“You sound like an artist more than you look like one!” said the boy as he was getting ready to paint.
“What does an artist look like?” I enquired.
After a moment of hesitation, carefully choosing his words and avoiding references that may be unkind he resorted to the stereotype “Oh, you know, you should wear a smock all splattered with paint.”
‘I have a lot of them at home, so that’s okay, I am an artist.’ I replied.
To Be or Not to BE
Regardless of the outfit we wear, to bring ourselves to declare “I am an artist” takes great courage; it took me years to get used to say it, aware of the reactions I would set off just by declaring that.
I wonder why I have no problems at all to say that I am a gardener or a cook though, unlike the art, I have no school degrees in the last two. Yet to be an artist is just great, it keeps you young providing you keep playing, exploring and creating.
I spend much time during workshops to reassure people that if you engage in art activities regularly you are in fact an artist. Perhaps I should change tactic and start the class by presenting everyone with an artist’s smock so that we can all settle down into working. If the uniform makes the soldier surely the smock makes the artist.
Art is for Everyone
I believe that everybody that so choose can do art and that creative expression has little to do with technique. Much more important is to enrich our visual language and learn the real art of letting go, connecting with your source, quietening your ego and your mind. The right technique comes of its own accord, with some guidance and the reassurance that everything is allowed: copying, tracing, using the material the way it feels right to you; liberally experimenting with textures, lines, forms and colours.
Most important is to allow a transformation to occur. The final result may not be what you had in mind (and very seldom it is) but to accept and work with what comes through is the real skill. The creative urge that is in every one of us needs to be acknowledged; for some people is so strong that it permeates every aspects of their life and indeed it becomes life, something you can’t live without and that can’t be repressed. For other people making art is a gentle way to achieve balance, enjoyment or healing. Whatever the reason creative expression can’t be bottled up, like an active volcano that energy is always simmering away, always waiting to erupt and create magnificent spectacles. It is in that space and time when you are fully immersed in creating a something new that the possibilities are infinite: doors keep opening just enough to admit a new sensation, hints and suggestions about what we are looking for! Sometimes those prompts come to us from other art sources – poetry, drama, music or dreams. What we need, looked for, search for is everywhere, all around us, waiting to be recognized and worked with.
Creation is a Voyage
“La Création est un voyage” says a sentence written big on a wall inside the new breathtakingly beautiful Frank Gehry’s building in Paris, the Louis Vuitton Foundation, and indeed it is. The more I learn about the creative process the more there is to know and that’s what my job is about. The more my ‘students’ ask for directions the more I am reluctant to give any because I realize that all I can do is to guide and point to the prompts that are there but that they cannot yet see and let them choose which one to explore.
We all have our own map to navigate and are captain of our ship; no one else can do the voyage for us.