Monday, 10 September 2012

On a career as an artist

With students' work-in-progress filling the bindery, there's been no need to feel guilty about reading, rather than making, books this week. I'm part way through Orhan Pahmuk's My Name is Red, a glorious novel about a secret (and blasphemous) book put together in Istanbul at the end of the 16th century by the Ottoman Empire's best calligraphers, gilders, miniaturists and binders. Just a few pages in, I came across the following declaration by one of the characters: "To avoid disappointment in art, one mustn't treat it as a career. Despite whatever great artistic sense and talent a man might possess, he ought to seek money and power elsewhere to avoid forsaking his art when he fails to receive proper compensation for his gifts and efforts". It triggered memories of the business plans and prototypes (one of which is pictured above) that I put together when I was seriously considering trying to make a living as a full time bookbinder. I ultimately decided that heading down this track would quickly kill my passion for my art and held on to my day job. For me, it was the right decision. As New York photographer Bill Cunningham put it so succinctly, 'If they are not paying you, they cannot tell you what to do".


  1. I think one of the tragedies of art is that it is now (and perhaps since the Renaissance has been) principally a bauble for the rich, richer and mega riche ----- I'd rather not be making things destined for the summer palace of a russian drug lord thanks very much.

  2. If we make for the purse and not for our passion I believe this is reflected in our work Terrence. I wholeheartedly agree with the quote from your book. The business of art can very easily render creativity into 'meeting the market' expectations. Sad. Ultimately, it is for ourselves that we create - because we are driven to do so and it brings us our balance. Oh gosh - I sound as if I am pontificating and I didn't mean it to sound that way. I am actually grateful that I do not have to support myself with my artworks and though I think we are produce some work that we think may sell, or please more readily, I know the work I love best is work that I do for myself. Often too, that is the work that is best received in public!

  3. It is great not to have to please anyone but yourself but it's still satisfying when a piece of work sells and just a little disappointing when it come back unsold.