In January 2023 I started a conversations project during my residency at Applecart Arts. I sit down and have a conversation of approximately one hour with someone I am interested to have a conversation with. Whilst there might be particular things I am interested in, I don’t have questions planned in advance and what happens is organic. Whilst we talk, I paint. What I share here is the painted/drawn outcome of the conversation. Afterwards, I write up my reflections which come from the conversation. Then, they go into my gallery of conversations, which you have found yourself in here….
Maryam Huq is an artist based in Forest Gate. She specialises in digital art, which is vibrantly colourful and I love it. She describes it as a way to discover more about her Bangladeshi heritage. We first met at Manor Park market when we were both running stalls. Her sister bought a print from me of a cat, called Creature of the Sun. Maryam and I have been in little bits of contact over the past months, in particular because we both left our employed roles around the same time in order to have more time to pursue artist shenanigans.
When we met at Applecart, we talked about the challenges of pricing our work, in terms of hourly/day rates and also from our online shops. We had both recently realised we’d been undercharging for our time, sometimes significantly below minimum wage. This has been a big theme for me over the past year or so, particularly since I started selling work and negotiating the cost of coaching sessions and other freelance work. I think we’ve both put our prices up 🙂
Maryam described how she has many different artistic interests. It’ll start with an intense process of research. Then she’ll buy what she needs and will try it out. I really like this idea of following fascinations and seeing where it takes you. It makes me think about how when one gets good at something it can be difficult to be a beginner at something again because it’s just a lot less easy. And how in continuing trying different making practices, it stays uncertain and strange in a way that can make really wonderfully surprising things happen.
This also makes me think about how my own art feels so harshly divided between two ways of work. One is the portraits, where I fairly obsessively stare at a photo of an animal/human and paint layer upon layer until I am happy with it. I often prop the painting up in the room so that during zoom calls and other work, I can look at it from different angles and see what I like/think needs changing. I think this is the closest I’ve felt to the state described as “flow”. I’m just so utterly absorbed by it. Hours fly by. I don’t even check my phone!
The other type of making I do is rarely trying to make anything look like anything in the outside world. It’s improvised and I’m not aiming for anything. I’m using shapes and feeling and texture to explore how I’m feeling (usually difficult emotions) and often without really thinking about it much at all (like with these painting conversations). This has been magnificently freeing. I used to get so frustrated with drawing and painting because it wouldn’t look like how I had imagined. But when I let go of that, I couldn’t go wrong, I could just be surprised/fascinated/disgusted by what came out.