Art is such a strange thing, isn’t it?
My art grew from a love of the things around me. Some Friday afternoons after school, I was collected by Mum, Dad and Nan, tucked up in the car and snuggled with pillows and a blanket. Hours later we emerged into the different world that was a Somerset farm, and oh, the smells and the sights! My weekends were a miracle of running across the fields with the dogs, milking by the dawns glow, clambering about in the hayricks and harvesting. I loved my own company and delighted in the pond skaters on the water troughs and the huge mushrooms and puffballs in the fields. We collected them on our way back from milking to eat for breakfast.
And I drew what I saw.
My Nan was a rotund jolly woman who was magical in her own right. I learnt a deep respect for the lady in the farm down the road. Nan said she was a witch, so it had to be true! I knew that Snow White lived somewhere off in the woods and that the fairies lived in the toadstools that formed the fairy rings, so I had to be very careful where my footsteps fell.
And I drew the toadstools.
At bedtime, as I drifted off, my Nan told me that she could see the fairies dancing on my pillow trying not to get tangled in my hair.
And I drew the fairies.
I was lucky and my family were supportive of my whimsical pictures, I would grow up fast enough, and all was right in the world until I crossed paths with my art teacher in Secondary School. To say we clashed would be putting it politely. (Well, come on! It was a very “naice” grammar school and you wouldn’t have dared put a foot wrong! Caning was still de rigeur, don’t you know!) Here I was, 15 years old having just read “Lord of the Rings”, full of romance and hormones. I wanted to paint all this totally wonderful, amazing and exciting and FABULOUS “stuff” and she HATED it!
“Why can’t you just paint a nice ordinary oak tree?” she asked once. I had a two year course on the depth of negative critique. It was the umpteenth time that she had slaughtered my work and ideas and I guess every ounce of Magic in me died at that point.
I stopped painting.
I stopped seeing.
We moved away from London, went to live in the country and I became a Mum myself.
Many, many years later, we were driving along on our way to somewhere… miles of motorway…tedium…yawn. As I cast my eye over the landscape, I noticed a patch of sunlight in a field and sitting smack in the middle of it was a sheep… and I watched as it lifted its head and closed its eyes to bask in the sunshine. This simple moment of bliss, gone in a flash as we drove on, woke something so basic in me that I needed to record it. A camera was useless in those circumstances, so my only thought was to get home and find paper and a pencil.
And I started drawing again.
I still have that fraction of time in my memory like a photograph, and yes, it was Magic!
Time has flown by since then. It is relentless and things change. I have changed. Ill health has twice given me a reality check, both times life changing. But one thing that never changes is the desire to create.
Is it “Art”? Who knows? I don’t think the Cavemen ever thought that they were creating art; it may have simply been a record of their lives. We can look it up in a dictionary, but I think we all interpret it differently.
For myself (just my personal opinion OK?), I love colour and form. I want art to uplift me, intrigue me, mystify me, tell me a story, excite me….I don’t mind having to use my brain to work it out a bit, but I don’t want to have to take an exam first to be able to understand it.
I don’t want to be offended, upset or disturbed. Now, OK… I know that some artists feel the need to create a doorway to awareness and that is fair comment, but thank-you, that is not for me. It is important to remember that some of us have had such awful things in our lives already that “awareness” is exactly what we don’t need from art. We need escape.
We once visited a very famous modern art gallery (no names, it would incite riot and be unkind to the establishment) and my 8 year old lad came out, sat on the front steps and cried his eyes out!!! The whole experience had been so surreal for him and so disturbing that he didn’t even know how to express it other than with tears. I had to think about that… and maybe as artists it is a point to note.
At that point in his life…he STOPPED painting. And sadly has never returned…
Art is what it is. It is creation. We all see it in so many things and in so many ways. Think about patterns baristas can make on the froth in your cappuccino, or have you seen the faces and animals created with pancake batter as it cooks? Mr Goldsworthy is a magician with twigs and stones in the woods too!
We all make what we make with our hearts and our souls, don’t we? And in so doing, we pour a part of us into it, that delicate part of us that is so fragile and tender to criticism. We do our best, and then what? Some of us put it away and it is never seen by another soul. Brave souls show it to the world and suddenly everyone becomes an expert critic! OUCH!
Now two things need to happen here!
First off, please be kind if you critique! Speak truth, but gently and kindly! This person has done their best and is brave for having shown you. We all know the benefits of advice and helpful hints but we need to use a chisel, not a sledge hammer.
However, my words are for those who feel vulnerable and unsure.
Your work and efforts are precious. They have value. What matters is the delight that you took personally from the execution and the learning. If you don’t feel that way, don’t do it!
Paint the thing that makes your heart sing. Work with the picture that haunts you… the picture that keeps you awake at night because you keep mentally adding bits or adjusting. The picture that you are thinking about as you drive to the shops. The picture that you can’t wait to finish…
Have confidence in what you are doing. You are not doing this for anyone else but yourself, so indulge yourself.
When I look at a picture and my heart beats faster and I think, “Wow!” I am convinced that this is a connection between myself and the artist. I am feeling that little bit of their soul /heart /Magic that they have imparted into the work…
We have each in our own ways had a long journey to every picture that we attempt, so own it! Love it and get down and dirty with those brushes! Never feel helpless in the face of criticism. My dear Dad used to say, “You can only ever do your best!” It is true and you know it.
I LOVE what I do! I work and I watch a face come to life under my brush. Slowly, slowly I see a person emerge from the page, something that had been a blank white sheet. You can imagine though, it is Marmite. People love it or hate it. So when I take a direct hit (oh, and people can be scathing) I imagine…I run… take a jump… and leap into a golden pool…to slowly come up bright and shining and ready to start again!
In essence, I try to look for a little Magic in every day… a bat flittering across the sky at dusk or a drop of dew on a spider web. It makes my heart glad regardless of life’s difficulties. I paint from joy and happiness, it is there if you can but see it, please go and find it for yourselves. Look for it and find your own Magic and off you go………………..PAINT!
And keep painting.
I would be delighted to see your work if you would like to send it!
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