From as far back as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was an artist, yet introduced as one a few years ago, someone challenged, with good old English disdain, “Who says you’re an artist?”, to which I responded, “I do.” And that’s the end of the conversation. But what does it mean to be an Artist?
Being a Creative Artist in a monetised world means being under appreciated, undervalued and not making a living, unless you join those who ‘make it’ and whose work becomes recognised by the monetised world, but that almost certainly means not you or me.
Living in a monetised world means the exclusivity of wealth from which the majority are excluded by design, it means the chances of anyone making it as a ‘famous’ (read – monetarily successful) artist are remote, at best, regardless of effort or skill.
You’ve almost certainly heard of Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890), what you may not know is that he was ‘never famous as a painter during his lifetime and constantly struggled with poverty. He sold only one painting while he was alive: The Red Vineyard which went for 400 francs in Belgium seven months before his death. His most expensive painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $148.6 million in 1990’. 
Being creative is an emotional journey of learning, hopes, dreams and inspiration, disappointment, frustration, rage and anger, elation, joy, yearning, defeat, depression, captivation and personal achievement. If you are creative, you have to experience such feelings with an intensity that is all consuming and far too many people give up before they even try, not least because being creative is not encouraged or valued in a world ruled by the monetisation of life and the imposed scarcity of money.
In short, if you want to be creative you have to buck the trend, go against the flow and have enough inner strength to do it with a fledging talent that almost certainly initially fails your every expectation and effort. Even if your parents, or others, encourage you, you have to find the necessary inner resources to keep going, no matter what.
Formal education is predicated on learning stuff that is useful to others in a monetised work based culture that does not value or encourage learning for its own sake.
It is a little understood or acknowledged fact that we are learning creatures, it’s innate, we come out of the womb with a built in inquisitive and investigative hunger for life and learning. We expend every effort to succeed – learning about failure and giving up comes later.
I was educated to be factory fodder, it was a foregone conclusion to my schooling and had it not been for the post war economic boom and the Hippy revolution it’s possible that I’d have been imprisoned in that crappy system for life. It is impossible for succeeding generations to imagine the magnitude of the post war revolution of youth. It wasn’t so much a rejection of anything (though it was that too), it was a wholehearted captivation and embrace of something wonderful to the seductive beating rhythm of all embracing and all consuming music. Nothing quite like it has happened before or since. For me personally it was like a drowning lad coming up for air and gasping it in in great gulps and wonder in a visceral, bone deep, desperate hunger for life. I was told in school that I’d look back on my school days as the best days of my life, which was a hideous damnation of the rest of my life and how hopeless the very future I’d had been educated for was.
Becoming a Hippy was a door into passionate and vibrant life, for life, for its own sake, not a career, not a function, not a job, but life, beautiful life. The infamous words of Timothy Leary, “Turn On, tune In, drop Out”, reached these shores and small town Eastcote. Unlike the prescriptive bollocks that governments dish out, this was, for me, daring to experiment with life, taking action away from the soulless life I had been educated for, that I knew I did not want and which held nothing for me. I had already left the factory but my wake up call came when I got home with a migraine from my latest piecework job in a TV repair business and I came back to consciousness with my brother holding me, stopping me from carrying on blindly beating my head against our bedroom wall.
Henry David Thoreau summed it up in ‘Walden’ – “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.” To die, never having followed your dream, taking your song to the grave… what a hideous travesty! Whatever else the Hippy movement was, it was our time, a revolution, an engagement, a happening. Did we escape the ‘establishment’? No, clearly not, it still lumbers on, far worse today than it was in the 60s. The real revolution took place inside and is alive and well to this day because we stood ‘for’ something, not merely against whatever. We’ll never beat the system until we find something better to which people are attracted because it embraces hope and the means to achieve it.
We did change the world and succeeding generations live in that changed world and the establishment is as opposed to it as it ever was and is trying to drag us back to the world that Harry Lesley Smith wrote about in his book, ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future: A Call to Arms’ . Whatever else people might think the Hippies were, we were right and the solution to the world’s troubles is for people to find themselves and be amazing. The establishment and the Tories want us to be lost and hopeless, slaves to their rotten system of poverty and despair, but, as long as people exist, there will never be a time when resistance isn’t fertile.
I am going through the single most difficult time in my life with a cancer that’s done it’s level best to kill me. The treatment is uncompromisingly brutal and the only thing I have to survive it is in being creative, because giving up is not ever any kind of answer. I’m not using that as a metaphor, it’s the battle for life, up front and personal, and as real as it gets.
Keith Lindsay-Cameron. 21 November 2020.