You know that saying ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life?’ That’s bullshit. (In my experience, it’s usually said by office workers who wish they were creatives). When you’re an artist, you work. Hard. A lot. Often for other people, making stuff to fulfil a brief that you didn’t write. Don’t get me wrong – it’s brilliant work, but it’s still work. It’s a job. And it’s okay for it to be tedious and difficult and frustrating at times. That is normal and fine and you shouldn’t feel guilty about those feelings. You just need to learn to manage them.

One way that I have started to look at my workload recently is to divide jobs into ‘got to’ and ‘get to’ work. Most of the time, projects start out as ‘got to’ jobs. ‘We’ve got to sell this show / we’ve got to have these people in it / we’ve got to do it in studio / we’ve got to fulfil these image specs / we’ve got to have the shots by this date.’ These are the bits that feels like work. But part of maintaining a healthy relationship with your work is carving out little sections of ‘get to’ in the job, through processes of communication and compromise with yourself and the client. They might be tiny – ‘I get to use this gel colour I haven’t used before / I get to light paint / I get to have input about the set dressing to make it look more like this painting I’ve been thinking about.’

The elements of ‘get to’ are the parts that fulfil your curiosity, your creativity, your passion. They keep you interested, keep you learning. I try to find one in every shoot, no matter how tiny. It doesn’t need to be much. But every now and then, a collaborator comes along and gives you the space to really dream. To come up with outrageous ideas. To pitch big. Usually, at this point, problems of money and time and space crop up, and you negotiate down, wistfully.

But when David Finnigan asked me to send him some ideas for some promo images for ‘Kill Climate Deniers,’ and I said, ‘I’m seeing dusk, a beach. A huge block of ice. And fire. Really elemental,’ he didn’t negotiate down. And when I told Luc Favre that I wanted to set everything on fire and have a Molotov cocktail and generally be super dangerous, he didn’t negotiate down either.

And so last night, back in a freezing carpark with cold fingers and a warm nose, when I hugged David, and said, ‘I didn’t think we’d get to make the picture that was in my head. Thank you,’ and I hugged Luc and said, ‘I didn’t think there was a way to make that happen safely. Thank you,’ I really meant it. It’s such a privilege to get to make a big old mess with good people who believe in you. I’m glad I get to do this for a living. Yesterday didn’t feel like work at all.

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Modelling by the brilliant and fearless Georgie McAuley, MUA and light wrangling by the excellent Amanda Lissant-Clayton, fire and ice wrangling by Luc Favre and David Finnigan, big smiles by me.

S x

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