Playtime for Paul

-By Paul Bonner

This months musings again require that you just bare with me and again, hope that we all get something a little bit coherent out of it. No promises.

So - it's all very well wanting and planning for a career. It's very responsible to put together the best portfolio possible and learn about the intricacies of approaching and communicating with all those who will hopefully be responsible for giving you some paid work. There is nothing wrong with being overwhelmed and eventually depressed when confronted with the fact that there are a substantial number of frighteningly talented individuals out there - and, that a large percentage of them seem to be more talented than you. In my case this extends to most of them being substantially younger as well. Another monkey to add to the chittering rabble on my back.

 This very same age difference means that I hark back to a time when the creative world seemed a simpler place and the earth-enveloping cyber-space was non-existent to mere mortals. I can only sympathise and shudder inwardly at thinking of the communications jungle that has to be negotiated now. I can feel positively light-headed with relief that I managed to find ways to pay my rent and have edible things on at least one shelf in the fridge way before I was forced to navigate my way, very shakily indeed, through cyber-space.

Now it is the only way of doing things and has surreptitiously made itself indispensable in our lives. Much is a blessing. Not having to rely or be patient enough with a physical post service. Paintings that can be translated into pixels and sent in seconds - and sent back just as quickly with well intentioned comments, corrections and criticism. Everyone has access to an infinite exhibition of wonders at their fingertips. Bit intimidating really for - as you know - that this applies to givers of jobs as well. It's their job to see more than you. Think of all that competition that you don't even know about that they are looking at.

Fresh from college back in the Dark Ages I would look through the pages of a phone book. Find an art director. Ring them up. Make an appointment, and at the given time would knock on their door. Then would follow a cosy chat about how charming and lovely my goblins and trolls were - but not actually anything that they could see using for the foreseeable future. Nothing intimidating. They always had time and I was often given tea and biscuits as well. All very civilised. I don't remember ever, on my way out, having to edge my way through a waiting room full of pale and desperate artists, clutching their portfolios and hoping for a biscuit.

I never felt I was in competition with anyone at all. Without the internet, everyone else was simply invisible. They didn't exist. I knew the art director was not going to be wading through swathes of talented and eager freelancers, sending down to the canteen frantic requests for extra biscuits. He or she might well have some artists samples languishing in some drawers or some visit cards pinned to a board, but without the invisible competition from hundreds of other artists cluttering up cyber-space, usually, actually sitting in their office usually seemed to mean that they were willing to give you a shot at whatever job was on offer.

So - as usual - I find myself rambling. Another by product of hailing from a distant past. I suspect my point - for now - is that we are all very much in one form or another of constant competition with each other, and very much aware of it. Just knowing what's out there and who's doing what. Stressful stuff indeed.

So don't forget to enjoy yourselves. Isn't that what prompted us to stay at home drawing, painting and modelling while our siblings and contemporaries where out chasing a ball around a cold, muddy field and other such wholesome activities. Tremendous fun - I'm sure, and I must admit to having climbed my own fair share of trees, caught more than a few frogs and other such strange past-times - but the formative stuff was the aforementioned drawing, painting and modelling. No awareness of anyone else's efforts. No competition or deadlines. Just fun. At that age, if it wasn't fun we wouldn't do it. The fun-free stuff we are usually forced to do. Like chasing a ball around a cold and muddy field, most subjects at school and cleaning our teeth.

"You shall not pass!" An early attempt……very early.
So - keep yourselves healthy and happy. Don't forget to do something for yourselves. Ignore the competition and create what you feel impelled to. Be inspired, seduced and amazed at what other people are doing and by the world around you. Be technically brilliant and untouchable by anyone else. Let others spark ideas, inspiration and techniques that you can ingest, digest and gently twist to bring your own unique visions to life. If it comes from the heart -it will show through every time. People can't but help notice.

So set aside some playtime. I do. I sometimes need that direct connection back to the basic need to make something before it was tainted by the need to make a living. Creating something that has nothing to prove to anyone else. I accept that my circumstances permit this kind of slightly irresponsible activity.

I have a roof over my head...

Two out of three shelves in the fridge seem to be reasonably populated...

Our dog, Baldur, seems able to muster an encouraging level of enthusiasm and appreciation for all that is done for him (even if he's hiding it well in this photo)...

And, though I have been forbidden to supply evidence of this, Artur, my son, does have some trousers without holes in them.

So - with these four things in place I find myself increasingly drawn to get out the plasticene; find my big brushes and a large piece of old wall-paper, or play with toy soldiers. For years all my pocket money went on amassing huge armies and all the paints and bits and pieces that were required to bring them to life. The mechanisms of wargaming never appealed me that much - even when I was in-house at Games Workshop. It was always a purely visual thing. Setting them up, so that with my face squashed to the carpet  - at eye level it just looked fantastic.

If they were Napoleonic, little puffs of cotton wool would be set at the ends of there tiny muskets. if they were knights - my favourite - the line of the plastic, flashing hooves of their mighty chargers would be about to thunder over the heads of some hapless French bowmen.

Back then there was only historical armies to be mustered. Now, I can press-gang a rabble of rowdy orcs into service. How can my inner-child ignore the possibilities of that! Artur and I spent a lot of time this summer painting and building. Maybe he is just humouring me; maybe it's a better option that kicking a ball around a cold and muddy field; or maybe he has just learnt to recognise the tell-tale signs that dad thinks he has spent far too long in front of a screen.

Whatever his reason - for me it's a direct link back to carefree creation of something for fun. It takes me away from comparisons, competition and clocks. Drifting in and out of my studio, I can encourage the little ongoing narratives with the tweak of a sword arm, adjust the firing line of a particularly nasty looking machine gun , or with the turn of a rearing horse, make his hooves cause the immediate cessation of hostilities on the part of a hapless man-at-arms. All very therapeutic, and sets me in good stead to get back to the "proper" work.

I feel compelled to add here that these little quick moments - sometimes it's just a quick perusal - are nothing to do with reference. I,m not sneaking quick photos to aid my more academic endeavours. I,m not making quick sketches to help me map out an epic painting. It,s just fun.

So, if you take anything to heart from these musings remember, at least - to have some sort of covering between you and the heavens. Have some things on the shelves in your fridge -preferably with a viable "use by" date. Pay your bills. Brush your teeth. And do remember to have some fun with whatever form or direction your creative urges push you in. It is tough, now, being a part of and being aware of what the whole creative community is up to - all the time. The pressure is there as soon as you sit down in front of that blank piece of paper or browse around the visual wonders on the internet. And it,s not always constructive. It's ok to take a break from it and do something for yourself. Remember who you are. Why you do it - and then - do it. For yourself.

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