Archives for posts with tag: coping mechanisms

Willow

Willow Neilson’s adventures as a Jazz saxophonist have taken him from Nimbin, to Armidale, Melbourne and the Sydney Conservatorium, to Jazz competitions from Brussels to Montreux and now to China thanks to Asialink /Australia-China Council funding. Willow chats to arts interview about the stresses of not only adjusting to life in China but also about juggling life as a professional musician.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

How would you describe what you do? Does Saxophonist or Jazz Musician adequately cover it?

Saxophonist and jazz musician covers part of it. These days we can’t just lock ourselves in a room practicing and then step out into gigs anymore. My career requires me to be a promoter/personal pr person, writer/blogger, teacher and then I have had stints being a tv host, voice over person, and am about to go train to be a yoga teacher.

I have a lot of interests and feel that in order to evolve as an artist these days I need to become more of a renaissance man, both in terms of my ability to make money- earning from a variety of skills other than just those associated with performing and teaching music, but also learning new skills such as multi media software applications and visual art concepts. All of these are centred around my primary passion- music- and it is my hope that all of them feed into one another. The playing is the fun part, dealing with all the other stuff is the drag.

What are the most stressful aspects of working the way you do? Do you find that being stressed affects your work?

Some people think that being a musician is all fun and messing around but many aspects of the job are stressful. Dealing with abusive personalities on the bandstand (whilst still having to smile), dealing with terrible sound teams, terrible agents and all manner of people that often seem hell bent on undermining the effectiveness of your performance is a constant hassle. In China we have a thing we call “hurry up and wait,” where an agent who knows nothing about music asks us to be at a performance 3 hours early, rushes us around only to then have to sit and wait for everyone else.

The unpredictability of freelancing is also a stressful factor, it is hard to turn down work as you never know when a dry patch will arise, sometimes I will work a series of 18 hour days including multiple shows and teaching. Finding the right balance is a constant juggle.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced developing a career as a musician? Did you ever consider studying something else or moving into another career?

In Australia the biggest challenge was simply not working enough. I went back to school to study education but hated it, not the teaching but all the other stuff around it. That’s why I live in China now. If I could find something reliable that I loved I would do it but music is my passion and as much as I would like to find something else I will have to make this work because it is all I have.

What strategies do you use to keep life in balance?

I like to meditate, exercise (a huge part of my life now) and have started praying a lot recently, I never thought I would get into that but it has really been making me feel good. I also have a group of people I meet with regularly where we talk about life etc. at great length.

Visiting my friend’s kids also helps to feel more grounded- kids know how to enjoy life effortlessly. Lately I have been playing chess with an 8 year old that trash talks when he takes your pieces. Good fun.

How did you find adjusting to life in China? Has moving to China changed the way you deal with stress and anxiety?

Life in China comes with positives and negatives. Positives are cheap massages, cheap cost of living, easy work and good food (although the produce is not so great but it is cooked well). The negatives are pollution, cultural differences and very different ways of handling issues, pollution and noise, noise, noise, traffic, traffic, traffic, chaos.

Learning the language is always fun, Chinese people are really supportive of others learning Chinese and life changes more positively as your language skills grow.

I think Shanghai is a bit of an emotional/spiritual accelerator. Whatever your issues it will magnify them and you will either fall into a frustrated heap or you will deal with what you need to deal with. China has made me change in more ways than I maybe am even aware of, one of them is I’ve learnt to not freak out, to just stay calm and if you have done what you need to do then let other people do the freaking out.

http://willowneilson.com/music/

anthony white

Anthony White is an international artist- Australian born and bred, now based in Paris. After graduating from the National Art School in 2003, White has exhibited widely in Europe and Australia and is held in significant private and public collections in Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA. Anthony talks to arts interview about his practice and the sometimes stresses of working as a full time artist.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Can you tell us a bit about your practice and what you have been working on recently?

My practice is built around the sensuous nature of paint with an awareness of  surface. The paint itself has really been the subject, exploring physicality in order to find form.  The process now is becoming one of reduction and erasure. I’m interested in the idea of psychic automatism that the Surrealists were into. The idea of bridging the gap between the unconscious mind and the conscious one and how that relates to the integrity of the mark.

Currently I’m working on a body of work for exhibition in Hong Kong early next year at The Cat St Gallery, Hong Kong as well as a group show called Signal 8 during August in Hong Kong.

What do you think are the broad stress factors for artists?

I think the biggest stress is probably about time management, money and organisation. I think artists in general can have a hard time being responsive towards a deadline and finishing things. Questioning how much of that day job do you work and how much time in the studio tends to make you very, very busy. If your lucky enough to be making art fulltime then its difficult to get the work out there globally, without stretching yourself financially.

Can you tell us about when you first moved from Australia to Paris, what were the stress factors of moving and finding yourself in a new ‘art scene’?

Meeting people in the art world can be difficult with a language barrier. I have also hired a translator for special projects in the past, which helps a lot.

Do you have any specific coping mechanisms when you are stressed?

I find myself in nature a lot, that’s really important. Also I find doing something else totally unrelated for a while until you come up with the answer you need. Sometimes you need to forget about things. I also tend to write copious amounts of lists.

Do you find it difficult to balance your work and lifestyle?

Yes it’s incredibly difficult to find a balance, but I love what I do so it doesn’t really feel like work. I never turn off- I’m always thinking about art.

I think it’s energetic and exciting when something new develops in your art practice. The constant renewal of ideas is the stuff that makes your art alive and can encourage/nurture yourself as an artist when things get tough

What do you do to relax? Is it easy for you to ‘switch off’ from your practice to do this?

No it’s not easy to switch off at all. I find it difficult but I think it is important for creative renewal .In the past I was a professional chef and since I’ve been making art fulltime, I’m finding time to spend in the kitchen at home, making things that I wouldn’t normally have the time for. This lets me wind down a bit.

www.anthonyjwhite.net