Four years ago, when I started my Foundation Degree at Shrewsbury College, I was a painter. I painted things and the sea. I also painted people when I was feeling brave. That’s all I did. I signed up for the course to learn how to paint better. That was my art. At the time, that is what I wanted to do.
Fast forward four years (nearly five) and my art practice has transformed dramatically since those days. I rarely paint now. I do lots of things: draw, write, paint, create videos, take photographs and even make stuff on occasion (despite often telling people ‘I don’t do 3D art’).
However, there has been a more dramatic change than a broadening of my media: I now engage with the public. This is a change of my art practice that I am surprised by the most and in fact, ironically, I enjoy the most, even more than painting and drawing. I love blogging about art and getting feedback and I love engaging in dialogue with people about art in general and my art. I am addicted to the buzz I get from persuading people to do stuff for me. I like it when they respond, positively or negatively, to my art and help me develop. This is extremely fulfilling and addictive. The more I do, the more I want to do more.
So in four years my art has changed from a focus on the end product to one on process. It now occurs to me that the end product and people’s response to that (staring at a painting in an art gallery or even watching one of my videos on YouTube) is less important to me and less satisfying than seeing those same people engage in whatever mad idea I have (currently, finding balloons) as part of the process.
Last year this process took the form of visiting local people who owned objects from the First World War – interviewing them, talking to them about their objects and sharing cups of coffee with them. The year before that it was interviewing staff at Powis Castle and talking to visitors to the Castle about the objects in the castle. This year it is getting emails and images from people who have found burst balloons. I owe so much to these people (more than they know), and they give me much in return. At the least, if I feel that I have made my mark on their consciousness with my mad quirky obsessions then it was worth waking up on that day. Knowing that I have on some tiny level made them re-look at some aspect of the world and consider it for longer than they might normally, gives me a warm happy feeling inside.
So now my art work is the process. The end product (the paintings, the video, the models or whatever) is a mere by-product. The art work is organic. It changes over time. It develops. It is also virtual. It is in a blog, on Facebook and if I can be bothered, on Twitter. It is hard to pinpoint. It isn’t paint on a canvas. It is so much more than that.
So what sort of artist am I now? Is this a performance? Not quite. Is it an installation? No, there is no physical boundaries. Conceptual? Perhaps. But even that isn’t quite right. This process I’m talking about is more than just the idea.
What I love about art today is that the definition of ‘art’ is so much more difficult to make. It encompasses so many activities and there is no limit to what it could be. I feel freed by that. I don’t feel stuck in the box of ‘painter’. I feel I can travel wherever my mind takes me. So long as there are other people there too, it will all be good.