A blog? For blogging? Oh, how quaint!
Yes, I’m tapping into the cultural digital zeitgeist of 15 years ago by reviving the ancient artisan craft of amateur blogging. I started back in, god almighty, October 2003 (why hello, Wayback Machine), went on and on for years (gradually becoming less hysterical, thankfully), getting engaged and married along the way, then becoming a dad. I eventually shut Falling Sky down after a decade or so for a theoretically-more-focused artblog that lasted a couple of pretty quiet years before dissipating into nothing, unmourned. Blogposts turned to Facebook statuses, statuses turned to tweets, until I got sick of the latter two and basically became silent online. So why am I going back to the Old Ways?
It all comes back to art, or a lack of it in my life. In recent years, my hopes or expectations with regard to artwork have swerved around wildly. For a while I thought I could have a realistic shot at rebooting my career by becoming a digital artist at a games studio, inspired by greats like Charlie Bowater and Ian McRae. But the increasing importance of providing financial security for my family, and of being present for my family, have ruled that out. If I was single, rootless, 20 years younger? Sure. But not now.
As a result, in the last year or so I let my creativity go seriously dormant, often telling myself it was a luxury I didn’t have time for. Weeks or months would pass without a single drawing, and I’m pretty certain my mental health & mood suffered as a result. In retrospect, I think I was waiting for someone to give me permission to be creative, to set time aside to do what I do best. Of course, that permission can’t come from anyone else, just myself. And, as with cycling, I’m a healthier and happier person for giving myself said permission – goodness knows the last 7 months attest to that.
So, this summer marks the point I commit myself to being an artist as well as a dad, husband and tree-hugging bureaucrat. No, there’s no possibility of being a full-time artist, digital or otherwise. But there is still value in being artistic just (just?) as a hobby, and that making time for that doesn’t make me any less of an employee, parent or spouse. I’m chiselling away time every week for drawing and painting, and I’m going to blog about the results (well, the good ones). This will (hopefully!) encourage me to create more, stick to a schedule, and improve incrementally.
Once I would have thought “sure, but to what end?” It’s starting to sink in that there doesn’t have to be an end, a final purpose, a greater justification beyond the joy of making a picture that hasn’t existed before (and, er, maybe selling it). With over four decades behind me, and with most of my time wrapped up in work, parenting or travelling between the two, far better to focus what free time I have on what I’m already pretty good at – traditional drawing and painting – than losing years to woolly dreams of mastering digital art or creating a brilliant short hand-drawn animated film that all come to nowt. Hopefully one day I’ll have the time, headspace and energy to revive some of those ideas, but not now. Focus.
So that’s basically what this will be for – pretty pictures by yours truly and where to buy ’em. On top of all that, I miss writing, even the self-centred witterings that made up so much of my past blogging (cf. this post!). I miss playing with words, scrabbling around in my head for the right one, babbling away in text with a confidence that often escapes me verbally. I currently get to read an awful lot of books (the sole upside of commuting for 2 hours every day) and it’d be good to have somewhere to share my thoughts about them. I’m avoiding social media for the sake of my mental health and wider issues – Jaron Lanier makes some excellent arguments for doing so – and there’s a certain comfort in having my own safe little corner of the internet again, not looking for retweets, likes or any other dopamine trigger. Even if the result is that nobody ever sees it!
And finally – back in ye olden dayes of bloggynge, I sometimes felt there was a therapeutic aspect to blogging for pleasure, the act of turning nebulous gaseous thoughts into solid words often bringing things into focus. I’ve spent far too much time this year inside a confused and cramped echo chamber fitted with the polar opposite of rose tinted glasses. Cycling, drawing, painting and writing all help pull me out of there, ultimately making me a far nicer dad/husband/colleague/citizen/all-round-human-being than otherwise. As reasons to blog go, that ain’t bad.