My dad was an artist, an upublished, unrecognised writer, painter, singer, photographer and craftsman. Like many of his generation, his life’s work was the care of his family. In the evenings and at weekends, he would retreat to our small attic room to write, draw, or work on one of the model ships or carriages that he designed and built from scratch. Despite the endless hours of creativity, nothing ever left our attic.
Recently, I found myself sifting through his stories and drawings, discovering another layer of grief amidst all the wonderful words and images that he never thought good enough to share with the world beyond the velux window. When my parents went to live in a nursing home in 2013, I moved back into the family home. Without realising that I’d done it, I had followed my father’s footsteps up that flight of stairs and set up camp in the attic with my keyboard and my desk. And, like dad, I’ve consigned my creative spirit to that room. Since his death, I’ve been feeling a growing sense of confinement when I go there to sing or write. Maybe it’s dad nudging me out of that safe space, whispering in my ear not to settle, urging me to claim my place in the world as the artist that I am.
I am an artist. There, I said it. And now I’m going to say it again. I am an artist! I will continue to say it until I believe it. I have stories, poems and plays that I want to write, songs to sing, music to compose, dances to perform, photographs to share and a whole world inside me longing for an open window. My words mostly hang about in the wings, looking on, feeling frustrated or inadequate, as those of others strut their stuff. I am often paralysed by the sense that what I have to say does not belong in any canon, either because it’s not high-brow enough, not innovate enough, or now, as middle age arrives, not young or ‘cool’ enough. I’m not sure who I think decides what constitutes art and whether or not I’m an artist, but I do know that if I keep waiting for the right time, or for someone else to tell me that I’m good enough, nothing I make will ever see the light of day.
It’s time to come out of the attic. So this is my blog, its title a nod in the direction of James Joyce and those other revered writers who shaped my own young artist, but also a deliberate gesture of entitlement, a claiming, a stepping into my own shoes. Here I intend to share my ideas and my experiences as an artist who happens to be a mid-life mum. It will, like me, be a work in progress. I dedicate it to my dad, the first artist I ever loved and admired and to whom I owe every creative instinct I possess. Here we go dad, down the stairs…