Signing Your Name

This morning the sunshine poured into the studio. I signed a painting while thinking about a conversation I had years ago with a therapist.

“How do you feel when you sign a painting?” she asked.

“Appalled,”I said. I was shocked to hear myself say it.

***

Finishing a painting gradually becomes easier as the years go by. I am still critical and humbled, but sometimes a project must come to an end imperfectly, something people with salaried jobs often take as a given. Hopefully one moves on to the next endeavour with more skill and some wisdom under your belt.

The image of art festivals on rainy days comes to mind. Some soggy artists in the rain are intact, laughing at the ridiculousness of paying to be there. Others are heartsick with shame; how did I get here? What am I doing wrong?

These days family discussions at the dinner table seem to focus around course selection with our two teenagers. This inevitably leads to conversations in which they weigh out what they might like to do with their lives. Both of them (15&16) are keen to have salaries. I quietly calculate the stress they might have absorbed having two creative but freelance parents, why they might both feel strongly about this. They haven’t wanted for anything from our perspective but perhaps they felt our uncertainty.

Whatever my kids choose to do, I hope they are in the first group of soggy artists. Sometimes I feel school has undermined their potential. We tell them “Stick your neck out in the world, flex your muscle (no matter how weak), know you have challenged yourself!”. It is not always easy. But it is where integrity begins.

Hopefully you tune in to what your particular offerings are, you watch your skill growing at a snail’s pace, and you sign your name with some satisfaction thinking, “Here I am. This is my offering.”

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