A Decade of Pain

or, Ten Thoughts On Ten Years of Making Art

Here’s a list of things that have served me well / I’d wished I’d figured earlier on whilst working within the subsidised arts sector in England. I shared it on Twitter yesterday and it got a good response, so I’m posting it here for a bit more longevity.

Gareth is lying with his back on the floor and his arms and legs up in the air. He looks as if he’s falling. He is mostly in darkness, lit by an eerie green.
Image: Michele Selway


  1. Success is a slippery thing to define. Still. It’s worth saying that this not necessarily a recipe for your success.
  2. I say a decade because I was first commissioned to make art in 2012 and its a nice round number, but I was knocking around for a couple of years before this.
  3. I’ve tried to write things with more universal application but there are almost certainly contexts, practices and barriers where these points would fail or be complicated. If this can be a jumping point for discussion, I’m all for it.

The points, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Fail in public (every now and again).
  2. Be an amateur in something all the time.
  3. Be decent. You never know who might give you your next job.
  4. Network intending to give, not to get.
  5. Try to get a (part time) job in fundraising. You’ll learn a lot.
  6. Stop chasing institutions and build your own audience.
  7. Don’t skimp on the documentation.
  8. Scale =/= importance or quality.
  9. Own your motivations.
  10. A career in the arts isn’t worth your health.

I could expand on each of these points at length. I’m sure it would be instructive for me as much as anyone else.

Are there points you’d like to add? Subtract? 

Comment below.

Categorized as Diary

By Gareth

London-based artist

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