“No live organism can continue, for long, to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
At the start of 2017 I undertook my first art course in over 4 years. It was challenging to say the least, and by the end of my first day there I wanted to quit. I felt at such a disadvantage to the other artists there because they were all so experienced and, already working in their own unique styles, that everything I produced felt contrived and false. I texted my friends saying I wanted nothing to do with the course and even though I was adamant about making my point to them about quitting, the only person I was fighting was myself. Anxiety and my lack of self-confidence got the better of me that day, but I knew I had to power through. I knew I had to commit and tell myself that I could do it, and could better myself, and in the end I discovered a side of myself that I had longed for far longer than I had known.
I rediscovered what I loved about Art, and how it made me feel safe and free. I rediscovered how to escape.
I spent 3 months in a studio in Shoreditch with a group of outstanding artists and models all working and creating. I was so wrapped up in my own mind and my own insecurities that I hadn’t even thought about how everyone else there was likely feeling the same. There was a lady on the course whose work was so profoundly inspiring to me that during each break I would make a beeline to her easel to see what magical image she’d conjured. It wasn’t for a couple of weeks before I’d gathered up the courage to actually speak to her about her work that I discovered she too felt at a loss with her art, and that she was on this course doing the exact same thing that I was: trying to rediscover myself through the one thing that has felt secure in all the uncertain times of my life. She said that feels rusty and that her work wasn’t making her happy; that it was a chore to draw. This threw me wildly as, to me, her work was extraordinary. I felt the same however, and we found this mutual ground upon which we formed a friendship over. And over the remaining weeks we became each other’s personal critics; we didn’t always agree but we were working on our art together and this made me want to continue, it made me want to better myself.
A year later and I look back on that course so fondly because it really lit a fire in me that had been burnt out for so long. I saw myself improving week to week, my lines more fluid, my proportions more accurate, and by the end of those 3 months I understood what I wanted to pursue and how I was going to do it.
I well and truly valued the words of my tutor, he stood behind me and my easel on the third class and said “your lines are too stiff, you’re controlling your lines and creating what you want to see instead of what you’re really seeing”. And then muttered six words to me. Six words that struck a chord in me harder than anything else I’ve learnt, and it’s a mantra I’ve lived by for the last year.
“Let go and follow the body”
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