This year has been frankly a bit of a mess. So I'm going to whinge about it.
As a disclaimer, I appreciate that I have pulled through this mess (relatively) unscathed. My health and the health of my loved ones has not been nearly as impacted as countless others, for which I’m extremely grateful. My career and my livelihood, however, have been completely and relentlessly bludgeoned for the last year, and it stings enough to warrant ranting about it online, so here we are.
Despite last year’s constant Covid-related setbacks, it was a damn good year, I feel I made a lot of progress professionally and gathered an awful lot of momentum. A few canceled shows, a couple of projects that fell through, a few opportunities that went quiet, no problem, just pick up a bit of temp work to keep my bills paid and hit it harder in 2021. Everything appeared to be slowly returning to n
ormal, and then in late December I got the best news I could have possibly hoped for, Artizan Gallery kindly invited me to use their basement as a permanent studio arrangement, something I’m eternally grateful for, and just one of the countless things they have done to help me along the way.
I cannot stress how big of a deal this was to me. Painting recreationally in your spare room is one thing, but for nearly 2 years I’d been trying to make a living out of it. Rather than try and describe the chaos this wrought on the rest of the flat, I’ll just leave this photo here...
And here I am on the big move-in day, you can only imagine how my tiny flat looked with all of this in it… Moving into this space was a really, really good day.
So 2021 was looking up, I was ready to hit the ground running and start making up for all that lost time. So I got myself set up, re-invested everything I’d earned into materials, and generally stocked the shelves ready to see me through for a year of uninterrupted painting. Full steam ahead.
Then on January 6th, just 10 days later, the UK entered its third lockdown. But this time there was a new problem, and it was a pretty big one. I was no longer working out of my bedroom, and the council-operated service tunnel I use for access to the basement studio was locked. The basement studio that I was now making my living out of. Long story short, for reasons of fire risk/insurance/security jargon, I wasn’t allowed access until the lockdown was lifted.
If this sounds bad, it was. It was really, really, really bad. Catastrophically bad.
I wasn't furloughed, I wasn't eligible for gov assistance, every grant I applied for was denied, and every scheme that sounded applicable fell through. It’s not trendy to discuss these things, but let’s just cut the bullshit, I sell paintings for a living, I do this because I love it, but every month is living on a knife-edge, and that’s okay, that’s expected, this industry is a ladder and year-by-year you take steps towards sustainability. That’s fine, I agreed to those terms when I took this plunge. But I didn’t agree to this.
This year is no longer a year about spring-boarding off 2020’s progress, it’s a year of rebuilding, it’s a year of temp work, side gigs, sleepless nights and a not-insignificant dose of heartache. And I’m sure there’s thousands of people across the UK that are currently in the same position.
But we’re still here, and we’re back in the studio, and life is good. We’ve been set back a few steps, the pressure has dialed up a few notches, and people tell me my eyelid will stop twitching when the stress/anxiety settles. But we’re back. Historically I’ve always done my best work with a chip on my shoulder, and this is a pretty substantial chip, so let’s get on with it.
But next time somebody offers you a cooked bat in a street-market, honestly just walk away mate. I’ve not got another one of these in me.