Artist and author Jackie Morris, who lives and works on the coast of Wales, was made a Fellow of Hereford College of Art earlier this year. In a blog post reflecting on the speech she gave to the college's graduating students, she proffered this excellent advice for working in the arts:
1. Be brave. You will need all your courage to be an artist in this world.
2. Artists contribute so much to society, are often undervalued. You take your places among a long line of dreamers, many of whom are only recognised after their deaths having lived a life of poverty. Many people will ask you to, expect you to, work for free. They will say that what they are offering you is 'good exposure’. I’m here to tell you that people die of exposure. Value your time -- even artists need to eat. You can pick your causes, when you choose to give your skills for free, don’t let others bully you into it for the ‘exposure’.
3. It is possible to earn a living as an artist. Usually this takes a long time. Doing other work to facilitate your move into being a full time artist can be very good. Some choose to keep this balance their whole lives. Treat all the work you do as you treat your creative work, it is all a part of the whole.
4. Check out Arts Emergency. They are there to help.
5. Whatever your discipline make work that makes your soul sing. Speak from the heart. Find your voice and know that your voice is as relevant, as deserving to be heard, as anyone’s. Don’t follow fashion. Create work that excites you.
6. Look. Read, read, read. Stories from near, from far, from long ago, fiction, non-fiction, poetry. And do not ever forget to listen to the voices of others.
7. You will have to learn how to make friends with your monsters. Mine has always been self-doubt. Making the monster your friend is a part of the working process, but this has been one of the hardest things for me to do. I’m learning to dance with my demons, to embrace it as part of how I work.
8. Understand that as you walk out of college, degree in hand, your learning has only just begun. Every day of your working life you should be learning, with each thing you do, each mark you make.
9. Don’t chase money, or be flattered by this false idol. If you earn enough to feed yourself, your family, house and clothe them and buy materials you need to then spend your time making work, creating. You can always get more money, but once time is spent it’s gone. You can never reclaim those lose minutes, hours, days, years.
10. Do not ever underestimate the power of daydreaming. This is the space where ideas dwell.
11. Whatever you do, do it with a real passion.
12. Be open hearted, open minded. Eyes wide open to the whole world. Believe in the arts as a powerful tool for change, to communicate ideas, to bring about change, to educate, inform, as a harbour for the soul, as an expression of what it is to be human.
And above all question everything, even advice given in good faith. Question, interrogate, read between the lines.
For more inspiration from this remarkable artist and lovely person, I highly recommend following Jackie's blog, if you don't already.
The drawings above are by Jackie Morris; all rights reserved by the artist. The passage above is quoted from Jackie's blog post "Read Between the Lines" ( July 21, 2018). Please seek out her many books, including The Ice Bear, The Snow Leopard, The White Fox, Song of the Golden Hare, East of the Sun West of the Moon, and The Lost Words. A related post on Jackie's beautiful work: "The wild sky."