I was never artistic. As a child, I continued to draw stick figures way past the age where that was considered cute. I was happy to let others take the lead on big art projects. As I got older, opportunities became fewer. I was all about writing and talking, and I was good at that.
My teachers loved to remind me of my level — not in a mean, bully way like in that Matilda movie — but in a kind, redirecting manner, showing me other things I was good at. Let’s face it, I was so clumsy I dropped everything I set my eyes on, I never used an interesting palette of colours and I was not even great at decorating the covers of my notebooks like the other kids. Art for me was as intangible as the Mona Lisa’s smile.
Making my own art.
I think there were a couple of things that encouraged me to pick up the pencil. Luckily, I had a job that gave me a lot of free time and I was living abroad. That last point may seem unrelated, but it really provided me with a change of perspective about my own life. Back home, my friends had known me for a long time. In that sense, I was very lucky. Yet it is also common for us to set an idea early on in life about who we are and what we have the ability to do. It is easy to be the group’s clumsy one, the funny one or the imaginative one. We get used to the persona we have always been. We get comfortable in our ways and limitations. Don’t get me wrong. That is not always a bad thing. What nobody tells us, is that we can reinvent ourselves all the time, at no expense of the person we used to be.
I was in a foreign country with no friends, and one day an acquaintance asked me if I wanted to go to a free painting class with her. My standard response would be “no thank you, I‘m terrible at art”. But then I stopped and thought to myself, ‘why the hell not?’ At worse, I would come home with a funny canvass to hang or throw away, and surely they would serve beer? So I agreed. I ended up having an amazing time. And the most surprising thing of all — the painting was not horrid! Well, it was not a Da Vinci. But it resembled the painting made by the teacher so much, that I kept it for a year.
Art is for everyone.
I drove myself straight to an art supply shop and bought myself paints, brushes and a canvas. The full set. I found a tutorial online. Oh, Youtube! The teacher for all occasions. The step by step nature of tutorials really suits my learning style. I poured a glass of wine and did everything I was told. Hold the brush like this. Apply this much pressure. Mix colours a and b. I was so proud of myself. I had done it. The painting was actually ok and it didn’t look like it was made by a three-year-old.
After that, I started answering people’s questions about what I did in my free time with “I paint” and I wasn’t called a liar or a fraud. My new friends didn’t know my old self. They believed any version of me I chose to present. A new lease of life.
The fact that I was learning something artistic in my thirties was really surprising for me. I always thought that art was for those born with gifted minds, that talent always comes from a young age and is unattainable. While that is true for many, and I will certainly (probably?) never have a painting of mine hanging in a gallery, it does not mean that I am not allowed to enjoy it. After a couple of years, I have mastered the colour theory, I can use different mediums, and I can follow an original design in my mind to create unique works. All by watching videos, googling and being stubborn as hell.
The bottom line.
I love to paint — it is relaxing, it makes me feel good about myself and it is beautiful. My house is full of art that my partner and I enjoy. It helps with my anxiety and it is a wonderful hobby. I would recommend to everyone.
So whenever a friend of mine sees a painting and comments that they could never do it, I remind them of my story. We should all reinvent a part of ourselves from time to time.
Art is an amazing way to do that, and what is art anyway? For me, it is the expression of my state of mind and creativity, the result of my hard work and experimentation. Art is everything we want it to be.