Harris Paintings day 8

‘Luskentire’ – in progress

Today’s paintings of the west coast of Harris, both need a little more work.

I’m fairly happy with these after a very distracting and busy time which reminded me of how much focus painting needs!

Talking with an artist aquaintance recently who’d had some health concerns which resulted in many months where she was unable to paint, I was further reminded that it’s hardly worth painting if you just don’t have the energy required for the inspired focus that’s needed. My aquaintance was ok carrying on with the rest of life’s demands – parenthood, working, involvement in various community groups, but painting had to take a back seat until recovery.

Not painting is not an option for me really though, since it provides half of my income (the other half at present through letting a flat). I’m not exactly minted to say the least, but I actually prefer the constant financial stress of self employment to being stuck in an office where my creativity and well-being feels as though it’s being systematically crushed!

I’ll never forget the last duty I was tasked with while working as an arts manager for the NHS in the West Midlands. It was to record and computer-enter the data of all artworks in the old building which was being decommisioned for a new hospital. The ‘artworks’ consisted mostly of thousands of faded bashed up art posters which were clearly junk. I had to wander around endless abandoned locked up hospital wards which had the most extraordinarliy miserable atmosphere; grubby beds and linen, machinery and medical equipment discarded like something from an Edwin Muir dystopian poem – not to mention the smell of disinfectant, un-identified smells of human detritus and the weird institutional colours of sludge pink, magnolia and green.

After a few weeks of these solitary wanderings through the enormous hospital, I began taking photos and actually forgot about my task. This new hobby extended to taking photos on my way to work through the beautiful parks of Birmingham, which distracted me from the actual time I was supposed to arrive at work. Naturally an Estate Manager noticed that not much was happening and reported this to my Line Manager (who’d apointed me this thankless task in the first place!) He brought this to my attention, his pale blue eyes bulging with cold rage in a florid alcohol-flushed face, at which point I judged it a good time to hand in my notice.

That memory haunts me sometimes, it reminds me of a short story written by Will Self where a social worker in a psychiatric ward gets lost in the bowels of the hospital, never to return!

The moral of the tale is: don’t stick creative people in meaningless jobs where they’re not valued. In fact don’t stick anyone in a meaningless job when they’ve trained or worked most of their life for the work they’re best suited to, for what they enjoy doing most in life, unless you pay them a decent living wage to compensate. And the moral of that that last point might just swim into focus in Theresa May’s mind after the 9th June results!

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