A Happy Accident by Stephen Holmes

The first time I took notice of a piece of art was in 1997. It was an installation called ‘Tragic Anatomies’ by the Chapman Brothers in the Sensation contemporary art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. It was very difficult to ignore. I loved the collision of unrelated objects, no matter how disturbing the results. I admired the guts it took to expose those ideas to a wider audience, and as much as I don’t create ‘shocking’ artworks myself, I think it conveyed the importance of sticking to your guns when it comes to art.

‘Tragic Anatomies’, Jake and Dinos Chapman
‘Tragic Anatomies’, Jake and Dinos Chapman

I grew up listening to my parent’s record collection, mostly released in the late 60’s, which brought on a long love affair with English psychedelia. This bled into a passion for Surrealism, Dadaism, artists and writers like Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tangey, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. (The Mad Hatter was a character who epitomised it all; the well-dressed attire and etiquette of a gentleman with a complete lack of rational thought and a flowing vocabulary of non-sequiturs.) An interest in the psychology of art brought me to Outsider Art with a bit of a scenic detour through Abstract Expressionism and eventually, after the discovery of Marcel Duchamp, I began to appreciate the convoluted and detached irony of conceptual art (…I think). Throughout all of this I drew pictures and occasionally dabbled in painting, and I never made anything I was happy with. Finally, at the age of 28, after gathering inspiration from the ‘isms’ in a completely scrambled order, I’ve started making work I’m proud to show people.

Author Malcom Gladwell claimed that it takes roughly ten thousand hours to achieve mastery in a field. I’m not sure what the fuck he was talking about, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t a matter of convincing cows to follow your lead. So what I take from that is to invent your own ‘field’, and just keep going. If you enjoy drawing wonky figures in watercolours or hyper-realistic oil paintings of crisp packets, then keep doing that until you’re bloody good at it. Sometimes the reason for doing something reveals itself after the event. Chances are, after the so-called ‘ten thousand hours’, you’ll be drawing something completely different that feels even better, because there’s something called a ‘happy accident’. This refers to the fantastic moment when you think you’ve made what artist’s call ‘a fuck up’, and that very thing turns out to be a turning point in your creative process.

Now, I’m talking about this like I have any authority on the matter whatsoever, but after all, Art is completely subjective so bear with me (…if you want). This ‘happy accident’ thing happened to me when I made an illustration called ‘Told Off by a Fish in a Swimming Pool’.

‘Told Off by a Fish in a Swimming Pool’
‘Told Off by a Fish in a Swimming Pool’

I’d started drawing in a certain style using geometric shapes and straight lines to put it simply, and hadn’t quite got to grips with putting watercolour washes down. So, when I made ‘a fuck up’ I started frantically brushing water over the painted areas of the picture and dabbing up the paint with a tissue. It created an effect I’d been trying to painstakingly achieve for quite some time. I drew another illustration and started recreating the process in a more controlled way and with every subsequent illustration there was something that I wanted to try out, change, or improve. So far, it’s going well, and I can only judge this on what feels right for me, because at the end of the day, you might read this, look at my art and think “…deluded twat’. I think what I’m trying to say to anyone who’s interesting in making art, or creating something that they one day hope to share with the world, is that you’re never going to please everybody so do what feels good.

‘Still Life’
‘Still Life’

There’s an old Monty Python sketch called ‘The Penultimate Supper’ involving a discussion between Michaelangelo and The Pope, and the closing lines of the conversation go a little something like this:

Michaelangelo: I’ll tell you what you want, mate. You want a bloody photographer! Not a creative artist with some imagination!

Pope: I’ll tell you what I want: I want a Last Supper with one Christ, twelve disciples, no kangaroos by Thursday lunch, or you don’t get paid!

Michaelangelo: BLOODY FASCIST!

Pope: Look, I’m the bloody Pope! I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!

…and I think that pretty much sums it up.

To find out more about Stephen Holmes go to:

http://stephenholmesart.tumblr.com/

or follow on twitter @StephenHolmes_2

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