ANTONIA ROLLS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE NEWS. An account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Worthwhile, but exhausting, so pour the tea and make yourself comfortable...(this painting is a family portrait, about 2'x 3', oil on wood. It is the Ross Family, each family member with items that describe them best. And at the front, on the grass on the right hand side, is a photo of Grandma, sadly missed.)
It is wonderful to be able to paint. It is a pleasure to make things, like the Angels that Darling Dublin Friend and I made while on holiday with our families at her husband's family cottage by the sea in County Wicklow; to write what I like in a blog, to stand in front of something and gaze at it passionately just because it is a wonderful colour. If I could live as a total creative, I would have to have a few people to take care of the details of every day life. Like looking after the childrens' school correspondance, making sure the bills were paid and opening official envelopes. Like being aware of the MOT coming up, the windows needing cleaning and the phone needing answering. These same people would also make sure the children were fed properly at meal times, had clean clothes on and were in bed at the right times. I, dancing to my own little drum somewhere else, could not be disturbed because a) I would be in a Very Special Creative Space and the muse must not be interfered with or b) I would not be concentrating and would make all kinds of innappropriate decisions.
If left to my own devices, I think I would float away from the ground, and live in a world just above the treetops, where I would think, paint, create things and indulge in a permanent orgy of colours. I would not follow the rules I follow now, and I would have no interest in a routine or timetable. If I were to live as my nature wished, there would be no restrictions and more living for the moment. I would indulge myself dreadfully with colours, I would follow ideas on subjects such as Religions, Physics, Psychology and paint out what I was thinking. I would find as much wit and humour as I could and I would probably stalk Bill Bailey. I would find inspiration from all sorts of people and places, from things that I glanced while passing, from standing in busy streets and watching the passers by. The difference is that I could stay and be inspired for as long as I wanted before going to mull it all over in the studio, and not have to stop for anyone or anything - unless I chose to. I would wear anything that my fancy dictated and could make days into nights and nights into days.
I don't live like that though. I can't. I am glad I can't, it would be very unsatisfactory to lose touch with most of the rest of the world. It has been, and is, very hard to lean naturally towards the fey and impractical, to think and dream and be a fairy while being responsible for three children. And for paying the bills, and finding schools, and generally interacting with the rest of humanity. Making sensible decisions is something I am constantly having to learn to do and I am always having to come down from the treetops to deal with reality. Not always very well, but like the rest of us, I keep trying. I could, if left to myself, become ridiculously eccentric.
I am very impressed by people who know how to get on in this world. I am deeply envious of those who know about mortgages and are not afraid of cold calling and are ambitious and actually get there, wherever there is. I am very aware of parents who do the right things for their children, and are strict and bring them up so that they are very nice when they grow up. Things like tax, insurance, bank accounts, rates of interest are things I can do but only because I work very hard at keeping them as simple as possible so I don't get caught out. I am simply not interested in them - and I am not interested in the details of every day practical life either - but I do it, and do it reasonably well, because if I don't then I am lost. And as a single parent, if I am lost (which I have been many times) then my children are lost, and my art is lost and we are all in a vague nether world where even getting up in the morning is hard work.
Being artistic is a blessing because it is such a wonder to paint pictures, and know you can do it but not know, at all, how you do it. It is a gift in my hands, but I am blowed if I know why or what for or how it happens. I just know that I do it to make sense of my world. And the more I do it, the better I get. I meet people and tune out what they are saying because I am trying to figure out how their faces work, and what the feeling of the face is. I am trying to work out how they are put together so that if I were to paint them I could see them properly. It is a struggle because I am so uninterested in the details of a proper stuctured life as lived my many of us. I am envious that people do live structured quiet lives, have jobs and understand how to live well. I would like it to happen to me, but I am dreadfully uninterested in doing it, I would just like to have the benefits arrive in my lap while I continue to dance into the sunset clutching a handful of hollyhocks.
But I am doing well. My children are 20, 17 and 14. They keep me very much on the ground, and I have chosen to learn how to be stuctured and ordered, as much as I can be without becoming frustrated and trapped. I have friends who I can call on to keep me focussing on the day to day, and when things go well I absolutely love being and Artist. When they don't, I fear I am vague and empty and will not be able to paint again. But I always do paint again, and I always do fill up after feeling vague and empty. It just takes a bit of well practiced self belief and a nice long call to a sensible and loving friend. And by now I have lived long enough to know that all of life is a cycle that goes up and down, and when one is down, it is only temporary. So I just keep going, and am very glad to be an Artist. Very glad indeed.