You may well have already seen my Words page, which is really just a collection of emotional angst and musings I have put into words over the years. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, or perhaps even understanding, but I still classify it as “poetry” nonetheless. Poetry is a form of self-expression that people who do not write poetry themselves might not necessarily “get” or even appreciate; but they will likely have an opinion on it. This is comparable, in my mind, to art. Art is an intensely personal pursuit and it usually evokes a reaction, even if that reaction is negative, confused or affronted.
When creating – writing, painting, drawing, sewing, sculpting – I feel content. That’s not to say that I don’t find it challenging or frustrating at times to try to realise what I can see or what I feel or what I perceive into a creative form. But, when I am undertaking the creative process, I feel like I am doing what I am meant to be doing and time passes incredibly quickly. I imagine it is that same feeling that writers experience when they are pouring out a novel onto a page. Or how architects feel when they are drawing up plans for a building.
I am not saying, however, that everyone who creates must be intrinsically happy, simply because they create things. I am not blinkered to the fact that to feel fulfilled by something you need to feel a passion for what you are doing. But even passion can be categorised. For instance, I may have a passion for fast cars. I may love being driven in them or owning them, but I may not particularly enjoy the act of driving myself. To find something for which you feel an all-encompassing passion – in the thinking, the preparation, the doing and the result – is unique and seemingly unattainable to many. So, when/if you find such a passion, it is not surprising that it will likely slip into obsession.
I was born in Jersey: a stunningly beautiful Island with wonderful beaches, cliff path walks and countryside. Fantastic schools. A thriving economy. I realise I am generalising to some degree but my point is that it appears and sounds idyllic and to most people it really is. But, as with any small island, it can also feel isolating.
My mother was (and now thankfully is, once again) an artist herself. She is technically brilliant, endlessly patient and has an eye for detail that makes her paintings look like photos. I have never personally known anyone who has been able to capture light with paint as beautifully as my mother does.
The thing from my childhood that I am perhaps most thankful for is my mother’s love and devotion to art and how much she immersed me and my siblings in it. My sister, brother and I were brought up drawing, painting, visiting art galleries and museums, and observing my mother painting. Listening to her speak about art she loved and art she loathed made me feel like art was a part of ordinary life – to be discussed, to be reacted to. As I grew older, though, I realised that most people were not brought up with this engagement with or curiosity about the arts.
Nevertheless, returning to my earlier point, most people have an opinion on art, or at least individual works. Even if it’s as simple as seeing a piece of graffiti or a photograph and saying, “that’s cool” or “that’s horrible” – art is everywhere and even if we are not aware of a connection to it, every one of us, on some level, is connected to a surrounding creative landscape.
What I like about art
I would describe my mother’s works as technically accurate and immersive. Viewing her paintings not only makes the onlooker feel as if they are seeing the image in front of them, at the time of day or night at which it was captured, but that they are seeing it through her eyes. I suspect that, because of this ability (seemingly effortless but totally confounding), I have, first and foremost, always appreciated technical ability in artistic pursuits.
That does not mean that I do not appreciate “modern” art. However, to be completely honest, I spent many years of my life describing modern art as a perpetuation of either a) the artist’s ability to con people into believing that an unmade bed is in fact a remarkable piece of art worth millions of pounds, or b) the observer’s foolhardy belief that that truly is the case.
As the years have gone by, I have begun to identify (or perhaps simply to open my eyes to) those artists who have been technically trained and have veered off in a certain direction, and those who have run for the seemingly easy-to-execute artistic hills prematurely.
At this point I must caveat these arrogant assertions by stating that I consider myself to still be in technical training, with a long stretch of study and practice ahead of me. I should also try to illustrate the above statement to some degree.
I consider Picasso and Dali to be the perfect examples of the point I am trying to make. I remember art trips to the South of France and Barcelona when I was studying art/textiles at school. My most distinct memory of those trips was viewing the early works of Picasso and Dali. Up until that point in my life, I had only ever seen the “famous” works of these artists (predominantly in print rather than as originals). If you have ever encountered Picasso or Dali’s early works you will know what I am trying to articulate.
Put simply, both of them could paint and draw with fine, technical accuracy. Whether portraiture or landscape. Or still life. Yet the works these artists are remembered for are their later endeavours – occasionally surreal, sometimes shocking, always extraordinary pieces. This, to me, is what makes them so incredibly special. These were artists who were technically trained and able, who produced work that was (and still is) beautiful and inspiring.
Yet, despite the risk to their reputation and status, they pursued originality and individuality, even though the outcome would be intensely personal and revealing. To me, this is not necessarily what makes an artist – artists are found in all shapes and forms – but it is what I personally perceive as the makings of a great artist: someone whose work will resonate through the years well after they have gone because they have poured an honest and transparent piece of themselves onto their canvas and into the World.