As artist of the week I’d like to share some thoughts about the most recent Shed show and about being part of an online art community in general.
First, following the hugely successful Muse exhibition I want to say a big thank you to Chelsea and Ben for putting on such as stunning and successful show. It was particularly nice for me as sales went very well and, out of the blue, I received a gorgeous letter from someone who had attended the show and, who then wrote to me, to say how my work had touched them. It’s always so lovely when people take the time to tell you how much your work means to them.
Sunlit River 7 by Fiona G. Roberts
The Muse exhibition in fact rounded off a pretty busy period for me. In July I was delighted to have work selected for the Society of Women Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries in Central London and, around the same time, I had a portrait selected for The New Georgians exhibition at Orleans House Gallery in Richmond Upon Thames.
Before you start thinking, however, that my artistic life is one endless round of successes, I want to be honest about some of the difficulties that I, and I’m sure many others, face when trying to make a living in the arts.
In early Summer I had, what I can only describe as a minor emotional meltdown (honestly, artists!). It was probably due to a combination of trying to juggle being a mum with other family/personal commitments, a teaching job and work as an artist, along with all the other stuff that life throws at you just to keep you on your toes. During that period I really struggled to produce anything at all. I actually went into something of a panic, by which I mean my normal level of anxiety, which hovers around severe, shot up to critical. I had been invited by a gallery to have a solo show in 2015, and I was supposed to be working on some landscapes for that. I just couldn’t do them, and eventually gave up and started work on some portraits instead. These being the only thing I could do at the time, as at least with portraits I don’t have to think quite so much about colour and composition etc. Sadly, as it happened, that particular gallery closed suddenly (that’s the second time this has happened to me actually and it’s really not nice for all concerned) and whilst this was an awful blow to everyone, I have to say it did at least take the pressure off me for a bit.
Reflection by Fiona G. Roberts
I’m mentioning all this because I think it’s important to discuss the downside of being an artist and the pressures of trying to fit it in with all the other roles in life. Of course I am aware of how incredibly privileged we are to be able to do this type of work at all, and I realise that any problems we might think we have as artists, would seem ridiculously and embarrassingly trivial to the average nurse or social worker. Having said that, being an artist is not all about producing work you’re happy with all the time and getting selected for prestigious exhibitions. There’s a lot of doubt, frustration and anxiety, exacerbated by the isolated nature of the way we work, which is one of the reasons why I feel so grateful and lucky to be part of the Shed community. Although much of the interaction is online, it’s a lovely and very effective way to bring together like minded people in a supportive and productive community.
Which brings me onto social media in general and its value to artists.
As someone who had absolutely no online presence until a couple of years ago, I have now had to embrace several types of social media. Mainly due to persuasion from lovely creative friends like Chelsea and others (you know who you are!) who basically told me I had to get involved as it’s an integral, important and inevitable part of all our working lives now.
As a socially anxious, introvert who is baffled by technology, however, this has brought its own challenges. Indeed I have spent significant amounts of time worrying that I may have said the wrong thing and inadvertently upset someone, or that perhaps I’ve exposed myself as the idiot that I am in real life. Having said that, social media, perhaps especially for a socially anxious, introverted artist like myself has some huge advantages. I’ve been lucky to have had interactions with the most amazing people, who I may never have had the opportunity to meet in real life. In some cases it has led to meeting up in the real world, though mostly it hasn’t. Nonetheless, real life or virtual, all the interactions I’ve had, have been lovely, inspiring, illuminating, fun, supportive and valuable, in and of themselves. I had some difficulties with Facebook, not because I couldn’t cope with other people’s posts, on the contrary, it was my own that were the problem. Everyone else’s were perfectly appropriate, interesting and coherent but on Facebook there’s way too much scope to embarrass yourself, and I simply can’t be trusted on that score. Twitter seems better because there’s only so much damage you can do in 140 characters (isn’t there?). Though having said all this, I am a firm believer that once you’ve reached a certain level of embarrassment and nobody actually died, then none of it really matters anyway. With that in mind I may even return to Facebook one of these days.
Autumn Sun by Fiona G. Roberts
All in all then, my experiences as part of an online gallery, and as an artist online in general, have been overwhelmingly positive. The Shed Gallery in particular has been an important part of my development as an artist and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. At the moment I’m busy working on some seascapes and landscapes which I hope to submit to the next Shed Show and to the other galleries I’m involved with. I’m also working on some commissions, including another portrait.
Looking ahead, I’m truly delighted to have had a painting selected for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries in November. Actually, the portrait that was selected was one that I did in desperation when I was struggling earlier in the year and couldn’t do anything else (there’s possibly a lesson in there somewhere!). I look forward to continuing my relationship with the Shed Gallery, and hope to continue interacting with all the lovely Shed creatives, and indeed with all the other lovely, interesting people out there, whether online or in person.