in a vacuum; it must have reaction to have meaning: it must have an audience – hopefully, the “right” audience. And if that means donning a mad moustache or charging £50 to make your art be valued, is that justified, or is it just a case of new togs for the Emperor….?