Tunes for a Monday Morning
The wild, weather-ridden world

Making friends with monsters, and other advice for artists

Drawing by Jackie Morris

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.

Drawing by Jackie Morris

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.

Jackie Morris

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.

Bear sketch by Jackie Morris

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.

Badger and fox by Jackie Morris

For more inspiration from this remarkable artist and lovely person, I highly recommend following Jackie's blog, if you don't already.

Hare drawing by Jackie Morris

The Names of the Hare by Jackie Morris

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."

Comments

I am a huge fan of Jackie Morris's wonderful work. I even went on a bit of a pilgrimage to see some of her work in the Imagine gallery in Suffolk. So one of my proudest moments was when she was kind enough to use one of my poems on one of her beautiful hare drawings

Hi Terri...I'm not sure which came first in my life. I've been following your blog, as well as Jackie's for years. They both keep my creative spirits up!

Though there's an ocean of water between her and me, I've been following Jackie's work practically since she started blogging about it. She lives on the borderlands (I know you'll get the reference) where magic is strange and unpredictable, where the veil between our world and some fey, enchanted kingdom is gossamer thin. We are privileged to see it through her eyes.

I will have a look at Jackie's blog for sure. I appreciated reading #2. I had someone try to bully me into making 25, yes 25, paintings for a dinner she was putting on. Just little somethings. She had no idea how much time and energy it would take to do 25 paintings even if they were small.

Thank you for Jackie Morris. Wherever I was before, I will be better now.

Whilst on a recent visit to Stourhead, I happened upon 'The Lost Words- A Spell Book', with text by Robert Macfarlane and glorious illustrations by Jackie Morris. There was an accompanying exhibition with some of the original drawings in the gallery there. It's truly exquisite. Thank you, Jackie Morris.

Yay Stuart. Which poem and what drawing?

Terri

I loved this post along with the incredible drawings of Jackie Morris. Like her, my nemesis is the ever- present specter of self doubt. But perhaps, there is a way to engage, to dance in her shadow.

Encountering Self Doubt

I go into the field at dawn
when dark trees seem scribbled
out of the mist

and sound becomes silence
settling deep into the grass, bird down
and the fur of rabbits

as she descends the hillside
hushed in her shawl and skirt, the weave
of both unraveling

into loose ends. Threads of indecision. Light
soon moves through her hair
strewn with pine needles shed

from trees losing their green, her roots
blackening to the black
of mushrooms upended
along the mountain path. A poisonous
shade of pathos.

And I look at her knowing
it's tine to make peace, stop dreading
the girl who shadows me
in the quietest of hours. Who sings
her sorrow into the bone. Tenderly,

I take her hands
and draw from them
the strength of humility,

the grace of dearth
that like this desert leaves
space open
for daydreams and prayer.

Again, thank you for this post, it is both beautiful and so helpful allowing me to recognize something familiar, essential in the perspective/being of another artist.

My best
Wendy

Realized there was a small typo in stanza 6 where the word "tine" should read "time".

corrected version

Encountering Self Doubt

I go into the field at dawn
when dark trees seem scribbled
out of the mist

and sound becomes silence
settling deep into the grass, bird down
and the fur of rabbits

as she descends the hillside
hushed in her shawl and skirt, the weave
of both unraveling

into loose ends. Threads of indecision. Light
soon moves through her hair
strewn with pine needles shed

from trees losing their green, her roots
blackening to the black
of mushrooms upended
along the mountain path. A poisonous
shade of pathos.

And I look at her knowing
it's time to make peace, stop dreading
the girl who shadows me
in the quietest of hours. Who sings
her sorrow into the bone. Tenderly,

I take her hands
and draw from them
the strength of humility,

the grace of dearth
that like this desert leaves
space open
for daydreams and prayer.

Hi Mokihana, the poem's called 'Sail eared earth surfer' and it's on exhibition in a wonderful gallery called Number Seven Dulverton. Their website is numbersevendulverton.co.uk

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