Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am
26th Jun 2009


Is it still a beginning when it’s the thousandth time you’ve begun?

There is a half written business plan on my laptop, which is waiting very patiently to become an ACTUALLY written business plan and to do more than just sit on my laptop. It is a rare thing for me to wander into the realm of the professional and grown-up, but here I am with my toe in the water and the temperature is very agreeable indeed. In an earlier blog, before my blogs had a website to appear on, I wrote a statement of intent that I would document the various stages I went through as I try to make a living as an artist and not just the guy in the office who does the least work. Three of these stages have happened within the last few weeks so I thought I’d better be true to my word and record them here, to give you a break from my usual endless pontificating about life, the universe and everything. I figure there’ll be time enough to bore you all with that later.

One of the reasons I merrily skip back to an office job everyday is not just because of the fulfilling work and excellent pay (!) but because I have flexibility over the amount of hours I put in. To be fair to the company, they have really been very understanding towards my needs. I told them upfront what my plans were and, in between pointing at me, whispering and sniggering, they have let me do what I asked and reduced my working week by the equivalent of a day – thereby giving me an allotted amount of painting hours and a financial target to hit to make up the shortfall in my wage. So lesson number one in pursuing your own venture is to make sure you are properly supported and to work for a company that doesn’t sack you the minute you express any interest in a life outside of that company. There are precious few in my experience, unless you can put together an awesome hamburger.

The next stage was the actual launch of this site. I needed a route to market and a permanent exhibition space and this site has given me both. I still don’t fully understand it and I nearly break it every time I load up an image. When I visit friends I wait for them to leave the room and then hurriedly get the website up on their computer to make sure it’s still there, as though it may slip down the back of the great internet settee if I’m not careful with it. Then I annoy everyone by talking about it all the time. Thinking about it, maybe don’t get a website, they turn you into an idiot.

As I mentioned earlier, stage number three is to have a business plan. It will help you understand that you have been selling your paintings for chump change for years and that you should’ve been a trillionaire by now. This will make you cry for a while but just keep reminding yourself that you’re Mummy’s special soldier and you’ll be alright. If your business plan is particularly good, it will tell you that it should have been written BEFORE you had a website and reduced the hours off your only source of income. Smart arse.

The last canvas I completed (‘One day something amazing will happen’) represents for me the end of a particular way of working and the start of a new one. I have been very fortunate in that I have been commissioned to do paintings or illustrations more or less constantly since I left University but I have nearly always had the content dictated to me by the buyer. I have had colour schemes picked for me because they match the curtains. I have had shapes recommended because they match the furniture. I have also been asked to do things that were absolutely beyond me, particularly portraits. Many years ago a lady commissioned me to paint a group of her friends enjoying a meal from a small photograph – a photograph that had managed to capture a great deal of nostalgia but almost no discernable detail. I copied it as best I could and made the image a bit larger but some of the faces had been turned into featureless masses by the camera and, as I had never met these people, I had to invent what wasn’t there. The lady was disappointed with the result and I was disappointed with the twenty five quid payment – so we were even. I haven’t painted portraits since.

Having the site and the time and a plan now means it is time for me to be true to the sort of images I really want to produce and to pursue the themes I am interested in. So when I say this is a new way of working I do not mean that from now on I will be snorting paint into my nostrils and sneezing on canvasses (seriously though, how cool would that be!) but worrying less about how ‘acceptable’ my paintings are. People can decide for themselves if they get it or not and if it’s worth parting with their hard earned cash and burning the curtains to have it on their living room walls. All I need now are some ideas. I check the mail everyday to see if they’ve arrived. Until they turn up I’ve been staring at the canvas that I painted flat turquoise three days ago and I’m still not sure what comes next. Actually, it’s brilliant. Not the turquoise, I meant that the feeling of uncertain and boundless freedom is brilliant. It’s brilliant because I am starting again for the thousandth time and yet it still feels like the one and only beginning – and beginnings are the best of things to be a part of.

by Chris
Posted in Words

2 Responses to

  1. Tess says:

    Phoenmnael breakdown of the topic, you should write for me too!

  2. Klondike says:

    You cod’unlt pay me to ignore these posts!

Leave a Reply