Saturday, 12 November 2011
Watching the paint dry.
On safety stand-down day there was a shuffling of feet. There were hands straight-armed into pockets and shoulders stiff. Backs leant against cold brick walls. Waiting for nothing to happen. A day of tick boxes and slow time. Someone cleans a wing mirror and someone fumbles with a phone and I sit in the van and draw and write down the boredom - the extravagant waste of non-refundable time, and thinking
“If I’m drawing, I’m doing something with this time.”
We wait and wait while the minutes die like autumn leaves; when they’re gone, we won’t get them back. Every dead minute is a travesty; a crime against sense. The world doesn’t stop for safety-stand-down day.
The autumn palette of leaves curl up like old paint, revealing the bones of trees beneath - watching paint dry. And that’s what I do. I steal every spare moment from my work life to do something creative. If I have to watch paint dry, I’m going to record it, write it down, play its tune or paint its portrait. I realise that drawing trees is still more important to me than pruning them (even though it’s pruning them that pays the bills). Being a poor artist is fine when young and idealistic, and I’ve not become cynical and given up these ideals but the reality is I like having a job, I like it when I go to the cash machine and it doesn’t laugh and tell me to come back when I’ve got some money. I like having a car, I like going for a pint and not worrying about how I’m going to buy my next meal.
I recently had a couple of days off to extend my weekend and made the most of my time to play guitar and draw. I’d been asked to make some cartoons for a friend to use in a university presentation and spent a blissful couple of days in my kitchen with a big fire on, cool tunes on the stereo, plenty beer and the kitchen table covered in pencils, pens and paper and once again, for that brief time, I was lost in the world of the artist - a world I feel very at home in, and miss very much.
It’s another morning and we’ve been parked up at Gayles for an hour. A wet grey mist hangs in the air like stale cobwebs on a old window. All the lads are stood around talking and I’m in the van drawing. There’s opinions, jokes, shuffling of feet and hands in pockets. My work/life balance is such that these moments are all I have to cling onto any artistic ideas and I’m acutely aware that by its nature, makes me quite antisocial at times.
A burglar alarm cuts clean through my wandering thoughts; that’ll be the power switched off and work-time started. My artistic moments are over until next time… put away that pen and pick up that chainsaw. I wonder which is the mightier?