The artist in me

IMG_1738As you may have noticed from previous posts, I am a member of an art group. To be honest, I find it a bit of a paradox.  Generally it seems, that just from the fact I am a member of an art group, people assume I am some sort of artist.  I can assure you this is not the case.

I joined the group a couple of years ago, as a ‘something we could do together’ thing with my husband.  I’d never really painted before, but knew I could draw a bit, so thought I’d give it a go.  My husband had painted in the past but not for a while and was happy to take up his brushes again.  I was in for a bit of a shock.  Shocked at how talented my husband is, and shocked at how cack-handed I am.

Oh, I’ve always been cack-handed and clumsy.  Can’t throw or catch, and my hand writing is, frankly, an embarrassment, but somehow I thought even I could create something wonderful by slopping a bit of paint onto some paper. It might not be Rembrandt but it would be my own.

Since the very first session, I have been nothing other than frustrated with the whole caboodle.  I have ideas, loads and loads of ideas, and I pick up my brush enthusiastically, only to find those perfect, exciting, unique pictures in my head, come out as a muddy mish mash when applied to paper.  I’ve tried watercolours, acrylics, pastels… all with pretty much the same outcome, though my pencil work is marginally better, and I quite enjoy creating collages even though they’re messy and again, not quite what I intended.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the art group, the company is wonderful, and everyone has their own talents, and sometimes, mishaps.  However, despite their encouragement, I still feel embarrassingly bottom of the class, and wish to hell I could manage to just translate my imaginings on to paper successfully, just now and again while I’m there.

I try to be philosophical about it, honest I do, and am generally able to make a joke of it when I’m at the group, however, at home, I feel monstrously angry at myself and my ineptitude. It must be the paper/brushes/paint I think, and end up buying tons of equipment in the futile hope that it will miraculously make me better.  I watch endless youtube videos to learn about techniques, and pour over books that promise to give me new insights into where it’s all going wrong.   Not a single thing seems to help.

Is it worth throwing the towel in?  Giving it up as a bad job? Going off to sulk and sob in a corner to tell myself that I should have known better than to try?  Burn all that expensive equipment?   No.

NO!!!

You see, I’ve also been watching the painting challenge currently on the BBC.  The people taking part are amateur artists who clearly think they are good enough to enter the competition.  While I still think all of them, to a man/woman, are far more talented than I (those in glass houses etc..) they are having some real disasters and seem to make many of the same mistakes as I do.  Of course, the work they do, in private, at home, in their own style, looks far more interesting and accomplished than any they try to do whilst ‘on’t telly’ and under pressure. The styles they are expected to replicate for the judges are often decidedly outside of their comfort zone, so appreciably more.. um, duff.

It has led me to ask the question of whether or not you have to be able to paint anything, in any medium or style, to be considered an artist.  I think not.  This is as true for people on the X factor trying to sing in an alien genre, or a ballet dancer trying out ballroom.  We can all have a bash at something but we will always be better at doing the thing we naturally lean towards.  Although Picasso did some admirable work in other styles, we generally think of his cubist pieces when we think of him.  Turner and his seascapes, Constable and his green and pleasant lands, Manet and his dancers, most of the brilliant artists I can think of have a particular style or subject that they are particularly known for.   That’s not to say they were one trick ponies, but those are the paintings that we all know and love them for, and the ones they seem to have produced the most of (I may be wrong here, I’ve not done much (any) research on this – just thinking out loud).

So basically, I guess the trick is that I really should appreciate and keep working on the things I have slightly more of a flair for, whilst striving to improve without embarrassment or losing my temper those things which I find elusive.  It’s a hard ask.  But I won’t give up just yet. I’ll keep telling myself that I’ll never get better if I don’t keep trying. So, I’ll carry on slopping on the paint in between doodling and sketching, and one day I’ll create that damn masterpiece.

IMG_0067

What I consider to be one of my slightly more successful pieces, done in my own time and style, in watercolour.

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Getting Sticky

Well, in my pursuit of creating something arty, I have taken to sticking things.  Yes, collage.  I make an horrendous mess, with bits of paper, tissue and glue covering every surface, including myself, but I have to say I am quite pleased with the results.

The first one, ‘The New Forests’ was inspired by an item on the news that made me so angry and upset that I didn’t know what to do with the emotion.  They’d used a drone to film the extent of the camps in Bangladesh that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugee people have been reduced to living in.  They showed the camps sprawling across an area bigger than Manchester or Glasgow.  The people, men, women and children, in those camps have little clean water, food, health care, in fact, none of the things we take for granted on an every day basis. It made me consider (not for the first time, I hasten to add) the quite appalling inequalities suffered by people around the world, and creating the collage became quite cathartic for me.  In fact, I got so much out of it (never mind the result!) when finished, I immediately started on the second, ‘Elusive Eden’.

