When you have a job, you have staff appraisals, pay rises and promotions. You might even have clients, colleagues or bosses who say thank you, and tell you what a great job you’re doing. When you work for yourself, it’s a more complex thing, to feel that the quality of what you’re doing is recognised.
When what you’re doing is art, it’s even more difficult.
For instance, I do sometimes wonder whether I am really creative at all. I meet other artists and they are properly “arty” and the creative thing is everything to them.
They would hate the idea that someone might have bought a picture because it went with their décor, rather than because it moved them. Personally I really don’t mind if someone chooses my picture partly because it happens to go with the colour of their wall! That’s fine, I’m not offended by it.
I feel pleased that I can produce paintings that people like, and the feedback I get from my customers is overwhelmingly positive. But, even so, in an art world where self-expression is everything, it can be hard not to feel undermined by some of my more "artistic" peers.
The contemporary art world is a very strange place. I was recently talking to someone who’s writing their first book, and even though both of us feel like relative outsiders in our respective worlds, we realised that she is so much more likely to win the Booker prize, than I am to win the Turner prize.
At the end of the day, she is writing a book. And it is still books that enter the Booker prize.
Whereas I paint, and how many representational paintings do you ever see in the Turner prize shortlist? What the world thinks of as ‘art’ is a much broader church than what it thinks of as ‘literature.’
What contemporary art is, and what I do, are almost divorced. From the media coverage, one would hardly think that anyone out there was still painting actual pictures anymore. I’m not knocking the the Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin view of the world, but to find recognition for my sort of work I need to look elsewhere.
One fantastic form of recognition is simply that people choose to buy my paintings and hang them on their walls. An ordinary person likes my art enough to part with reasonable sums of cash to own it. That’s quite a big deal when you think about it. It’s still a huge buzz when someone buys a painting.
Then there are other levels of recognition, for instance, if a gallery thinks it’s worth showing. There are also other competitions and prizes that do recognise figurative art. I’ve had work accepted at the Mall Galleries at couple of times, which is a great boost as the competition for those exhibitions is tough.
I take heart from Jack Vettriano. He’s very successful in terms of on-the-street recognition, and in terms of sales, although he has complained in the past that his work wasn’t hung in any national collection. He doesn’t get that formal recognition from the art world, as such.
I’ll be happy enough when I sell as much as he does though!