My life as a Freelancer

I took a risk at Easter. I left teaching, in order to give my time to painting and to music composition. So far, it’s been the best decision I could have made, because I’ve had more work than I know what to do with. In fact, I’ve been so busy doing paid work for other people that I haven’t actually had any time to do things for myself. But that is the reality of freelancing – you have to follow the jobs.

So I’ve completed the music for another TV series, this one about an ex-soldier who suffers terrible PTSD, and whilst in a fit of unknowing rage, murders someone. It’s about how we treat those who have mental illness as much as about his need for redemption. It stretched my musical language, as the director wanted things to be quite atonal and confusing for much of it. I will post a link to it when i know the details of showing times.

At the same time, I was working on a large commission for a client in the States, who wanted a view of Carmel Beach from Pebble Beach Golf Links. That was a challenge, as there were no clear photos that I could find of the exact view he wanted, so I created the view from a number of different photos. The issue with that, as any artist will tell you, is that different photos might have been taken in different weather conditions, at different times of the day. So creating a picture which feels realistic, with the light falling from the same direction, is a huge challenge.

Then, I was busy preparing paintings for taking part in the Warwickshire Open Studios. I never have as much work on show as I’d like, especially because my painting style is pretty detailed, so each painting takes a fair amount of time to complete. But There were a good ten new paintings available to buy, as well as some older work, and in addition I’d had coasters and mugs printed with some of my artwork. And I have never sold as many originals as I did this year. It’s been a wonderful experience, confirming that I made the right decision at Easter.

I’m sure things won’t always be as smooth. there will be times when the work dries up, and people don’t buy my artwork. That is what most freelancers go through I’d expect. But that’s not coming yet – I have three painting commissions to complete before Christmas, and there is always the work on The Moons of Jupiter to return to in my music, as well as the small matter of a TV film to compose for, based on the life of St Bernadette of Lourdes. So at least in the short term, I have more than enough to keep me busy. And so I am more than content.

The Urge to be Better

There was a painting I did last year which I thought was pretty good. I thought it worked, and I like the amount of detail I’d been able to use. The source photo hadn’t been that great, but I thought the end product was worth the effort.

I look at that painting now, and all I want to do is repaint it. My technique has improved, even in the 11 months or so since I finished it. Here’s a more recent painting:

And another one…

What’s the difference? There is so much more detail. And with the detail comes perhaps a greater sense of distance, as the detail diminishes in the background.

But what has made this difference? There are three things – the first of which has been working in the background within my artistic efforts for years. The first is youtube. There, I said it. I found a series of videos on youtube uploaded by an English artist called Michael James Smith. His paintings are phenomenal – photographic in their realism. And his videos are full of helpful hints about how to achieve the same detail. I’m not there yet, but he gives me something to aim for. I then discovered instagram, and followed the artists producing work which I aspire to. It’s all a useful motivational tool to help me improve my work.

The second thing which has helped is improving my tools. The aforementioned Michael James Smith has his own range of paintbrushes which he uses to paint with, and he sells them online. I’ve bought about 10 so far, and they are just the most beautiful brushes I have ever used. To have fine brushes which don’t immediately start losing their bristles the minute you pick them up is life-changing! They make painting a real pleasure again.

And the third thing? Time. Since giving up teaching 8 weeks or so ago, I’ve had so much more time to develop paintings. I’m not constantly rushing to get them finished – I can work at them until I am totally pleased with them. Or closer to being totally pleased with them. I doubt I will ever be absolutely happy with them – it’s just the way I am.

Now some people might say that I’m wasting my time – why spend so long doing fine photographic detail when I could just hang a photo up? Well, I don’t just paint from photos. I edit the source photos to accentuate details or colours, or contrast, so that they themselves begin to look like paintings. That’s my way of approaching photorealism – the photo itself becomes part of the process of creating the work of art – here’s an example.

So if I were giving advice to someone wanting to improve in their creativity?

