For the first time this year, I have read a book. Not the first time reading a book this year, but the first time this year that I have read something in its entirety, and DEFINITELY the first time in probably my twenties reading something from start to finish in one day, only putting it down to pee and fetch more tea.
It felt like quite an accomplishment, but the reason I was unable put it down was much more fulfilling.
The book, Strangeland by the renowned artist Tracey Emin, is a memoir comprising of a collection of essays with some hand written notes thrown in there too.
The book opens with the line, ‘When I was born, they thought I was dead’ which instantly grips you and sparks the initial fear of ‘well were you??’ despite knowing that she obviously definitely did not die.
Emin has a way of writing which feels so personal, so intimate. Even then, though, you still don’t really know who she is or how she her mind works. I guess this is quite similar to her art; it definitely feels emotional and open, but you have to remind yourself that really, this is only a very tiny glimpse into her life.
With that being said, a lot is revealed in the book which might be too gory for the faint of heart; multiple cases of sexual abuse from a young age, a detailed account of ‘masturbation’ with an empty Orangina bottle (context is absolutely needed here), quite a bit of blood, some sweat and a hell of a lot of tears.
The unexpurgated rawness of Emin’s writings really struck a chord with me - I felt I could relate, mainly my younger years. We both grew up in shitty towns with nothing to do except things we shouldn’t. We both grew up crying our lives away, feeling like we didn’t belong. We both fucked formal education off as soon as we could. We’re both water signs (explains the crying)!
I think that one of our main differences is that I taught myself to control the way my emotions overwhelmed me quite a bit earlier than Emin (kind of), and, thankfully, I can’t presently relate to her problematic ways, despite being considerably younger than her.
Something that had me #shook, was when she talks about the realisation that her art should be a reflection of herself.
This is something I have always struggled with. To me art is something so personal, and for me to put it out into the world for everyone see and judge and tear apart is something that has always terrified me. What if it’s not good enough? What if I look back at this in a few years time and wonder what I was thinking putting that shite out. But that’s all part of growth and development. You have to start somewhere. And to you, that work might not be up to standard, but to others it will exceed it.
And then there’s the actual subject of the art. I have always struggled with what I should be making - mainly down to fear of fucking up, or again, being scared to put myself out there. Why would I want other people to know what goes on in my weird little brain? That’s private, it’s mine.
But now I don’t care. I don’t care what other people think, because what I make is honest and raw, or even completely devoid of meaning and just aesthetically pleasing. And that’s enough.
I have quit art many times. One time, the longest, was for about five years. By the end of it I felt useless and empty and hollow, and I’ve since realised that I need to create. It’s what fulfils me and helps me to understand myself and this crazy ol’ world. It’s also fun! And it can be anything you want! To draw is to create, and so is to bake, or paint, or even to mould a tiny dick out of that weird baby-bell wax. Baby that’s art!
The only person telling you what you can and cannot make is yourself. Other people can tell you that what you make is shit, but fuck ‘em. What the fuck do they know? You don’t need that negativity in your life, hun.
So, I guess this book has inspired me in more ways than just sending me back in time to my adolescence. It’s inspired me to unapologetically incorporate my private life into art.
I felt quite stupid typing that last sentence, because really, this is not a revelation. The art I like the most has always been things that project the artists psyche out into the world, so why the fuck would I not do that myself? Insecurity, feelings of inferiority. But fuck that. I owe myself more than that.
This year has been incredibly educational for me and we are only four-ish months in. Starting Hoyden has been even more educational, and is also one of the main things that has encouraged me to create anything and everything. Like for instance, I decided a little while ago to learn how to illustrate, mainly so that I can create better designs for the shop, so that I can improve my drawing skills, and just generally branch out more. Try new things. Become the best version of myself I can possibly be.
Also to put some art out into the world that, hopefully, someone else will enjoy.
It’s not about becoming famous or rich, just feeling free to create what I want and not giving a shit what the nasty voices in my head say. This act of utter creative and personal liberty is something that I feel very close to attaining, and damn does it feel good!
So here is my illustrated version of the photo of Emin used on the cover of Strangeland alongside the original.
I hope you like it, and I also hope you took some inspiration from this post. Whether it’s motivation to read the book or to make something. My advice is to just do it.