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Kirsty: Everyday Art

[Editor’s Note: Meet Kirsty Hall, a Bristol-based artist and curator. Kirsty’s website includes an inventory of useful articles for artists on how to build an online presence. Kirsty has kindly allowed us to re-post several pieces from her blog that speak to creativity and motherhood. The first appears below. Thank you, Kirsty!]

grape stemLast night, my son had his 15th birthday ’sleepover’ (why do they call them sleepovers when no sleep ever happens?), so I was in nominal charge of 8 teenage boys. This morning, as my son and I cleared up the quite considerable mess, I found myself musing over the similarities between parenting and art.

Art is an everyday thing. Like parenting, it is made up of lots of little moments, a thousand little decisions and a hundred thousand moments of just showing up — what Alison Lee of Craftcast calls “getting your butt in the chair”.

Art is usually not the heroic struggle of Romanticism or the epic machismo of the 1950’s Action Painters, although those big dramatic moments do sometimes occur, most often in the run up to an exhibition. Instead art — for me at least — is rooted in the everyday; in the daily ritual of the Diary Project envelopes, in the way I sit in my computer chair listening to podcasts while I do another couple of rows on a Thread Drawing canvas, in the slowly changing pile of art books that are permanently in residence under my bed.

Although it is not usually about domesticity, my art is firmly rooted in the home. I am fortunate enough to have a studio at home and like Virginia Woolf, I recognise the importance of having a room of my own. However, my art also takes place in other rooms in the house: in the living room while I’m watching TV with my family, in my bed where I often draw, in our library/dining room where I sit at the big table and stick photos into my sketchbook, in my study as I make work in front of the computer, in the shower where I think up ideas, in the kitchen when I get distracted from cooking by the sudden overwhelming need to photograph the ingredients.

Art permeates my whole life — it isn’t confined to a set time or a set place.

In the myths about art, this everyday quality is often omitted. For some reason, it suits people to imagine dramatic moments of crazed genius, a life lived on the bohemian edge and a slow descent into madness, drugs and suicide. We seem to want our artists to be very different from everyone else. Perhaps the reality of getting your butt in the chair, like the daily grind and pleasure of parenting, seems too mundane to most people? Was this great art really made in front of the TV or with radio 4 playing in the background while the artist drank cups of tea and pottered around the studio — how dull! We wanted death threats and overdoses, tortured homosexual love affairs, rats and cockroaches in the studio, drunken pissing in the fireplace, body parts cut off and maybe a couple of tragic stabbings!

But art — like parenting — is not something you do once in one grand and shocking gesture and then never again. Instead, it’s a constant trickle, a constant reiteration that this tiny thing, this moment of awareness, this quiet, everyday dedication is the really important thing.

[Image (Grape Stem 01) courtesy Kirsty Hall under a Creative Commons license.]

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m not a mother but I will be filling the role of role model and teacher, and your words on art and peoples perceptions are very true. Art is all around us and it jumps out of no where and splashes you with inspiration to get moving and do something about it. Gone are the days of the overly morbid and tortured souls of artist, today its in you and in me, and we can find it anywhere we look.

    March 18, 2010
  2. This is my first time visiting your website. Great content. I look at branches, leaves on the ground and so much more when I’m running at the lake… taking it all in. Beauty is all around us.

    I look forward to following each of you. Have a great day!

    March 18, 2010
  3. alexsondra #

    I was so moved by this, I took the time to check out her whole blog, website and the whole magilla. Kirsty , you’re a treasure trove of information and inspiration.

    I think you hit being an artist on the head. It’s not “what” we do, so much as it is “that” we do. And it has everything to do with our particular perspective on things.

    Thanks for your thought, they were the start of a fantastic day

    March 18, 2010
  4. yes, creativity really does permeate every aspect of life, as does parenting. maybe that’s exactly why there seems to be such an ongoing discussion, here particularly, about balancing the presence of both in our lives.

    i know i am constantly writing in my head, whether or not i am ‘being fully present’ with my kids or doing other everyday things. all the writing thoughts may not make it to paper, but it is a constant flow of ideas, changes, et al constantly percolating under my surface.

    thank you for echoing my thoughts and so well!

    March 20, 2010
  5. excellent post-EVERY SINGLE WORD. The mundane part of art seems to be hidden away as if that piece of information does not add to the BRILLIANT REALITY that art is made out of the ordinary, the present moment, the availability to wait for and wait on “what could be…”

    March 22, 2010
  6. this really hit home with me as well. i can relate to “although those big dramatic moments do sometimes occur, most often in the run up to an exhibition”…since I have my first big show of the spring this Saturday so I’ll be up late every night this week preparing. Yet it does happen all the time. I just wish I had more of the actual get my hands dirty time and less of the constantly thinking about getting my hands dirty time. 🙂 Still haven’t found that balance between Mommy, art and full time job.

    March 22, 2010
  7. @dabblestudios I just hate the Tortured Artist Myth, I think it does so much damage to creative people.

    @Mari (Bookworm with a View) Your running sounds wonderful. I use gardening as my thinking time.

    @alexsondra Thank you so much, I’m glad you found the blog valuable.

    @cath c I struggle with being present in both states. I strongly suspect that art mamas, no matter how wonderful they are at parenting, always have that slight edge of distraction. Running a creativity programme in your head takes up a lot of bandwidth!

    @robin As artists, I think we need to embrace the mundane and stop waiting for ‘inspiration’. Inspiration is lovely when it comes but I think of it as being like a garden – it takes lots of digging to get the soil ready.

    @Kelly My son is 17 now, Kelly and I’ve still never found that perfect balance. I’m beginning to suspect that it just doesn’t exist!

    March 23, 2010

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