Firstly, be inspired. Be inspired by other artists and practitioners. Don’t be afraid to learn from them.

Secondly, get the tools which will help you achieve your vision. Whatever sort of style we work in, we will find it much easier to create work to be proud of if the tools enable us rather than hinder us.

And lastly, give time. It won’t happen immediately. I’ve been painting for over 40 years, and I’m still learning. My grandpa used to say, “if something’s worth doing, do it well”. It’s something I try to live by. I don’t let anything go until I am happy I’ve made my best attempt at it. It may be that I look at this year’s work in a year’s time and think it’s not much good – but it’s good for me for now. And that is what I aim for. But it takes time – as the old saying goes, it’s 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Creating something worth the creating will often take a lot of time and effort. But it’s worth it!

Leaving my Mark

I always thought I’d be rich and famous by the time I was 30. I thought I’d be “discovered”. And here I am, entering my second half century, and still not there. Yes, I make some money out of my paintings, out of my music. But not enough to pay the mortgage. Not enough to give up my dayjob.

I no longer seek those things. I am very driven – but what drives me now is to make my mark, to leave something of real value behind. So that people after me can see that I’ve lived on this Earth, and made an impression. And that’s not the same as fame.

I have two boys. They are 20 and 15 respectively. They are growing up into confident young men. The oldest one is an extremely gifted mathematician, and he has an easy way with people which means that he will carve out a good living, and surround himself with friends. The younger of my sons is very creative. He writes endlessly – he wants to be a film director. He has a number of health issues, but I am very proud of his confidence and his ability to face the world come what may.

My boys, aged 15 and 10 in 2015

What I’m coming to realise is that I have left my mark. It’s there in my boys, in their belief that they can be anything, that they can achieve anything. Life may take them along strange and unexpected paths, but I’m glad they have that confidence that they will be able to navigate them in the following of their dreams.

I’ve also come to realise that in my teaching, I have inspired young people over the years to take up music as a profession. Indeed, some of them make more money out of it than I do. But that’s part of what I am able to leave.

And quite apart from that, there are homes all over the world which have a painting by a certain Adam Tucker hanging on the walls – and some homes have a number of them! Of course I could sell more. Of course I could be better at marketing. But I am already beginning to leave signs of my presence on this planet.

And my music graces people’s television screens all over the world. No, I’m not yet well known. But I have had comments from people from the other side of the world who have heard my music in something they have watched. That’s humbling.

And I realise that it’s not the size of your following, the size of your bank balance, which leaves a mark. It’s about lives which you touch on your journey through your own life. I have a lovely wife, wonderful sons, and I have the best of both worlds – I can create, and I can educate, and pass on my love of creating to the next generation.

So if I ever start to whinge about not being quite successful enough, will you poke me in the eye and remind me of what I am able to do? I am so very fortunate to be fulfilled in what i do, and I know that is a real blessing. Not everyone is as fortunate.

Art in a Time of Pandemic

It’s been hard for creatives this year. It’s been hard for everyone. But for the many many people who depend on selling artwork, or creating live performances, it’s been really hard. In the past few years, I’ve used Open Studios as the main forum for selling my original paintings. Where I would normally sell 30 original paintings, this year I’ve sold one.

I’m not complaining – the present situation has hit everyone hard. And I am so very thankful that I don’t depend solely on selling paintings. If I did, I’d be sleeping on the streets. I’m grateful that I have other work in music education. But there has had to be a certain amount of belt-tightening.

But on the other hand, the enforced lockdown has been really good for my artistic soul. It’s given me a chance to slow down, to appreciate again the beauty of a garden, the wonder of creation. It’s given me head-space to write, to create, to make music. Sure, my period of creativity hasn’t necessarily reached a huge audience this year, but it’s been good for me to take time out of the hectic pace of normal modern living. And I’ve loved it.

So art in a time of pandemic is not all about loss, and woe. Actually, for me, it’s often reflected my rediscovery of nature. And for that, I am, in a strange way, thankful.