Doing Things The Hard way…

Has pretty much been a way of life for me. I’ve always had this weird sort of twisted honour system inside my head which made me feel everything had to be done a certain way.

Take art for example; As a child I loved to draw. I got into quite a lot of trouble as I wasn’t always too particular about what I drew on. My Mother was not amused when she saw the horses I had lovingly added to the western film pages of her treasured film annuals in red crayon; likewise my early murals were not appreciated either but it was not until I took art in secondary level school that my confidence was so dashed that I took up writing instead.

I admit I’ve always been more of a copier than a freehand artist but I enjoyed it and using my own system (which I later discovered was the same one used by many an old master!) I tended to render pretty good likenesses of such folk as The Bay City Rollers and Marc Bolan. It was easy pocket money from my gullible classmates and also meant I was left alone by the class bullies to a certain extent.

And then I met Nancy. She was our art tutor for five years. I won’t mention her last name as there is a very small chance she might still be alive and you never know who might read these things! For some reason Nancy just loathed me on sight. I had imagined a shared love of horses might give some common ground. they were my favourite subject and even though my enthusiasm far outstripped my skills, I enjoyed drawing.

By the end of my first year with her however I no longer enjoyed art and certainly didn’t have the confidence to draw pop stars for anyone any more. By the end of my second year I actively disliked it and was in real danger of dropping the subject when choices came around. I was told constantly that I had no talent whatsoever; no sense of style or perspective and, in short, should never venture near a pencil again let alone anything more demanding. I was taught next to nothing about different mediums or expressing myself through art. Apart from criticism my work warranted very little attention at all as far as my art tutor was concerned. I suspect that my burgeoning preoccupation with all things fantasy didn’t help matters. Fairies, knights and dragons were the stuff of ‘children’s illustrators’; a slur apparently on par with that of someone who spits in public. Nancy’s hero was Picasso and when I was overheard, by her, to remark that Guernica resembled a kids jigsaw which had been dropped on the floor, my fate was pretty much sealed. I hasten to add that in later years I discovered for myself Picasso’s exquisite ‘Blue Period’ paintings and understood a great deal more as to why she had admired his work so much.

So, my drawings got worse and worse as time went on and I began to draw less and less. Nothing would come out the way I saw it in my head and I had no idea of how to go about solving that. Until now. Today I drew probably the best picture of my whole life. Having joined an art studio a few months ago simply because it was cheap and would encourage to start creating again (in the hopes it might rub off on my non-existent writing muse!) I began to muck about with different mediums. I made hideous clay ‘things’ for want of a better word; did some glass fusing and have plans to mess around with pyrography and glass engraving at some point.

What impressed me however was a lady named Carol who sat quietly in her own little corner every week painting. I started chatting to her and she mentioned that she had started by reading a book from the library and buying a box of watercolour pencils. From there she had progressed to watercolour and acrylic and had even had a go at oil painting. The results, she said philosophically, were varied to say the least but she kept everything she did and enjoyed her weekly sessions. Sometimes things are so simple we don’t even see them when they are in front of us.

Off I toddled to the library where I found an intermediate book written in a very straightforward style. To my astonishment I discovered I had not only been using valid methods of producing art in my younger days but that tracing paper was allowed. TP had been one of Nancy’s chief bugbears: According to her it was not allowed; it was CHEATING!

Well actually it’s not. Using it and the technique of masking I have created something fantastic (to me anyway) and because I’m so proud (and sad possibly) I intend to post it here for the whole world to see…if I can figure out how.

My self confidence has been restored to a point; certainly enough to encourage me to keep going anyway. I’m cross with myself for being so critical and hard on my work for so many years but I’m even angrier with the person who dismissed my efforts at a time when just a little encouragement would have gone a very long way.

Art is as subjective as writing. No-one has the right to say this is wrong or this is rubbish; all we have a right to is an opinion and that opinion should be kept to ourselves unless asked to share it. Which is why I’ve learned another valuable lesson (the hard way) I may never get into print, I may never have the approval of other artists and writers but as long as I value what I do and love what I create then nothing else matters. Art for art’s sake or art for your own sake? Whatever: Life is short; too short to spend learning things the hard way!

watercolour pencils

The First of Many…

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