Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bad Memories

A long time ago, I dated a rock musician who was enjoying some success on the national charts. Everywhere we went, people gave him free guitars, sneakers, skateboards, strings, clothes, meals – anything they thought he wanted. He accepted the gifts with grace but always looked a little awkward. When I asked why, he said it was ironic: when he'd really needed help, no-one gave him anything. The gifts were nice but they didn't really matter now that he could buy whatever he needed.
I saw a couple of close friends yesterday. I've known one of them since the beginning of my career. Somehow, he knew my old art teacher at high school. The teacher had said to tell me hello, and asked my friend to pass back any message. I laughed and said he could tell her to get fucked. I had asked the teacher several times for a reference to help me get in to art school. I went back every day for a week but she could never be bothered to write the note. Now that I had proven myself without her, she behaved as though she'd been part of my journey – or had recognised something in me then. She hadn't.
In my teens, I read articles about artists I aspired to emulate. In them, there were always comments from people out of their past, who'd claim they'd recognised something special in the artists. At the time, I thought that I had less of a chance of becoming successful because the people I looked up to ignored me. Now I realise that most people claim to have recognised and nurtured talent – and most of them probably hadn't.
I receive a lot of electronic files of art work and links to websites from people I don't know. They want my opinion. I understand the need for reassurance but I can't give it. Still, I don't want to discourage anyone. I still remember a time when nobody recognised any value in my work. If I'd cared too much about that, I wouldn't have continued.
It's not about what anybody thinks of your work. It's about persisting, regardless.


Anonymous said...

Hell. Yes. Thanks for posting that.

Our apartment/studio burnt down and what wasn't destroyed was looted (by our neighbors). We ended up living in our car for three days while we found temp housing because our numerous "friends" suddenly didn't have space for us. They *did* try to give us stuff... We didn't need or have space for. What would we do with a broken film camera? We didn't need things, we needed friends, a couch and someplace to wash the ash out of our skin for a night or two.

Later, of course they wanted to hang out in our new studio space and mess about with our new supplies. They got a big "fuck off" too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hazel,

The watercolour with this post is just beautiful.
I like how the words seem to be falling like rain.


Sarah Lulu said...

Love your artwork ....really love it.

And on a day when I really needed to hear it ...I love what you said.

Thank you so much.

I'm not good at "fuck off" I've never said that and certainly never typed it before.

But I can think it you know?

I felt my spirits lift. I've had a day when there were a couple of people who didn't believe in me or treat me well and I was feeling very crushed.

Now I will think of you and smile.


Aka Seltzer said...

I love this post.

Anonymous said...

hazel, did your friend pass on your "get fucked" response to the teacher. i can imagine the look on her face at hearing your words, pure gold :-) It must feel great to have achieved success less easily, more independently so she did you a favour in the longrun, made you stronger I would think.

Cathy said...

"It's not about what anybody thinks of your work. It's about persisting, regardless."
Beautifully said.

Jason Barre said...

"It's not about what anybody thinks of your work. It's about persisting, regardless."

Ah, validation. My philosophy as well :)

Maria Brophy said...

I have artists asking me all the time what I think of their work, will I look at it, will I let them know if they have a chance at making it! My response always is "It doesn't matter what I think. It matters what you want to do. If you want to be a professional artist, then you'll do it. Don't worry about anyone's opinions."

I love how you described the people in your past and how they didn't see your potential. This is a common problem in life overall.

I hope that artists read this blog post and realize that other opinions DO NOT MATTER nor determine success.

Your hardheadedness is what lead you to where you are - of course, add some talent to that and other factors. But the main thing is, you had a goal, a mission, and you didn't let anything or anyone stop you.

I so admire that in you!

faerian said...

bloody oath