Sunday, November 27, 2005

Illustration Friday - Small

Mouse

This mouse and dancing wheat were drawn using a dipping pen and black Indian ink when I was in my teens.

And whilst looking for it I unearthed these as well. Not sure when I did them, but food for the mouse now...

apples

Now seems the right time to explain why I don't call myself an artist, even though I have done so in the past and I've exhibited too.

My mother was an artist by training, and throughout my childhood we were encouraged to paint, draw and make things. We all responded differently. I used to say that "when I grow up I'll be either an artist or an astrophysicist".

I wanted to take art, physics and maths for my A-levels but the timetable did not allow it, so I had to take chemistry instead of art - poor substitute! Incidentally this was just a timetabling problem and 6 years later my sister was able to take art with physics and maths, which she has turned to good use as she is now an architect.

I envied her the course but not her eventual career. She is good at it; it wouldn't have suited me.

But I carried on painting etc. Over the years I've taken plenty of classes and read enough books that I think I've made up for not going to art school. So lack of opportunity is not the reason.

Back to my mother.

She had trained as an artist in Scotland. And later she worked in a studio and painted pub signs and at some point did adverts too. When married to her first husband (whom I never met) she even painted a mural in a church in Shropshire.

But she had already given up by the time she got together with my father. So it wasn't him or having children that stopped her.

She would, on demand, draw wonderful picture for us to colour in and later she was there to save a painting of roof tops that had become a mass of muddy greys into a magical picture of a church on misty moors. She let me leave my paints out when my painting wasn't finished though it was dinner time.

She occasionally submitted her old pictures to exhibitions but never got accepted.

Her artist self seemed to become permanently depressed. She did not paint anything new before she died a few years ago.

Hence I don't call myself an artist because, although I have other more productive role models (my sister, my mother-in-law and many artist-friends) the one I am most like continued to call herself an artist but stopped doing any. I prefer to forgo the title and just do the work (and play!).

Last night I realised that she had started to live her artistic life entirely through us, though she told me my sister had always been better than me, and my sister that she wouldn't amount to anything... These comments though hurtful were really reflections on herself not us. And being stubborn types we only carried on anyway!

I also allowed myself to fully appreciate the person she had been before she subdued her artist self. She was brave, strong, adventurous and charming - now these are all wonderful qualities that I would like to have too!

If this was Hollywood I would probably now say and yes I am an artist!

But its not. And there is another reason...

I just prefer not to have a label.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Num nums; although full on a gobble turkey should be able to fit one tiny small itsy bitsy mouse in my purrrrfect belly };-}

Anonymous said...

Haha, Helcat is going to SUFFER from the mouse's drum-kit! How great to unearth something you had forgotten about - I don't have any teen art but think it would be important to reflect upon as you have done here. Those apples look scrumptious - and if they were people, would also be brave, strong, adventurous and charming (you have just written you are a genius). Life is an artform!!

Caroline said...

Hellcat, now I know why that mouse has been looking so apprehensive for so long.

Thanks Anonymous, thank you for inspiring me to look and reflect. And it's much easier to write when I've not been painting - I must keep my words in a separate container that's just not easy to open at the same time as the colours.

Anonymous said...

Dear Caroline creative - the pleasure was mine. Your words and colours behave like Hellcat opposed to Artwork :) You are not alone; there are more of us and one other only writes words in a seperate blog (shhhhh).

minijubilee said...

what an adorable illustration! really great linework and style. and you're right, you don't need a label to define what you are --your skills and talents will speak for themself! :)

Caroline said...

Yes anonymous shhh....

Minijublilee - thank you very much - another reason I like not having a label is that when my pictures are not so good I can still own them.

Anonymous said...

"All art is a self-portrait" is working for you.

Oh, and another ... shhhhh.

Lost Aussie said...

I think at the end of the day we are who we believe in - inside of ourselves. Go with the flow and enjoy your moments.
Marie

Caroline said...

Hmm maybe that's what I ought to call my blog... "All art is a self-portrait"... thanks again Anonymous.

Marie - I think it might depend on who is doing the believing... but I definitely agree with the going with the flow and enjoying the moments!

cream said...

Caroline, I love the mouse drawing. And the story about your mother is very inspiring!
I think when we rub against artistic people, we end up being arty without having to be artists.

Caroline said...

Cream - that's an interesting way to look at it!

andrea said...

