Having been told as a young child that I was like my mother, who believed she couldn’t draw a straight line, artistic expression was left to a brother, whose talent was undeniable.

Years of self exploration later, a course in the Enneagram revealed an aptitude for arranging or assembling in a pleasing way. I gradually came to trust my talent to arrange the house, and to make a garden. I didn’t see these talents as particularly creative, even though all my self help reading referred to the creativity involved in homes and gardens.

My large family has a tradition of gifting a course on a certain birthday. They couldn’t think of what course to send me on, so I was given the money. My good friend Chris suggested I would come on an art course with her to Italy in 2018 and convinced me to contact Jole. Through Au- tumn and early Winter of 2017 I felt a frisson of excitement whenever I thought of going to Italy to paint. I had never attended an art course in my life, but somehow knew it tted me. A slight panic arose in January 2018 when another friend asked if I was good at painting. “I don’t know, I never tried”, I replied. I contacted a local artist, who runs courses and took myself to a day of watercolour painting. I was quite pleased with my efforts.

But nothing prepared me for the rush of pure joy I experienced in Ravenna, when an idea became a collage and then another. Ideas lled me. Being around other people who were painting was so much fun and so freeing. I learned that there is no shame in tracing an image I want to produce and learn to draw, and in using a trac- ing to repeat a design. That was so liberating. I had assumed you had to be a perfect draughtsperson to make good art.

Going to the local watercolour class, where you copy the artist, no longer satis ed me. At a Sun- day course in the Burren, Jole introduced me to chalk pastels. I bought some on my way home and immediately began to see results. Reproducing photos of sunsets and copying images of birds was so satisfying. When I emailed Jole and asked her how I could develop my creativity, she told me to make it a part time job and commit to it. That I could be allowed to do that was a wonder. I began to spend entire mornings making art. Sometimes it pleased me. Sometimes I felt utterly frustrated by my inability to represent whatever image I was working on. My critic sat on my shoulder and offered her opinion.
I was in my local library one day and saw a post- er advertising a new art course. A retired art teacher was setting up a weekly class in our local community. We have been introduced to many artists and genres and we have experimented with all sorts of media, including printing in a professional printing studio. We will have an exhibition in the library in a few weeks.
I have been back in Italy with Jole this May.

There is a difference. I have loosened, a little. I’m not as caught up in worrying what others are thinking, and even managed to continue to sketch the cathedral, while being observed. The joy that making and painting bring is wondrous and I feel a deep gratitude to have come to a point in my life where I can let go enough to allow it through, sometimes at any rate.

We had discussions in our airbnb about calling ourselves artists. The fear of being judged is still too entrenched to go that far, but I did experiment under my breath with calling myself an art student.. I feel like a kindergarten child in the world of art. But with that feeling come the excitement and wonder of all I have yet to encounter on this wonderful journey.

Fionnuala Langford

May 2019