So 2016 is here and mine is beginning with a few print publications impending. I’m excited and chuffed, but mostly I’m working on where to go next. As someone who works with tangible imagery, print work is one of two main end goals that I have when it comes to creating; the other being exhibiting. I can’t express enough the importance of printing your work, in my mind you really don’t exist as an artist unless you’re in print. Even if it’s just making prints to keep for yourself. I’d rather crane my neck looking up at a massive print or painting, than be squinting my eyes looking at something on a computer monitor. There really is no comparison. And don’t even get me started on the smell of ink in books and magazines; sniffing it is the first thing that I do when I open a new book.
I find print publications to be an arduous process at times, because I feel that once I’ve created a piece of work, I have moved on from it and started working on the next idea. I find it hard to look back at something I made last week, never mind last year. The monograph that was published last year I had created the work for months before it was finally released and I already saw it as a project which I had completed and walked away from when it was eventually out for people to buy. So it can be really difficult waiting for something to get out in there in a physical format, when I feel that the momentum has sort of dissipated for me in some way. I do know that that’s something a lot of artists fight with and I try not to allow it to ruin my pride and enjoyment. My biggest qualm is that I feel I don’t really produce work that fits into one specific genre – unless you want to call self-portraiture a genre. Many open calls for exhibitions or publications will have a theme to them, which is also something I don’t really cater to when making work. I have an idea and I shoot it, and a lot of the time there will only be the one image created for that idea, occasionally there will be a series of images. It wasn’t until I started heading towards exhibiting my work in 2014, that I realised I would have to get better at speaking and writing about it, as well as defining what I do. I find describing my work akin to listening to the sound of my own voice on a recording, in that it makes me cringe and feel embarrassed. However, there will always be someone new to your work who wants to read or hear about your thought processes and intentions, and you have to consider that over your own mortification.
About once a month I do an online search for exhibition open calls, with specific words relating to the mediums I work in. There will also be things that friends suggest I submit to, or publications I follow who post about opportunities. Whenever I submit work somewhere I never expect it to lead to being accepted. I personally find that the simple notion of knowing I am at least putting myself into the running for an opportunity, to be rewarding enough and I haven’t been working as an artist long enough to be disheartened by rejections. Occasionally it can feel personal and I’ve been messed around a handful of times by editors, but I imagine curating an exhibit or book/magazine with the work of several artists must be more of a daunting task. Ultimately, when I’m gathering work together to present to someone, there is always a sense of feeling that I share a mutual goal with a bunch of other people and that in itself is really inspiring. Maybe I’m more of an optimist than I think, or maybe I’m just content in knowing that if my work gets somewhere, then it’s on its own merit and if not, it’s because it wasn’t good enough. I’m very happy to live by that logic, because it’s the way that it should be and it’s what keeps me working so hard.
Besides preparing submissions, I am working on my first book which I hope will finally be ready to share with you all in early Spring. Last year I was working on a different book entirely, but like most creative endeavours, things change and you find yourself stumbling on something new. With this book project I’ve tried new mediums like collage work, which was something I always wanted to attempt when I was studying at college and never did. So past fears which were very silly, are evidently not holding me back like they once did. I’ve even been painting and drawing again, which is something I’ve done since I was a child and even studied, but I put them behind me for several years. It’s been fantastic to begin using those skills again, but with less of a weary and self-loathing eye for it. It’s felt like a very organic process to get to this point. The purpose of the book itself has never been about aiming to sell it, but instead, I just wanted to see if I could make something that I would be happy to own if it were by someone other than me. It’s definitely been one of the hardest things that I’ve attempted, but also one of the most fun and creative! I feel like half of the reward is in the making of something, and the other half is in the completion of it. It’s going to feel great when I eventually hold this finished project in my hands.