Calling yourself an artist is a hard thing to do for some people as it conjures up certain connections and connotations that society has stamped on it and have nothing to do with the actual person or process, so I totally understand your dilemma. I still have trouble with it and refused to do it until I'd been acepted into many juried shows, won awards and had commercial representation! Even now, I much prefer the term "painter".

As for training, bah! I have learned far more about it in the four years since I started painting than in the four years I spent at university. Academic training, even with a major studio component, gives you very little of the meat-and-potatoes aspect of it. I'd rather have trained as a graphic artist so I'd at least have had a strong practical foundation on which to "draw" (hee hee) rather than the highly-theoretical academic side. University art programmes are designed to train academics, not worker bees.

That should've been a post rather a response. Maybe I'll poach it! Thanks for the kick in the butt, Caroline. :)

PS Love your pastel fruit. Lovely!

Majane said...

So cute!

JacqueLynn said...

Hi C, Love the mouse, and that is EXACTLY the size drum set I need to get for the 2 year old master that runs around here. I read about you and your Mom and sister. Gosh I call myself an artist in print and on the net all the time ( but never in person) in person I perfer "Queen of the World", but can't always get the kids to call me that either. I consider myself big time lucky that I don't make my living in art, I'm a med tech. Geez, to make art that had to actually sell, how much of a creative buzz kill would that be. I do love your work, and love Illustration Friday and all the great sites it has lead me to. With Very Best Regards, Jacque

The Silent K said...

It's hard to define what makes an artist. I try to think of everything as art, so by default, I guess I am an artist. We all are.

Caroline said...

Andrea - yes you have a postings worth here - if you do I'll comment there!
Painter is a good name but it often gets confused with decorator.

Majane - thank you, and thanks for finding me.

Jacquelynn - I was happy to call myself an artist when I had other labels too... maybe you've hit the nail on the head here - I don't want to be expected to have to earn money through art and now that I'm no longer employed in software research its other people's expectations that I'm trying to avoid... perhaps the younger me who said "artist or astrophysicist" knew what she was talking about but also that as an answer I wasn't allowed to say "artist and scientist"

krista - I like your definition - it means my mother didn't stop, she just changed medium - though she did definitely get depressed - perhaps she ought to have shifted again - I love shifting from one to another and being called "butterfly brain" hasn't stopped me - in fact I love that as an image.... Thank you.

ValGalArt said...

caroline,
that is a bittersweet story. It makes me a little sad that your moms talent was overlooked, but not by the people that truly loved her. Sometimes that is enough for us and sometimes we crave more.It makes me think we should appreciate our time together and the time we live in. Your mom might have had more opportunity in a different time period. I loved your drawings from the past. Especially the little mouse on the drumkit.

Kathryn said...

Your story shows such insight! It's interesting, isn't it, how we work to either accept or transcend labels? For me, using the label "artist" as a self-descriptor has validated my desire to create and nurtured me to play more. I do love the mouse and wheat dancing... it's charming. I've got a dipping pen and Indian ink (recently bought but "scared" to try) -- you've inspired me. :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Caro, it takes courage to share this with the world about your mum, I think.

I see you have her other qualities too, strong, adventurous and charming.

I now understand why you don't call yourself an artist. And yes, you are right about the labels.

Knowing me, I'll spend DAYS thinking about what you've written here. Thanks for sharing.

But why did you have to make the mouse soooo cute? Why, why?

Why?

Caroline said...

valgalart - I'm sure my mother would have been glad to have been born into today... especially to an artist mother with a dishwasher!

kathryn - thank you. Enjoy playing with your new pen!

GG - thanks, yes, it took a while to get it out of me didn't it! And the mouse was probably drawn cute because my mother didn't like cute!!

Living Part Deux said...

The story is wonderful. And your art is fabulous, whatever your label or lack thereof.

Tony Sarrecchia said...

Love the art. Great story--bittersweet. We often label ourseleves for the benefit of others--we just are.

Tony LaRocca said...

As long as you make art, you are an artist. As long as you are a mouse with a drumkit, you are a figment of someone's imagination. Now, if there was only some way to figure out how to be both...

carla said...

Caroline, it really doesn't matter what you call yourself...you must do what feels best for you. I hope you don't mind if I think of you as an artist...I think so because you create beauty and you are open to receiving inspiration and trying out ways to express your vision. At any rate, labels don't matter.

This is a darling little illustration. You were into music even as a child...now wouldn't it have been no small coincidence if you had drawn a mouse playing the bass? :> Your fruit drawing is very lovely as well...thanks for sharing these words and images with us!

