Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am

Archive for April, 2009

15th Apr 2009

Exit Strategy.

I’m like the rubbish version of Batman. By day I’m a nobody office worker, peddling car insurance to the masses. By night I’m a nobody artist, painting out a dream that one day this will be all I do and who I am. Only that’s not how it goes at all. In reality, office work is mentally tiring and the days are long. At home at night you have to cook and eat and clean up and then claw back a little bit of life that is not about ‘productivity’ or ‘targets’. It seems I’ve got the tiniest proportion of time in which I can try to develop my hobby into something that pays gas bills and keeps the fridge full, but I’m too knackered when it comes. And I’m not alone. Most people you talk to have got some sort of brilliant skill or passion that they attempt to squeeze in around a job that does nothing to encourage their growth and a life that is full of distractions. I show people in my office my sketchbook and they go “Dude, you should totally be doing this for a living” (because people in Burnley talk like Californian surfers) and I think – how can I tell this person that I’ve been hearing this for the last ten years and done nothing about it but moan and feel cheated? Sound familiar? Then what the hell do we do?

My mate Rob built this site for me and during our planning sessions he suggested that I put more content into it than just the paintings; that I have something to hold the attention of the visitors and give them a reason to come back again. So I thought about this and I decided that as well as the usual stuff that appears in blogs, I wanted to have a specific aim, a continuous thread, something that people would find useful. And because I’m Batman I came up with two ideas.

When I was a Student and learning how to paint, I found that good advice and instructions were a bit thin on the ground. Like Magicians, Artists are a bit hesitant to tell you exactly how they do what they do, as with magic you have to look at the end product a lot and then work it out for yourself – mostly with depressing results. And if you’ve ever picked up a self-help book such as ‘How to draw animals pretty crappily’ or ‘How to paint portraits that will insult your models’, you’ll already know that these are a rubbish and boring alternative. They’ll give you the basics but following the steps will not make you Andy Warhol. Being Andy Warhol makes you Andy Warhol. But there’s my point, even Warhol took his inspiration from sources that were readily accessible to everyone, developed them in structured ways that could easily be taught and exhibited them via a bunch of connected people that he had been fortunate enough to meet, and people meet people all the time. (DISCLAIMER – becoming rich is another matter altogether, you cannot teach your audience to like your work. Rob a bank instead, the pay off is quicker and the critics are less harsh). So occasionally, for the studious and the curious alike, I’m going to drop the veil and tell you exactly how to do what I do from infantile sketch to finished canvas – warts and all. I promise it will be less boring and more valuable than ‘How to paint oxygen with watercolours’.

I don’t like peddling car insurance to the masses five days a week. I don’t even think the masses are that happy about me doing it. I also don’t like the fact that I have to fight to make time for my one real interest in life. I want to get out. So I’ve got a bit of a plan and it’s ready to roll and I’m going to document every single step of it here. That way if I make it, then I will have left behind a step by step guide to turning your hobby into your living. And if I don’t make it, then I will have shown you all the pitfalls, wrong turns and dead ends so you can avoid them and make better decisions than I did. I read about ordinary people realising their dreams and improving their lives all the time, mostly in trashy magazines in our staff canteen. So if it can be done then let’s get on with it. How hard can it be?

by Chris
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