When I was 13 years old, living in South Africa, I had to do an art exam. The theme was to create a poster for a veld (pronounced “felt”) fire, commonly known in Australia as a bush fire.
I sat at my easel frozen.
My classmates stood around me, furiously slopping paint onto the page, and yet, still, I remained frozen.
I couldn’t draw. I had no imagination for it. I painted with words, not with paint.
I ended up smearing red, orange and yellow paint all over the page followed by drawing what was meant to be a black, charred tree, but which in reality looked like a cross between a stick and a blob. It was a mess. I knew it. And my marks reflected it – I got 48%. The lowest mark I had ever received for anything.
Later that year, at Parent/Teachers evening, my parents were asked by my Art Teacher to allow me to drop art if I wished. And I most definitely wished. I was no artist. At all. And she clearly saw no potential. My view of me as artist was sealed.
Yet, art, colour, design, all run in my veins. My brother, sister and father all draw well. I always knew my sister was artistic, but it isn’t until recently that I found out about my dad and brother. This, I admit, came as quite a shock.
I am drawn to art materials like the proverbial moth to a flame.
I used to love those projects at school that required drawing pictures and colouring them in (long before the advent of computers I am afraid). Despite my art ineptitude, I couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
I love art galleries. Once, at the National Gallery of Victoria, I got into trouble for explaining a painting of Salvador Dali’s to a group of people who couldn’t see the two images in the same painting. This was made worse by offering my own interpretation of what I think he was saying. Security came up to me and told me to allow people to “see” the painting for themselves. I felt reasonably chastised, and let’s be honest, an art critic I am not, so I slunk away. However, people did start following me as I continued round, speaking to my husband about what I saw in each painting.
When I had my mental breakdown, one of the things that was recommended was to explore that artistic side of me. I had always shied away from it because, frankly, I truly believed I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body, and secondly, I was afraid of ridicule. I was afraid someone would say “HA! That’s not art. That’s crap!” I think my biggest fear ever is to be discovered as a fraud, that the space I occupy, be it as a writer or anything else, is null and void.
Art does not come naturally to me. Words are my thing. And I do love words. But there is a certain peace I get when I
doodle draw and colour in.
I have scaled back enormously on my social media interaction. I was in that place where despite being involved in a few groups, I had never felt more isolated and disconnected. I needed to get off the computer and into living life again. But I didn’t know how, exactly. Online life is very seductive. It draws you in and soon enough you are suffering from a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Honestly, I am still in that place. Even though I have recently experienced some online bullying, and it is very much in my best interest to be offline, I feel the tug of the online life. It’s truly like a drug.
I had to fill that online void with something.
And so, looking at my copious supply of largely unused art materials, I decided to put them to use. I threw out my preconceived notions of what art is, and just let my hand wander across the page.
I recently came across Lori Portka, who is an artist, a beautiful artist, that started life as a teacher, and counsellor, but who surrendered to her latent desire to do art. Her story, and the ethos of her art, really spoke to me.
Through her, I found Hayley Bartholomew of 365Grateful fame, and again, I was touched by her story and those stories that she has on her blog. I was touched by the art of gratitude and what it can achieve. I was touched by how people became transformed out of enormous grief. And by god, I am grieving and I absolutely need a transformation right now.
I knew I had to release my fear. I knew that although I may not be considered an artist in the conventional sense of the word, art was inside of me and whatever it was, it needed to come out of me.
And so I drew, and painted, and created. I let my soul speak.
I allowed myself to see how art can heal the soul.
Yep, it’s a work in progress.
It’s a good question, don’t you think – to ponder about what constitutes art. What is good for you is likely not to be good for me. But does it matter? As long as what we create is authentic and comes from that place within us that can be said to be our true soul, does it really matter?
I hope you make art today. In whatever form brings peace to your soul. I’m going to continue down this path for a while. I like where it’s taking me.
Much love, until next time,