What goes on behind the scenes? Recently Dagmara told us about her working process as an artist taking part in Snow Q our project to re-imagaine Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story. Here Wendy tells us about her relationship with her own inspirations and creativity:
I have always felt a curiosity to create in some shape or form but it took me time to discover how. At school I was disappointed to discover that I couldn’t conventionally draw or paint, I was excited by the idea of performance but lacked confidence being watched and seen. I enjoyed creative writing but dyslexia held me back. I loved music but didn’t have the patience to learn an instrument properly. So around the age of 15, it was a relief to eventually pick up my Dad’s 35mm SLR film camera, there was an immediate sense that I had finally found a tool that I felt comfortable with and a medium that would help me to pursue my creativity. So I went on to study photography but have battled using photography to fulfill my own creative practice over the years. It’s expensive, competitive, ever changing and there are often a lot of considerations you have to take to make certain types of photographs. In my 20’s and early 30’s, I was also typically distracted with instability, relationships, work, lack of money inexperience etc. I had managed to learn the craft of taking photographs and I was finding some freelance work in creative environments as an editorial/commercial photographer. My career as a photographer sidelined for a while whilst I learnt new skills in digital media and I then went on to work producing web based projects and short films for several years. This change of career served it’s purpose, it was lucrative and when I eventually found my way back in to photography, the new digital skills I had acquired were applied to the developing digital medium. As I approached my 40’s, I was skilled up but there was a yearning to reconnect with my own inspirations and visually express something meaningful to me. So I took a bold step and embarked on a part-time Photographic Arts, Masters course. I did my BA in Photography & Film, in the 80’s when I was only 19. I was young and insecure and the course was rigid and the lecturers didn’t have the nurturing approach I needed at that time and it was unfortunately not the most inspiring place for me to be. So I felt cautious entering education again later on in life but I had maturity and experience on my side and sensed that arts education had moved on since the conservative years of the 1980’s. I am a procrastinator and the priority of the course was to serve it’s purpose as a weekly focus to nourish my inspiration.
So I made the most of the MA. I realised that arts institutions can still be tricky places to navigate but I managed to rise above the institutional politics and I finished the course feeling confident about my identity as an artist and was proud with what I had produced. It was reassuring to have some recognition for what I had created and the university was a great place to connect with a creative tribe and find a new network to play in. During that time, I dug deep within myself and made a conscious effort to respond to my chaotic thought process. I felt more skilled than I was in my 20’s navigating the niggling doubts that often pop up around new ideas, such as ‘are my ideas any good’, ‘are people going to be interested’, ‘what’s the point’ and people have probably done it better than me before’ etc. I was determined that all that negative mental chatter was no longer going to be a barrier between me and my creativity and it was time to toughen up and listen to my inspirations and act on them.
So during this period I also realised the importance of regularly visiting exhibitions, watching documentaries and films and reading arts books. I also enjoyed listening to other artists talk about their work, engaging in discussions and learning about new contextual theories and I started to value researching my ideas more deeply. All this activity helped tease the inspirations out from within. I moved from London to Brighton in 1999, whilst I was working in the digital media industry. I was brought up in a village and although I liked city life, I had reached a point of yearning to live closer to the countryside again. I think I also unconsciously knew at that time, that I needed more connection with nature to eventually help feed my own creative practice and being in nature and light has become an important source of inspiration for me.
When I finished my MA, I knew that I was still capable of procrastination if I was left too long to my own devices. So I decided to set up a peer mentored group with a friend Miranda Gavin who is an arts writer and experienced mentor. We put a call out to other photographic artists to join the group and created Tri-Pod . I became one of the participants and Miranda was the group mentor. I fed ideas back to Miranda about how to steer the group from a participant’s point of view and we shared a similar ethos. Our aim was to provide a supportive group for visual artists to develop their personal projects. We would encourage healthy feedback and also create a focus for the groups to create work and do potential exhibitions together. It was successful and Tri-Pod and the group was an important commitment and another support network to help me continue developing my own artistic practice. Creating can often feel isolating and frustrating and I can’t emphasise enough the value of finding a community of any shape or form that you can engage with to help feel motivated and inspired.
So the latest source of inspiration is this Snow Q installation project. Working with a multidisciplinary team is an exciting opportunity and I’m sure it will be a transforming one. We haven’t all collaborated together before and we have different tasks to do. So listening and patience is important when working out what others have to create. Making considered responses to others ideas and suggestions as well as encouraging everyones efforts and acknowledge our successes along the way is a healthy approach to keep the project moving. I believe when we all support one another, everybody and the project will benefit and I look forward to seeing what magic we concoct together on December 21st.