Am I an artist?

This post will be more brief than most for reasons that, at the risk of over sharing, I’ll spell out later.

I started this post a long time ago, when I first heard that the fabulous Timothy Spall was to play the role of the artist Lowry. He seems to be making a habit of portraying great artists – he was wonderful in Mike Leigh’s 2014 film Mr. Turner, that focussed on the last 25 years of the artist’s life.

While I’m less of an admirer of Lowry’s work, I’m no less an admirer of his drive, persistence and dedication to painting and capturing what he saw unwaveringly in his unique style.

The 2019 film Mrs Lowry and Son focuses on the relationship between Lowry, played by Spall and his disapproving mother, played by Vanessa Redgrave. The two are wonderful in a film that is, at times, quite painful and tremendously sad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTOiVivEmwo

This particular quote from the film, however, has really stuck with me:

“Am I an artist? I’m a man who paints, nothing more, nothing less.”

I often struggle with the idea of being ‘an artist’ (I do use it online but that’s as much for Google as it is for me!) A painter though. Well that’s something I can really get behind!

I was reminded of this film a couple of nights ago when I was awoken by my mother calling out for me from her bed in the middle of the night. It brought back memories of some scenes in the film.

A scene from the film

Fortunately, my relationship with my mother is much more harmonious. After 94 years of determinedly independent living, however, her needs are changing – and dramatically so.

I’ve had to make an emergency dash up North to be with her and to put some arrangements in place to provide her with the pain relief, care, comfort and dignity that are the very least that she deserves. So. No time for painting at the moment, but I am still a painter!

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Thoughts on Am I an artist?

26 thoughts on “Am I an artist?”

  1. First of all, I’m wishing all the best for your mother. About the whole artist question I have no problem at all calling you an artist. You make some amazing work. For myself, though, I feel that I’m miles away from being an artist, and I don’t dare call me one in any situation or forum. Just recently I dared to put the tag #art on one of my instagram posts, so that’s where I’m at 🙂 🙂 I guess we make our own standards in regards of what’s an artist or not. Maybe a bit stricter for ourselves. But It’s not always the skill level which decides, either 🙂

    1. Hi Kim and thanks so much for all your kind words – they’re much appreciated. I find the whole artist or not artist conundrum really interesting and may return to it again when I’m not so pre-occupied! I still feel like I’m serving a long apprenticeship, from which I may one day become ‘qualified’!

  2. Yes you have the soul and desires of an artist and so you are indeed one John! I do wish you and your elderly mother well. Take care xx

    1. Thanks so much Raye – I really appreciate your support, and the courage too. It’s humbling that even at 94 and increasingly frail, it’s my mum’s courage that’s still inspiring and supporting me!

  3. Yes you have the soul and the desires of an artist.! I hope your mother is doing better. Take care
    Carole Rogers

  4. Wishing you all the best, John, elderly parents are a worry, for sure – you are a good son, taking care of your mother like that – your painting will be there for you when you can get back to it!

    1. Hi Hilda and thanks so much for this. So hard to feel like a ‘good son’ when I also feel so helpless but these are also such precious times. As you say, the painting will wait for me.

  5. Glad to hear you were able to successfully put in place what your mother needed. I know it’s not always that straightforward.
    As for the rest of it, I think I can confirm that you are NOT an artist – so congratulations! Apparently, some time in the 20th century visual art drifted away from being something pleasing to look at to become something to make you think. Now “art” is of little interest unless it embodies a “shocking” idea – preferably concerning identity politics – which someone has backed with a lot of money so that you can make it – or have it made – extremely big with the backing of at least one influential gallery that wants to make it collectable so that you can all make loads of money. You do, however, need to be careful, John. Simplification, staring straight into the light source and the loss of feet are just the first steps on to a slippery slope that might lead to…. making a fortune!
    Yours, Bitter-but-not-Twisted

    1. Haha, well Rob, I don’t think there’s any disputing your view on the state of the art world! Naturally, based on this assessment, I’m delighted not to be an artist. I am however incredibly fickle (not to mention notoriously cheap to influence) so should any offers come my way to have ‘apprentices’ do my paintings for me in exchange for vast sums of money, I can’t promise that I’ll be able to withstand the temptation!

    1. Hi Jean and thanks for this. I think I generally feel happier with the idea of saying that I paint, rather than I’m an artist which to my ear often sounds a little pretentious!

  6. Found you totally by accident. Searching Edward Wesson after watching Alan Owen on YouTube. I certainly would call you an artist. Especially since I took my fitst class last month! Thank you for sharing your personal story. I think a persons story influences how they create anything they love. Now that I found you, I’ll keep checking in! Thank you, from the U.S.!

    1. Hi Barbara – nice to meet you, so pleased that you stumbled across my site and really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Hope you’ll be able to stop again sometime. I usually publish something every Wednesday and, if helpful, you can sign up to receive these posts automatically. Also, if you like the work of Wesson – and apologies if you already know what I’m about to mention – you may also like to check out Steve Hall (an Edward Wesson aficionado) who has a number of DVDs and books on Wesson’s style and Jem Bowden – a wonderful watercolour artist whose work is reminiscent of Wessons. Happy painting Barbara – it really is a wonderful pursuit. Hope to hear from you again sometime!

  7. Pingback: Am I an artist? – kalm1980

  8. I’m sorry to hear about your mother – my best to you and your family.

    Even though I’ve just learned of your site, I have to agree with the other comments here. You are for sure an artist, quite a talented one at that. And a painter too, but what I see of your paintings, it feels like there’s a style and value to the viewer that goes beyond just putting paint on paper. Just my 2 cents.

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

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