On my recent truly whistlestop holiday in America – I seemed to spend a lot of time navigating New York’s Penn Station and wondering about destinations with names like Babylon and Ho-Ho-Kus – I visited two friends who are painters by profession. Seeing them in their studios made me consider their working lives and how they differ from mine. A chewed and broken pencil seems to be the only tool we have in common.
In the space of a year my friends produce many paintings – witness the canvases piled high. They may rework a piece over several sessions but generally they finish it or put it aside, some lesson learned, and start afresh. Mine is a longer haul with constant reworking of the same piece. Whatever fails to satisfy me gets tossed away or at least consigned to wherever the Delete button leads.
I can work on a train or a plane, and I do. All I need is a notebook and that well-chewed pencil. Even when I’m required to work on a computer a flashdrive suffices. It can accommodate a whole book, and more. But when painters travel they must haul all their gear and make sure their materials conform to safety regulations. And then there is the delicate matter of money. An artist’s pay days are unpredictable. You might sell two paintings in a week or none for months. When I have a publishing contract I can expect to get paid when I deliver a book and when it’s published, but there is also the potential for future bonuses. I might manage to sell foreign rights, or earn royalties. My book might get optioned for a movie. Pigs might fly. But the possibility is there. A book has earning legs, a painting is a one-time deal.
Neither of my artist friends is starving in an attic and yet from where I stand their art requires far more faith, hope and commitment than does my writing. Lots of people buy books, even if it’s only Volume 7 of Katie Price’s autobiography, but very few buy paintings. Nevertheless, day after day those painters turn up at the easel. I take my hat off to them.
And breaking news…… Anyone for Seconds? has cleared its first two hurdles. My editor loves it and my agent thinks it’s the funniest thing I’ve written in a long time. Be still my fluttering heart.