“Art is beautiful but it is hard, like a religion without a purpose.”
Kirsty Hall: Performing Pin Ritual, Dec 2003
People who aren’t working in a creative profession often think that what we do is easy, fun, glamorous or exciting. And it can be all of those things. But it’s also a time-consuming, brain-melting obsession that will eat your life.
It is not ‘five minutes, boom, you’re done, sit back and drink a martini’ - that is not how the creative process goes for even the most talented people. Techniques take time to learn and perfect. You make mistakes. Then you make bigger mistakes and have to start over. Even once you’ve learnt your craft, it’s twisty: you fret, you fiddle and things go wrong. You can pick away at a problem for months or years with no guarantee that you’ll ever crack it.
Sure, some people make it look easy but I’d bet my granny’s pension that they’re working hard when your back is turned. They’re dreaming their way into a role; they’re thinking about their sculpture on their lunch break; they’re drawing for hours every day.
So you need to enjoy the process of what you do. Because that’s what you’re going to be doing all day.
Kirsty Hall: Red thread and needle, May 2008
If you plan to make hats for a living, you’d better love plittering around with felt and feathers. If you’re going to carve wood, you’d better not be allergic to sawdust. If you want to act, you’d better be able to put up with hanging out with other actors, learning lines and spending lots of time waiting around.
Now, obviously no one loves every single thing about their job but if you dislike most of your process, then you’re in the wrong creative field or are using the wrong medium.
I know this sounds stupid but I see a lot of young artists making this mistake. They’re naturally great at video but instead try to make sculptures because they feel they ‘should’. Or they have a talent for colour but feel guilty that it’s ‘too easy’, so they chose to work in monochrome even through they secretly long to pick up that tube of orange.
If you call yourself an artist but find yourself making excuses to write instead of making art, you might really be a writer. If you find oils endlessly frustrating but make watercolours for fun on your days off, you may be using the wrong kind of paint. If you hate having clay under your fingernails, making pots is not for you.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t challenge yourself by exploring new areas. Nor am I saying that everything needs to be easy – it won’t be. I’m saying that you absolutely must have a deep and abiding love for the actual processes of your craft. You need to be able to think, “Oh wow, sewing sequins on this apron is still kind of great, even through I’ve been doing it for a year & I’m kind of bored now”.
Kirsty Hall: Close up of sequins, Oct 2009
Because a lot of the time you will be frustrated, stuck or thoroughly fed up and in my experience, if you don’t have that core passion for your daily reality, then you will quit.