This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Getting Through / 12 July 2011

oranges with text written on them

Don't Follow the Crowd Be Yourself

Zoom in to this image and read text description

I’m not whingeing. It’s just a fact. It’s hard and no denying it. This has been the hardest, year I have had since being a freelance artist. I am in the hinterland, on the cusp, of being emerging and emerged – whatever emerged means. It’s like some kind of spurious notion like somehow things will be totally different when you have emerged. I am not some kind of butterfly who is in the process of artistically cocooning himself in the studio to break out that chrysalis one day and .....Da Dahhh!!!! Fully formed emerged artist and successful to boot! Hooray. Thrice Hooray.

I know artists – as I keep saying and keep encountering – always talk up their game about how busy they are. Well, Grizedale residency – over 100 applicants, Halle 14 over 130, Knowle West over 100 and I could go on.  I remember back in the day when you would apply and be unfortunate if 20 or 30 others applied.  So I presume not everyone can be really busy – working on this, planning that, something on the back burner here, fingers in pies there.... I have had very few paid days work this year in relation to previous years. I work every week – I put proposals in, I make new work in the studio, I try to keep busy, moving to avoid drowning in the fatigue of not having purposeful activity.

Let’s face it – work gives us many things. Not just money. It gets us into the world, it keeps us socialised, it can help our esteem and confidence, it can contribute to our well being quite considerably. Up until the end of June I was suffering from rejection fatigue. Absolute poverty was snapping at my heels. My moods were seriously affected, I was very very low – although as my not very helpful psychiatrist would tell me – I was not ‘clinically’ depressed. Then he would helpfully throw in that not every low mood is to do with me being Bipolar. My partner is an artist. Both self employed. How do you get benefits or help to get you through the lean times. You fall between the cracks of the welfare state.

I have had exhibitions this year and I have more lined up – but they don’t put food on the table. They are definitely jam for tomorrow. So how do you get out of it? How do you get by?  How do you keep motivated? How do you keep swimming against the tide? I was considering doing what I have never done before – take a non art job to support my art. Fortunately I never had to act on the decision. One day work came through my door, visiting like a long lost friend and bold as brass. I am enjoying it but I have one eye on the door wondering when that friend is going to walk back out.

Keywords: art,Recession, Work, Practice,


vince laws

14 July 2011

hello mate, interesting blog. i'm still trying to emerge! the benefits system is a nightmare, designed to put you off applying. it's depressing how little money there is about, i just keep putting out work that costs me next to nothing and live on hope. keep aqt it. vince x

Ann Young

13 July 2011

I feel like you, Aiden, its really tough out there. I've always worked but have nothing at the moment and I'm both depressed and angry. Rejection is hard to take, especially as one gets older - it becomes more personal. We work so hard when given the opportunity but even that doesn't seem valued anymore even by those you considered to be part of the disability community. I'm afraid I have turned my back on my local disability organisation after being part of it for over 20 years. Disability Arts is the only community that has never rejected me as a disabled person - I owe it so much but like you say, it doesn't put food on the table! Just trying to live day to day and be thankful I have a loving husband and a wonderful son. Keep talking about this, people need to know how hard life is getting.. x

Add a comment

Please leave your comments. They will display when submitted. DAO encourages critical feedback, but please be considerate. DAO reserves the right to edit or remove comments that don't comply with our editorial policy, which you can find on DAOs 'About' pages.

Your e-mail address will not be revealed to the public.
HTML is forbidden, but line-breaks will be retained.
This can be a URL of an image or a YouTube, MySpaceTV or a Flickr page (we'll handle the media embedding from there!)
This is to prevent automatic submissions.