I was up in Liverpool this week to introduce my work to LJMU Fine Art students. I felt envy. They were so young and beautiful. They have so much time to spend on themselves. Workshops are crowded with kit. Supportive and enthusiastic technicians and lecturers. Then they started to ask me questions. Two in particular:

what is your driver?

how does one stop one’s drawing practice from being too tight?*

I’m paraphrasing there but OMG it took me right back to being at the Central in the 80’s and these are still things I struggle with.

I don’t have the answers but I am compelled to make. Making things gives me a deep satisfaction. I do it for the flow. I do it for that moment of wonder: ‘wow, I didn’t know I could do that!’. BUT that doesn’t mean everything I make is good. Far from it. You could fill a house with the mistakes I’ve made and indeed I have.

And it doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Pretty constantly I feel confusion. I worry that I’m committing valuable resources (time, energy, money) on an activity that is pointless and will produce something without meaning. (I am fortunate to have people around me who resist saying ‘is it worth it Emma?’ although they can see how vulnerable it makes me and how much it costs in every sense.)

If you turn that around though, i.e. ‘I know what I’m going to make, I know why I’m going to make it…’ where is the challenge in that? Where is the opportunity to learn something about ‘how to’ and yourself? Where is the dialogue between yourself and your work and how is it ever going to surprise you?

Being confused is a painful way of being but I’m used to it now. The harder you work the less likely you are to question why you’re doing it. (Note: by work I mean play. This too I find very hard to achieve being as it’s so close to working without apparent purpose.)

When I became a mother I thought I would feel like a mother. I felt a fake for the first seven year’s of Rachel’s life. The longer you are in a role the more likely you are to feel like you are the role.

I still want to produce better work than I currently do. That must be part of the driver thing.

POSTSCRIPT: regards the drawing practice question above* start by reading

Henry Moore On Being a Sculptor pub Tate, 2010
Lines of Enquiry: Thinking Through Drawing pub by Kettle’s Yard, Barry Phipps 2006

As you know this body of work and the related exhibition received Arts Council funding. To apply for the funding you have to fill in a form online. The form asks you to describe what you want to explore in terms of your practice and developing your practice. Here is my list for this project:

— do the two lines of inquiry work together here to create fresh meaning?

— does the work progress beyond observation to express the emotional content of a thing?

— has the artist succeeded in freeing herself from focusing on meaning early on, in favour of allowing it to emerge through play and process?

— which of the ideas in the exhibition would benefit from reshaping in another form?

— is the onlooker given enough space to become involved in the creation of the work’s meaning?

— has the artist been adequately disciplined in her choice of technique?