Balnacra Arts by Vicky Stonebridge

Ceangal. Sunday 16th sept. creating verses survival.

fantastic nights sleep in the caravan. woke up as usual by Bruno’s early alarm clock bark as soon as there is any movement outside, shaking the whole caravan.  Sunday we are not allowed to work in the drill hall studio as it is next to the Free Church. not so free. The minister came in to the studio on friday, not to see the artwork, but to double check we would not be working on the sabbath. i have every respect for other people’s faiths. It is sad that mine consigns me to an eternity of damnation, according to the pamphlets i was given.

I woke thinking about my ‘art’ and the presentation I am to give at some point. feeling inadequate as my portfolio lacks a consistent strong direction.  I try so hard not to be a bitter, negative person, caught in being a victim rather than counting blessings. some of what i’m working on is about the idea of blessings, of positivity, of life being such a gift, even when it is brutal and hard, it is still a miracle. I’d had a brief discussion which artist Megha about the subject , is art a luxury? can  working class people participate fully in the arts or are they caught up too busy in survival? of course the knee jerk reaction from a good socialist who values arts and culture like me, is YES of course working people can…. but wait… yes in theory. Putting aside all the issues of the media creating barriers and elitism in UK arts. FRom my own point of view, i seem to have had 46 years of fighting to produce Art, always feeling like i’m only beginning, scratching the surface, always limits imposed, always defensive, fighting , struggling. how can you play, and create when the children are hungry and you don’t know where you will be living next week? layers and layers of constriction, no time, no money even for materials, then the constriction of thought, constriction of the remote rural ‘market’ and understanding of Art. back in my village the only Art that has merit is that which looks most like a photograph, of a scene with sentimental associations. I’ve long struggled with how to earn a living verses commercialisation of art. I need to communicate with others, not alienate them, but what merit in producing chocolate box artwork, picture postcards, anyone can do that.

My own art always buried beneath the surface, there in principal but never quite allowed to come out. If i took a salaried job, i could be free to create as I wish with no regard to its commercial viability, However i’d have no time and be too exhausted… having done hotel, shop and cleaning work… that doesn’t work.

I’ve tried doing both commercial and personal art, that hasn’t worked either. I’ve tried…. i don’t know, i feel i’ve tried everything over the years to reconcile paying the bills with my time and my art. Its difficult, when someone tells me i can do anything i want if i just put my mind to it… its hard to accept and have faith in that notion, i have been trying to do art for years and am still only beginning. I’ve been trying to get to siberia for years and haven’t been able to. I’ve been trying to support my children starting out in life, but haven’t been able to. I find myself  jealous of artists who can spend time in the studio trying things out. I haven’t had a moment to paint in 6 months, even commercial commissions. I’ve been too busy chasing freelance ad hoc organising jobs here and there, any opportunity to earn i have had to take and yet i am still left like last week with not even enough cash or overdraft left to afford the fuel to get me to the residency. I don’t want to be a bitter, jealous, negative person, that is not who I am, not who i wish to be. But right now when i look at the other artists body of work, and i look at mine, all i see is the restrictions and hardships.

when i have applied for funding i’ve got terribly angry about the knockbacks. How i’ve sneered at the rejection letters. I know my work has worth, has potential, as do I.  One rejection said i lacked direction.. thats because i’ve had to chop and change to try and go with market trends. But I now see they were right, going with what other people want or expect is not any sort of direction. How can i follow my own path and pay the bills ? How can i keep the faith that it will be okay when , now i live alone and have a whole house to pay for myself, things are getting progressively tougher every month?  Another rejection said my work was undeveloped, this made me furious. But now for the first time i understand it, of course it is undeveloped, it has never had a chance to even begin. Of course the irony is that if i’d had funding or support, i could have had direction or developed the work instead of scratching about teaching/ facilitating/ marketing others for minimum wage fir a few hours here and there.

this bitterness hides the blessings. Though life has been harrowing and horrible in parts, it has also been so full, so vibrant, so rich. I hope i can use this residency to push through these limits, to finally learn how to express myself as an artist, or at least make a start, to find the voice, to gain the confidence to create on my own terms. I don’t know how to sort out the work / life / bills balance, when this is finished i have a crazy sprint to catch up with other work commitments, the treadmill has no end in sight yet. But the changes need to come. I have more to offer than scratching about worrying about having enough money for dog food.


this was just an experiment, maybe it could have been something? It had fallen from where it hung in the studio and been walked upon, torn and muddy.  Intentions, labours, plans, all fall to chaos for some of us, but Perhaps i can still make something beautiful out of the damaged remains?


These blog posts are more about my personal journey. I hope to get time to write about the work itself soon as the themes are somewhat different and less moany!

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This entry was posted on September 16, 2012 by in Blog.

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