This piece was inspired by poetry, and as with the first one, I decided to use relevant text within it – in this case excerpts from ‘I know why the cage bird sings’ by Maya Angelou, ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost, and ‘The Road not Taken’ also by Frost. The result was somewhat cheerier than I imagined, and the poems have all but disappeared, but nonetheless, I quite like it, and whilst I doubt anyone looking at it would immediately grasp its representational meaning as I intended, at least it’s colourful!

The third piece, is frankly, just a flight of fancy.  Using tissue paper, which proved much trickier, and generally messier than I could ever have imagined.  Lots of fun though!

The New Forests

The New Forests

Elusive Eden 1

Elusive Eden

By the River

By the River

 

Art Group

I was recently asked if I would be able to write a poem about our Art Group (visit the Sutton Art Group website to see what we get up to there). Up for a challenge, I came up with this one, which they were so pleased with they asked me to read it at the opening ceremony of our 20th Annual Exhibition last Saturday, so I thought I’d share it with you too.

The Art Group

Outside, the windows are awash,
Wet on wet this watercolour morning.
The messy collage of a weary world
continues out there, but inside, inside…

Inside is a cacophony of colour
spilling across the tables,
blending with pastel chuckles
and bright acrylic laughter.

The broad brushstrokes of practice
sit comfortably alongside
the detail of accomplishment,
each hand working, creating,

whilst quietly
the paper absorbs the memories
these friends trace together
each Friday morning.

But is it art?

Just over a year ago, my husband and I decided to join the local art group. We’d wanted to find a hobby we could enjoy together in our old age (!) and having explored various ideas including sporty stuff, choirs etc, art seemed to be the least exhausting option.

It has been great. Really wonderful. The other art group folk are a fantastic bunch and we spend a lot of time laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Which is just as well, because pretty quickly it became obvious that I do not have a natural talent when it comes to putting paint on paper. In fact, I’m pants at it.

Irritatingly, my husband has proved to be astonishingly good, and the art group has rekindled his old passion for painting. He’s churning out lovely pieces at such a rate, we’re going to have to move soon to accommodate them all.

The opposite side of the coin is me. I’m plodding away, churning out rubbish. It is just so frustrating. In my head my picture is going to be a beautiful dancer poised in a perfect landscape. On paper it’s a lumpy out of proportion excuse for a human on a muddy blur of greenish stuff. My pretty flowers aren’t. My trees are lollipops painted by a three year old. You get the gist.

It’s even more annoying since I know I can draw passably with a pencil, it’s just the bloomin’ paint not doing as it’s told. It has often made me grumpy, sometimes tearful, and occasionally violent.. towards the paper anyway, ripping pictures up in a stormy huff and flinging them in the bin with venom. This was supposed to be enjoyable…

Anyhoo… as I say it’s been a year now, of me trying but totally losing confidence and being heartily embarrassed by my efforts during the art group sessions. But yet I’m still plugging on.

Just lately, I’ve had one or two things that I’ve been vaguely happy with. Mostly when I’ve been trying the least, just sort of doodling. My watercolours are still a bit washed out, but coloured pencil work is coming on a bit better, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve ventured back into acrylics, which previously has been the medium that has made me the crossesist (yeah, I know… but it’s perfect, and should be a real word even if it’s not).

In the past I’ve tried to actually copy something. Do something realistic and beautiful, but not so long ago I realised how miserable the failures were making me, so I started just sloshing on paint and seeing where it got me. D’ya know what? I had fun! And actually, the pictures have started looking like I want them to. Maybe not brilliant, but they look like mine. Like I have some sort of my own style.

I admit, they, like my poems, are a bit dark and broody, but that’s it. That’s capturing what I’m aiming for. Sometimes I think we need to embrace our limitations. I may never be able to paint a pretty flower, or a magnificent animal. My trees may always be lollipops, but they are my lollipops.

So, I am taking a leap here. A big leap. A very big leap. I am going to share some of my pictures with you on this blog, and hopefully, hopefully, you will be able to watch me improve and grow, and maybe, in the not too distant future, I will start to gain confidence and be proud of my creations. In the meantime, here are some of my recent attempts with acrylics….

p.s. to see some of the beautiful work other members of our group produce you can visit the ‘our art’ page on the Sutton Art Group website at https://suttonartgroup.wordpress.com/our-art/