So, what are you going to do after you graduate? It’s a bit of a painful question to ask an art student. During our years in school, it almost felt like we were all enclosed in the same, soft, fluffy cocoon. In a lot of ways art school acted as a protective cover from the ‘real world’ for me. It was a friendly, warm place where we could just focus on our personal development. We did hear stories about the infamous ‘black hole’ that would be lurking after we finished art school, but we weren’t really worried about that. After four years we would fledge, burst out of the communal cocoon and show our beautiful wings to the world. But turns out four years go by really quickly, and we all started to suspect that we might not exactly make the deadline. We showed them off during the graduation exhibit, but deep down there was doubt. Would anyone notice that our wings hadn’t completely dried yet?
Although the topic might be dressed up in a, somewhat cliché, butterfly-metaphor, the underlying issue is anything but romantic. Even though an art academy is a great place to grow, it does leave us behind a bit stranded after those four years. We’re all deeply convinced that we’ve picked the most amazing profession in the world and for years we’ve surrounded us with people who felt exactly the same way. So what, that you couldn’t really explain what you were doing to a family relative at a birthday party. In the back of your mind you had a whole building full of people that did know what it was that you were doing and why it is so important. Apart from that, there’s a certain safety in being a student. It doesn’t really matter what it is that you’re studying, the second you tell someone you’re in school you can watch them sink back into their chair and drift off into a state of bliss at the thought that you’re learning something.
And you certainly are learning. The best thing about it, is that you’re all doing this collectively (and not before 11 am). We we’re all finding our own voice and imagery together, and the art academy provided us with all the resources, space and freedom we could need to find it. We were only graded every now and then, mainly just because it was mandatory. The grades weren’t really necessary; everyone pretty much knew who was doing well and who wasn’t. You can tell when someone has had a breakthrough. The work grows along with them. And if you hardly saw any work, chances are they probably weren’t doing too well. But even that was encouraged sometimes. There have been periods of several months where I couldn’t get anything done. My teachers would hush me; don’t worry, once you find yourself again, the art comes back naturally.
Meanwhile it’s been two years since I’ve graduated from art school, and even though I don’t think I’ve had to ‘find myself’ I haven’t made as much new work as I wanted to. More and more I realised that you can’t keep waiting for the ‘right moment’. The right moment is a soft, fluffy concept that doesn’t do you much good outside of the cocoon. Because while I was busy learning who I was and where I wanted to be, everyone outside of my fluffy shelter was busy learning to DO something. Now that I’m sort of in between art school and our commercial society, I realize that I’ve fallen behind in things that are seemingly normal to everyone else. Even if it’s just getting up early or writing a decent email. Everything we learned to let go off in school, I suddenly needed and was expected to be able to do.
When I wanted to start making artwork after I graduated there we’re all these obstacles in the way. First I had to find a way to pay rent and buy pizza. Since there’s no vacancies for artist, I kept my job in a bar in order to make ends meet. I’ve always enjoyed it, but my creativity kind of came to a halt. There’s no such thing as a part-time artist. You don’t always need to be slaving away in your sketchbook, but you do have to keep your creative mind in motion. This demanded more energy than I had anticipated. At the end of the day though, time wasn’t my biggest problem. I was, without a doubt, my own biggest hurdle. The longer I would wait to start on a project, the harder it got to get started. The pressure I put on myself to make something amazing this time, only grew bigger by postponing it. Instead of being motivating, it felt crippling. Because what if I’d put all that time, money and effort into a project that didn’t even turn out to be good?
Unfortunately, you can’t show people what you’re going to make. You can only show them where you are now, and hope they can tell where you’re going. At the end of the day, I’ve grown to realize now, the real gap isn’t between making bad work and making good work. The real ‘black hole’ lies between making something, and not making something.