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by Patse Hemsley

hen I finally decided to throw myself full time into the art business, I didn’t really understand how and why it was so important (or even relevant) to articulate the philosophy behind my art.

was still in that mindscape where artists do what they do and know why they do it and don’t have to explain why they do it to anyone. This was fine until I began to reach out for a broader audience. Then I found myself fair game for all and sundry in the business. I wasted time and energy accepting every invitation to any and every “party”. Mixed shows were exactly that and I began to notice that my small audience were getting very confused as to what I was doing with my work. The arenas I chose for my work seemed to unnerve them.

have the Americans to thank for their honesty and clarity in the art of communication. On my first Go-Seek trip to New York, I remember one gallery owner telling me, “Show me Ugly. My clients like Ugly! this stuff is too beautiful. I can’t sell it.” I was stopped in my tracks by her directness. That little statement changed the way I went about my business of exposure to The World Outside My Studio. If the World was going to be direct with me, I would learn to be direct with the people in it...starting with myself.

went home with my beautiful “stuff.”

potential client then asked me, “Where do you want go with your art?”

ll I could think of was the Microsoft slogan (Where Do You Want To Go Today?) and so I mumbled and muttered and fumbled in the most embarrassing manner and then worse... I started saying, “You know...” The thing was she didn’t. She wasn’t psychic. From then on I made it a point of purpose to talk clearly about my work.

now understand the huge difference between taking your art to such and such a place and knowing that your art will take you to the appropriate spaces. It is through clear vision and honest values that this is achieved. These are vital elements of the philosophy. There is a lot of distraction to entice artists off their chosen paths and if their philosophy doesn’t have these two elements, they could well lose their way.

hilosophy is different from the so-called Artist Statement that we are familiar with. Statements are usually made with galleries and The Powers That Be in the industry as the audience. Philosophy is related to one’s true self and the artist’s own audience. It is written or spoken in plain language. It drives the very movement of the art. It gives precise directions as to which way to turn or go. It makes for easy filing when the offers pour through the studio door. It establishes good time-management and discipline. It saves a lot of heartache and rejection.

Sense of Purpose
"Sense of Purpose," by Patse Hemsley

had begun to put down my thoughts about my art long before I knew one had to as an artist going out to market. I did this exercise for my children. I used to read critics’ and biographers’ works and wonder how they knew what the artists (they were writing about) were thinking and feeling at the time; especially if the same artists were long dead and gone. Even historians have their own agenda to attend to... their personal perspective to contribute... all this leaves huge gaps for misinterpretation.

didn’t want my art misinterpreted. No one knows my mind like I do. This goes for all humanity, by the way. Unless we have experienced the same things, felt the exact feelings all at the same time, we are bound to be misinterpreted by observers, and judgments are bound to be made. I shall be my own judge translating and critiquing my own work.

ike most artists I have an Alter Ego that is very good at playing devil’s advocate. I also have loving, supportive friends and family who can be as honest with me as I am with them. I have dear friends who can tell me to “cut the crap” if I get “too highfalutin” ... When I title a painting “Sense of Purpose”, they ask me if I mean “Changing The Sheets”?!!! All artists need friends like these to bring us down to earth and help keep our sense of humour in a much humourless business. So I filled my notebooks and journals with doodles and notes and ideas. I return to these from time to time to re-focus and to make sure that I’m still on my chosen path.

t is now thanks to my philosophy that I choose which spaces to exhibit in with a knowledge of what is appropriate and what is not. The source of my subjects is never-ending. As I evolve, so does my art. Not every painting I do is brilliant but I know that there is plenty more where that came from. My job is to express it, not to analyze it, or institutionalise it. I leave that to The Powers That Be in the marketplace who have taken it upon themselves to create an arena where the so called “magic” of art can be harnessed, cultivated and redistributed in a bubble-wrapped, crated package that is fully bar-coded and presented with a language lesser mortals cannot hope to understand. Power games and mind games are played in this arena and there are artists who make it a lifetime’s mission to crack the code of this arena. My philosophy tells me this place is not for me.

here are other arenas to choose from and among these, is a place that is spirited with kindred folk who speak from the heart... people who speak with a level of honesty that can be inspirational at best and frightening at worst. This arena is a place where stories of humanity and emotion are expressed with a clarity of vision that is shared. The audience in this arena understand the ancient wisdom of narratives and the healing power of colour. They read the stories of our lives that are written on our faces and in our body language. This audience speaks a universal language that isn’t shrouded or cloaked in mystery or “magic”. They know how one expression leads to another and how one series in turn, transforms into a solo exhibition or a whole collection. They enjoy the art they see and live with by listening to their hearts.

his arena is open and accessible to all who respect and love the unique entity of the human spirit, and it is my philosophy that takes me there.

Patse Hemsley is owner of Indigo Fish (UK) which provides Accessible Art That Celebrates Life.

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