As 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.
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.