I’ve just published the latest artist interview in my This Is How We Make It series: choreographer Erik Kaiel is an articulate and generous interviewee, and his reflections on pursuing creative work have applications far beyond the world of dance.
With four interviews now online, covering performance, writing and visual arts, I thought I would pull out some of my favourite thoughts from Erik, Iain, Viccy and Jayne.
On why we make things…
‘There’s something that doesn’t exist in the world that needs to be out there, and even after you’ve made a piece it’s there a bit, but it needs to go further, like it’s not present enough. There’s something that keeps you going, that need to make and to put out into the public space.’
On the value of teaching…
‘I think teaching is returning to learning, and deepening your practice and your understanding. And I definitely think those years of teaching, even though I didn’t want to be a teacher, I wanted to be a dancer and a choreographer, it made me better at those things.’
‘I get a lot back from it. It energises me I suppose – and because making work can be a selfish thing in a way, so with teaching you feel like you are giving something back a bit to people, and passing on your skills.’
On how to make good work…
‘If you really want to be an artist, you have to not say, what does everyone else do? Not say, I need to have this and that and the other thing; or, I need a two-week vacation and then if there’s time over I will make art. Instead you say: I need a place to sleep, I need to eat, and I need to support my art-making – and then organise the rest of your life around that.’
‘If I want to have a good day I know the first thing I need to do in the morning is focus on the work.’
‘Winning prizes is important in giving me motivation, and that incentive to carry on … I rely on entering competitions to confirm that what I’m doing has some worth.’
‘I like risks, saying yes to things and seeing where they go. But when I say I’m good at taking risks, I’m good at having things in place to take risks from.’
‘Basically everything I’ve done has come from a period of volunteering or doing little bits and pieces, and that developed into something more.’
‘Residencies have been key to inspiring new ideas, and developments in technique. Time away helps you to make leaps in your work, to move it forward.’
‘If you’re an upcoming comic artist and you’re not on Twitter then you’re making a mistake.’
Advice for our younger selves…
‘Advice to early-me: probably, get over yourself. So, as soon as you think you’re doing something because you’re a writer – oh, I stay up late, I don’t get up in the morning and write cos I’m a writer – or anybody who’s resistant to editing, get over that romantic view that you write and that’s it done.’
‘I used to worry more when I was younger about other people, about being current, and contemporary – but as you get older you start to think, actually, I’d rather just do what I’m interested in.’
‘Just because you can’t draw as well as artists in the comics you like, you can still make comics.’
‘I wish somebody had said, it’s important to keep going. I’m a great believer in, if you keep plugging away at it… I know you’ve got to have something there, some talent or something, but I don’t think talent is the half of it sometimes. It’s perseverance. I wish somebody had said don’t give up at the slightest rejection! You’re going to be rejected, probably over and over again, but then within that you’ll have some successes.’
You’ll find lots more words of wisdom in the complete interviews – read on here.