Caroline said...

Rebekah thank you.

Tony you are right we just are.

Tony Larocca I like figments - one of the most delicious of fruits! This feels like a hint that here in blogland we are all of us both artists and other people's figments. Perhaps its an art form in its own right figmentalism!

Carla - thank you I'm happy to be called an artist by others, or not, but we can be moulded by what we think we are which is why I'm trying to think of myself as just being me. I do, of course, try on other labels from time to time....

Holly said...

I really enjoyed this post a lot. I say do what you do best-create. Labels are a hard thing to wrestle with. The whole education thing is not important-it's doing that is important. Self taught artists can be just as good as school trained artists. If the creativity is there then you are just fine. Thanks for this. It gave me much to think about. I also enjoyed everyone's responses to this theme. Well done. Cheers!

Caroline said...

Thank you Holly - you are right that the doing is the important part!

I've enjoyed everyone's responses here too!

Paula said...

The drawing is essential and very effective. The simplicity of a true artist. Loved it.

http://paulagrenside.typepad.com/illustrations/

Wild Mother Lightning said...

They say that small things amuse small minds- I'm happy to be small minded - I love your drum playing mouse!!!

Janey said...

It doesn't matter what you call yourself or what others call you. You are who are you. It's just a word, it's actions that matter and this mouse is the absolutely cutest guy - a Ringo wanna be.

Cecilia's Art said...

hi ! thanks a lot for your comment!
whay dont u call an artist? , if u like painting and drawing , u are an artist, why not?, maybe u dont dedicate all the day painting but if u feel it , u can feel an artist yourself. please, i´d like to see some of your mum´s painings , please, i´d be very nice!
take care .

Alina Chau said...

Lovely illo and drawings!! YOur snow photos are BEAUTIFUL!!

Fancy World said...

Funny one! I really love it.

Toni said...

Caroline
love the little mouse on the drums from your past.
Sounds like you and your sister followed your own paths an still loved your Mom.
I understand about labels but to me you are an artist and that is how I think of you. ;)

naturallynice said...

Whatever the label, we enjoy your postings: art, words and photographes, they are all eye candies!

vfm4 said...

cute cute cute... i really love pics of mice.. the favorite book from my childhood is about a mice family: Het Muizenboek, illustrated by Nans van Leeuwen

Dee Rimbaud said...

Re: Blog-Link Exchange

Hi

I'm a writer & artist who has developed a blogging compulsion (not yet quite an obsession, but going that way). I'm looking for blogging artists and writers to exchange links or blogroll with. My blog is at http://deerimbaud.blogspot.com/ Email me at dee@thunderburst.co.uk if you're up for it.

All the best

Dee Rimbaud

ps: If you are looking for markets for illustrations, short stories or poetry, check out The AA Independent Press Guide, which I host for free on my main website - http://www.thunderburst.co.uk It gives detailed listings of over 2,000 literary magazines and publishers. There are also links to over 700 internet magazines. I'm sure you'll find it useful/ interesting... and I'd appreciate any help to spread the word. Give it a mention in your blog or something. Thanks.

atomicvelvetsigh said...

love the story.. and what a cute little mousey.. drumming that small needs quite big speakers and sensitive mics, dont yah think? hee..

Caroline said...

Thank you all so much for your comments and support.

PaulSketch said...

The mouse and drums are so cute! nice and small :)
I like the apples against the black paper, they really pop out - and you are definatley an artist! You unleash your creativity through lines and words sounds like an artist to me

Caroline said...

Thanks paul.

Julie Oakley said...

Lovely pen and ink drawing.

I certainly find the word 'artist' difficult to deal with - too pretentious by half. The trouble is that there isn't a practical down-to-earth sounding word like 'writer' or 'musician' to describe someone who creates visual work (unless you are specific and say '['painter', 'illustrator', 'sculptor', 'potter' etc)

LDahl said...

A rose by any other name...:)

Thanks for filling in the rest of the story, so personal, and yet it is a story many share.
My heart breaks for your mom though. We are all dreamers but dreams lost by creatives are like wings torn from butterflies.

You keep on keeping on, you are one of a kind and very special!

Knitting Painter Woman said...

My mom insisted on being "the" artist in our house, too. No matter what i did, it was wrong... too much contrast, not enough light, lop sided, wrong medium, etc. etc. So I became a librarian. She's gone now... and i draw, paint, knit and am finally the creator of my own life.