Daisy Richardson has been making art for as long as she can remember. It has taken her on incredible painting adventures from India to the Galápagos Islands and granted her the opportunity to travel across Europe and through China by train to paint people’s portraits along the way. Life is more settled since completing her MA at the Royal College Art in London but her work is as adventurous as ever. She currently lives and works in Scotland.
Daisy talks to Sonnets and Dirty Dishes about the importance of sketch-booking when studio time is limited and how she found art could help others.
In this section we ask artists to talk about what started them down the road they are on – how did it begin? On Sonnets and Dirty Dishes, we want to explore what motivates people to take the leap from dreaming, to doing. We ask: Can you tell us what drives you to do what you do?
The decision to go to art school rather than university was the first step along the road. I’d always loved making things but had many other interests including languages and literature and had applied to study these at various universities. At the time these things seemed more separate than they actually are – I didn’t realise then that it would eventually be possible to incorporate most of my interests into my work and life. It wasn’t until I was offered a place at all the universities I’d applied to but didn’t get a place at art school that I realised what I really wanted to do; the thing that was now out of reach. I eventually badgered the tutors into giving me a place at Glasgow School of Art and when I got there, I just went to the Painting Department and found myself a studio space. I hadn’t even managed to get an interview for Painting but nobody seemed to notice that I wasn’t supposed to be there and I just kept my head down and worked hard. Obviously the art school experience is a cushioning bubble for learning but being out on the other side, initially working alone in my bedroom while doing a part time job strengthened my resolve to continue making work and become an artist.
Before going to art school I’d worked part time in a care home for years and there were definitely times during my BA when I doubted the validity and benefit to others of making art as my career. This was something that stayed with me until I started running art workshops for different groups and then in 2003 began to work for Art in Hospital, the organisation that I still work for. We run art workshops in hospitals and care homes and as an artist it gives me a different sense of purpose and connection with other people – it provides me with an income but is also work that I enjoy.
When I’m asked what I do, I always say that I’m an artist and that I co-run art workshops in healthcare settings. I usually say that the majority of my income comes from my workshops and not from selling artwork. I usually also say that I couldn’t do my job without making art work as the two work symbiotically. I feel quite happy to answer in this way; I never want to mislead people into thinking that I’m an artist who sells lots of work and makes a living from their artwork alone which I’m not.
I have an overwhelming compulsion to make; I can’t really function if I don’t find the time to make things. I’ve always had this and I can’t settle my mind if I don’t make the things that are in it. I don’t make work every day although I do work in sketchbooks a lot when I can’t access other materials. Even if I’m not physically creating something, I’m always working through something in my head, trying to crack the problem with my current or next piece of work. When my children were born, I started drawing each of them within hours of their births, I think it helped me get to know them and when I look back at those drawings now, the memories they hold are very different from those sparked by looking at photographs.
In this section we ask artists to talk about their work spaces, tools, and resources they need. We ask what their work day looks like. We also ask them to respond personally to the Sylvia Plath quote that gives this project its title: ‘I would live a life of conflict, of juggling children, sonnets, love and dirty dishes.’
I have a dedicated workspace in a shared artist run studio which has 36 studio spaces. Apart from a few years away I’ve had a studio space there since 1998, which was the year after I left art school. When I arrived there I discovered an amazing vibrant creative community, friends and shared resources that have definitely helped to sustain my practice in many ways. My studio is great, we have a great dedicated workshop space with a guillotine, stretcher clamps, mitre saws and an underpinner. There is photographic and computing equipment and various other shared resources including a project space. I use most of these and they are easy to access. I wasn’t part of setting the studios up but have on occasion managed it and every artist contributes time each year to maintain the space and the tools etc. I use other resources such as a video camera, sound recording equipment, instruments and editing software. I’ve bought these over time, some with arts grants. I often can’t get into my studio due to childcare and currently the Covid 19 crisis. I have a small cupboard at home containing art materials that I can use in these times. Everything comes out onto the kitchen table and goes back after.
My work day looks highly variable as does my week. Pre Covid 19, I usually work co- running art workshops in a care home on Mondays, I’m in my studio 9.15 – 2.30 on Tuesday, I run the Instagram account for Art in Hospital on Wednesday and Friday mornings and I often get into my studio on Thursdays 9.15 – 11.45 am. The rest of the time I’m with my children and am grabbing time to work in my sketch book here and there. I also have specific times that I always devote to drawing; 25 minutes of my lunch break on Mondays, 40 minutes when my daughter is at a class on Saturdays and 25 minutes when she’s at another class on Sundays. It doesn’t sound long but having the week interspersed with regular slots which I know can be spent drawing/thinking about my work is hugely helpful.
On the one long day in my studio on Tuesdays, I would usually put on some music and look at whatever I had been working on last time I was there and look at my sketch book notes to remind me exactly where I was. As my time is so limited I will make a start quickly and work solidly with a brief lunch break until it’s time to collect my daughter from school. If I’m not in the middle of something, I’ll spend the day reading and researching new work, taking notes and thinking. I find my studio allows me to think clearly in a way that isn’t always possible at home.
I think for most creative people, life is one big juggling act between making work and everything else. I’ve talked about my paid work and by the nature of it, it is a job that feeds into and adds to my practice; I always look forward to going to work and get a lot out of it so I wouldn’t say that it conflicts with my creative work, quite the opposite. Time is probably the biggest issue as I just don’t have very much but I think that I am extremely focussed now in comparison to when I had endless hours in the studio. I think that now, I get more done with less time. However, some of my work is extremely time consuming and it can take months or even years to finish a piece of work that could have been made more quickly. What I will never know is would it have been better if made faster? Perhaps not. I manage the balancing act by accepting it for what it is; we just have to do our best with what we have. I also have a supportive husband, an artist too; we equally share childcare and chores. Luckily for me, dirty dishes do not fall within my jurisdiction!
Being in the world
Publication, performance, recording, exhibiting. In this section we ask: how important is it to you that your work exists in a public space? Why do you think this is? And can you tell us about the time and effort you give to getting your work out in the world?
I do think that it’s important to show my work as it is a form of communication and I like the interplay with other humans who see it and throw opinions and interpretations back at it. When I show my work I always see it differently, it can help reassess it and push it on to new areas. However I think that if I could never show my work again, I would still continue to make it. For various reasons, I have shown very little over recent years but have still been slowly making new work. Very recently I have started putting my artwork on social media for the first time (late to the party) which is in a way like a mini 2D exhibition. I’ve enjoyed the immediacy of it as a resource.
Over the last years I have put minimal time into getting my work into the world. Due to time restrictions I’ve not been able to take on any big projects so haven’t sought them out. I sometimes apply for open submission exhibitions. Whether or not my work is accepted, these applications are a useful process to go through as they can help me to condense and define my ideas.
Being in ourselves
Many creative people speak of periods of self doubt or impostor syndrome. It seems that choosing to persist with our creative projects takes great courage at times. In this section we ask: How has self doubt affected you, if at all? What have you done to bring yourself through difficult times and allow yourself to persist? What has helped you?
I haven’t really had periods of self doubt, just times of doubt in my work. They usually have been well-founded and I’ve found ways of changing my work to make it better. When I am feeling defeated with my work I often go back to look at my favourite artists and try and take enjoyment and inspiration from looking at them. I edit my work severely and if it isn’t working I’m never afraid to destroy it and start again. My approach to my work is that there’s no point in making it if it isn’t pushing me on, if I’m not learning something from each piece. In that respect, the failed piece can teach you as much as the successful one. I suppose that is what has allowed me to persist; focussing on learning and developing rather than seeing each piece of work as an end in itself.