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  • shaninottingham


Updated: Nov 7, 2023

I am not going to lie, when people ask me "What do you do?" I used to hesitate to say "I am an artist" . They would inevitably say something like "Oh, how lovely, what do you paint?" I would explain that I do many things, but that that I usually work in watercolour when painting. "Like landscapes?" They might say. No, I would respond, more modern work. Often illustrative, and sometimes combined with other mediums too. That I hosted workshops on how to use watercolour, and that I did commissions and collaborations, again, usually illustrative. If I explained that I had done work for books, labels, posters, websites, wrappers, colouring in books, brochures etc, then this would be understood more easily. That I had frequent exhibitions at nice galleries was easily absorbed and akgnowledged as yes, that is what artists do.

Ergo - my art practice then made perfect sense when framed that way.

This became less easy to explain when I began to make things with breadtags. When I began making installations and playing with form and shape, materiality and ideas, concepts and wanting to make pieces that were not just aesthetically important but resonated on another level, and could have many narratives. I would explain that I was making things with breadtags and I could see confusion and a level of WTF creeping in.

True, I have not made it easy for myself or anyone else either.

I still do my illustrative work. Simple watercolour images, linework with pen, sometimes intricate, sometimes naive and childlike, I collage and I take many photos. I have also been known to do some printing .

Then with the breadtags, and The Breadtag project, well even within that I go from making simple images ( possibly for a children's book ), doing lesson plans for children, taking photos of the packages sent to me for social media content, to creating work that I consider to be for exhibition, public display, my actual ART pieces, the ones that make me feel like I am an artist, or at least a creator.

I do try to make it make sense. I have not one, nor 2 but 4 Instagram feeds, each with a sole purpose and meaning. I do try to keep them distinct, not bleed into each other. And I also have another website too - one for my illustrative commercial work.

All the things I do tend to feed into each other, and at different times one will dominate, or demand more of my time and energy. My ADHD head gets bored doing the same thing , and different versions of it. It demands I go off on tangents and kind of fire up another part of my brain.

I refuse to be pigeonholed, and my back naturally hackles, I get stubborn and cranky when told that I do too much and too many things. It seems that it is difficult for people to accept that one person has the ability, or the desire anyway, to keep doing lots of different things.

It is funny how some have told me this variation dilutes my work , my credentials as an artist, that it means my art will not be taken seriously. And yet others have told me it is a positive, a strength, a flexibility that means I can pivot, learn new skills, apply knowledge from many areas to a situation.

There are several friends I have who also do many things, and I love that about them. They are always interesting to talk to, and their feeds on social media may not be consistent, perfectly edited with minimal and selective colours, tone and aesthetic, but that is what keeps me coming back to them. Their work and narrative is real and authentic, spontaneous and reactive.

Strangely, I do not question that they are artists, and I never think to ask them what type of artist they are. And yet I keep expecting to know the answer to this question for myself!

Many versions on a theme.... same place, different times, seasons, reasons, moods, materials, mediums, objectives, motivations...

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