‘Time is a jet plane. It moves too fast…’ Bob Dylan is singing on the radio as I drive in my car.
‘It certainly does!’ I silently remark to myself while I try to remember how long I’ve been making this journey from Dublin to County Clare. Twelve years? And yet it looks like yesterday.
Every second Friday of the month from late September to late June, I get into the car and off I go: M50 first then on to the Galway road, one stop in Ballinasloe for breakfast at the Kariba café then Gort for grocery shopping before finally pulling up outside the house in Rockforest.
Getting ready for the Saturday morning art class follows a strict ritual because everything must be ready when the group of very committed artists arrive at my studio come rain or shine, frost or flood eager to paint.
Early in the morning I light the wood stove, tidy up the room and arrange paints and paper on the tables. Slowly people start to arrive. We greet each other and exchange the latest news while keeping an eye out for Carmel’s arrival bearing one of her freshly baked cakes to share at the coffee break.
In due time they all sit down and start painting while I select some music and then move out of the way to one corner of the room to watch them work for a while.
This is the bit I love. I’ve learned as much about the creative process from watching people work – both adults and children – as from my own practice. Here in the calm of the studio away from noise and distractions I witness the many battles we all fight within ourselves when we are creating something.
Where painting is concerned we may start by considering the options of subjects and mediums; we visualise what we would like to do and go at it in earnest until, after a while we may stop suddenly confused and frustration sets in.
‘This is not at all like what I had in mind!’ we feel like shouting as we consider downing tools. I call this phase ‘The Chaos Moment’ a dangerous point in the process when the temptation to give up is very strong. ‘Take a break’ I suggest, and we all go for the long-awaited coffee break.
After a refreshing cup of coffee and a nourishing slice of cake we all trot back to the studio in better form and humour.
With the caffeine kicking in the atmosphere in the room changes – now is time to truly play. It is at this stage that the best work usually gets done and we are almost surprised by the good results. We feel that after all we can master the process like ‘real artists’.
At the end of the class it’s time to look around at the work the others have made, at the subjects they’ve chosen and the material used. We get excited about the results achieved, at the new techniques we’ve learned and we generously praise each other.
Now, after all these years of working together we have decided that it’s time to show off and celebrate the work done. Early in December we are going to exhibit in the Russell Gallery, New Quay.
In getting ready for this event we reflect on what art making means to each person, to the group in general and, most importantly what it feels like to ‘go public’.
As the group facilitator I am aware that most of the fiteen participants would be shy to call themselves ‘artist’ but in my opinion this is exactly what they are. I believe that anybody who regularly engages with art making is indeed an artist. I also believe that for many people, who have the desire to paint but find it challenging to do it on their own working in a group is easier and more enjoyable.
In time we realise that art touches something deep inside though often it’s difficult to put words on it, nevertheless it’s there and it speaks to us in its own language and its own time. All we have to do is listen and do its bidding.