It’s a question I’ve been pondering for some time, ever since being told many years ago that “Art isn’t for the likes of us” and “you’ve got to know your limitations”
The question is particularly pointed to me; Being the only member of a sub-working class family (trailer trash) to ever take up the vocation of artist. I have long given-up any pretention at trying to convince ‘my family’ that this was a worthwhile career choice; art was a million miles away from my childhood upbringing, I lived in a family without books, art materials, paper to draw on, indeed anything remotely ‘cultural’ was regarded as something coming from the supernatural world of the Twilight Zone. Even watching the television as a child was almost punishable by death, as my uncle proceeded to cruelly, take the valves out and stop it working to “teach me a lesson”
It never taught me anything other than hatred……perhaps that’s why I became an artist? It was a total rebellion against the non-descript; aimless values of my childhood. It became something so different and alien to the people around me that I became an object of even more abuse….this was a career choice fuelled by hatred. I used to draw on any piece of paper, with a pencil I’d stolen from school. The object of my desire was to upset everybody around me; good hiding after good hiding…my arse was red raw with marks of ‘the belt of justice’
I soon found out that through art I could express my pain…I had a voice. Know my limitations…..FUCK YOU! When a person finds their voice, there are no limitations. I was doing art in spite of people, not because of them. Nobody had given me this career, nobody nurtured my ‘talents’ this decision to become an artist was born out of a cultural vacuum. Call it the tenacity of the human spirit to survive adversity, call it what you will, all I know is that from some early time I made this career choice without even realising it.
So who does art? WELL, your arty, farty middle class everything on a plate individuals, sure; they do art after a fashion…for the love of Christ, their kind often think they own the arts, jealously guarding it against a socialist takeover by the ignorant workers who toil by day and night in their dark satanic mills, providing profits to the middle class mill owners so they can have the luxury to enjoy and ‘do art’. But that was in the olden days wasn’t it?
Yep….perhaps it was, but don’t think the memories have gone away because they haven’t. Its effect on society remains with us, and todays artists are still fighting against ‘art prejudice’
As we all know, prejudice is based around ignorance; people will often develop views on everything under the sun if you let them, this is based upon their own cultural background feeding them the information; good or bad, it’s known as “where I’m coming from” I quickly learnt from a very early age that where people were coming from was totally fucked up!
I was on a lifeboat; watching everybody around me disappearing into the abyss, I was wrestling with an eight legged monster who threatened to drown me; I was looking for dry land and a rock on which to build my life.
Shipwrecked on the shore I shouted…..ART SAVED ME!
Extract from my as yet unpublished autobiography “How I Became Chalkboy”