Saturday 12 February 2022

How dare lots of strangers not give me likes and loves?

Fed up and pouting

I got fed up recently.  As I stamped my foot, folded my arms and pouted, and as the words, "It's not fair," formed on my lips, a little angel tapped me on the shoulder and whispered into my ear, "Look at what you already have."

And therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare's Hamlet said. 

To backtrack, what has led me to this point of pouting and stamping my tiny feet, is summed up as follows.  I am creating the Addicts And Those Who Love Them exhibition. Despite having wonderful help and support, there is only me creating this work and putting it together, and it is a huge amount of work;  I am trying to complete nine new portraits and nine new stories all before 12 May. That is fine, it is just as it should be, it is my project and and I asked for those paintings and stories.  But I work very hard for long hours and often become discouraged as I can feel underappreciated for the time I put into what I do. What I am trying to say is that I didn't think I was getting enough online attention.

What made me frown and refuse to go on was looking on social media and seeing other people were more successful than me. I looked at people who seemed to sweep the public before them with (in my opinion) barely anything to say, I looked at people who seemed to have it all, and I looked at my own social media presence and thought, Damn.  Nobody loves me.

Before I show some common sense and insight, how did I get to this point?

I am sixty one years old, slightly unconventional, and drawn to work with difficult subjects such as the end of life (see the A Graceful Death exhibition) and as you know, Addiction. I am established as an artist and have made good and bad decisions along the way.  It has been both wonderful to follow my heart and a struggle to make ends meet over the years.  However delightful it is to have the time now to create my own projects because I no longer have dependent children at home, it is also very demanding.  Each portrait I do starts out like a toddlers drawing.  It is that bad.  I never show anyone my works in progress unless they look good; my aim is to present you with a fantastic painting. I try not to allow anyone to see the utter rubbish I produce at the beginning, preferring you to think I knock them off without effort because I am clever.  It actually takes a great deal of time to think of, create and finish any work of art but I keep that secret.  We don't get to see me struggle, we don't get to see my bad days and we certainly don't get to see my mistakes.  I once spent a long time painting someone with a fascinating face, only to find, when I stood away from it at the end, that I had painted the eyes so far apart they were almost on the side of his head.  I had painted ET.  There was no choice but to re paint the eyes and put them where they should be.  It turned out fine in the end, and I never admitted this mistake to anyone.  It took a great deal longer to re paint the eyes as all our features are linked to each other, and the whole face needed to be redone.  But no one knew this because I presented the painting as if were effortless, and easy, because I didn't want anyone to know I was only human.  

How my paintings start. They get better. 

 My social media profile has me as a fairly unconventional, uncomplicated, artist, grandmother and eater of food.  I'm always having tea and wholesome get togethers with my friends, I have loads of grandbabies always turning up, and I always look as if I am having an effortlessly grand time.  When my friends say that I always seem so happy, and I have such a wonderful life, I confess that my online life is pure Hollywood.  It is a very well crafted bubble of jolliness, even when everything is falling about me in ruins.  You wouldn't love it, I say, if I show you my really fat days when I do absolutely nothing but avoid my Urgent To Do list and eat crisps.  

Working hard to create art, busting a gut to organise an exhibition while looking after grandchildren and having fun times with my friends, should make me irresistible online and get me millions of followers, likes and hearts.  I should be drowning in comments like Tell me more, and OMG you're so amazing.  But I am not.  And I think, why not?  What is wrong with me?  Why don't you all love me?

It is a slippery slope to madness. The angel who whispered into my ear to ask me to look at what I already have was very wise.  It is so simple, and when I had a look, I was reminded again that the online world is not real.  My real world is real, and in my real world I can look my friends in the eyes and feel the warmth of their friendship.  In my real world, I am surrounded by support for my work, surrounded by happiness from my friends and surrounded by a sense of belonging from my family.  I had a team meeting recently to update everyone on the upcoming exhibition and afterwards, with lists written and ideas discussed, I was struck by how amazing all those in the meeting are.  These people are with me, they are full of quality and strength, and they are the real thing.  I don't need a heart from a stranger on social media with these people on my team.  This lot are full of hearts.  And good ideas.  What else have I got that I was not seeing?  I have feedback on the paintings I am doing from the people in them.  They love the paintings, they love their words on them.  They mean it, and they say it to my face in my studio, they don't text me and send me an emoji. What else do I already have?

I have a sense of community in my community.  I have a sense of purpose in my work.  If things get really tough I can count on my brothers who I know will help me out, on my friends, who will listen and do what they can.  And, about those friends, I have them everywhere.  In Ghana, in Dublin, in London, in Bognor, in Birmingham and many more places.  They don't need to send me likes and hearts for me to know they are there. They are still expected to contribute to my Crowdfunding pages and Patreon requests however, and if they don't, I know where they live.  

What else do I have?  I have a sense of wellbeing.  I have a sense of anticipation about the future and a sense that the future is huge, and exciting, and a little unnerving.  I have all this outside of my computer and when I am finished in my studio, I can walk out if it and into my kitchen where I can experience, in real life, fresh bread and butter and jam.  

To conclude, online life is seductive if I let it. If I am creating sheer Hollywood with the stories that I post, then so is everyone else.  That angel who tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look at what I already had knew what it was talking about.  My life isn't virtual, it is real.  What do I know about who is watching me on social media, and what their lives are like?  And really, what gives me more satisfaction - brain storming with my friends over tea and chocolates, or having fifty strangers give me a thumbs up or a heart?  It is really nice having attention online.  But it isn't real life. Real life is when my friend Gill took me out to lunch at a new arty cafe in Littlehampton and fed me sweet potatoes and rock buns.  And when someone tells me my home is light and loving. And when my four year old grandson tells me I forget things because I am so old and soon I will have to die.  That is definitely not virtual. 

With the grandbabies, not dying quite yet.  But still, in the real world.

Please give a moment to consider supporting my work by subscribing here to my Patreon page.  For as little as £5 a month, you will help to keep my painting, story telling and awareness raising work going.  For this you will receive little benefits from me to say thank you for helping me.

Or perhaps you would like to donate to my Just Giving crowd funding page.  Here, you can make a one off donation to help me with all the costs of hosting and creating this exhibition.  Thank you very much. 

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