You know when you look at a random looking piece of modern art and say to yourself, “I could have done that!”? Well you didn’t did you? Somebody else did and they can look at the same painting and say “I did do that”. I have looked at so many paintings and told myself “You really should do more of that”. Usually I’m guilty feeling about it.
I’m not advocating for modern conceptual art, far from it! I actually think there is so much rubbish being displayed and nine of the ten men-in-the-street would turn their noses up at it. I do think those nine men might have a point. I spent four years at university realising how subjective the art world and it’s critics can be which left me feeling disillusioned. I had gone to study something I loved the most and left feeling quite a bit less in love which is not a great result for the faculty or my parents who footed the bill. (Truthfully, I was quite a lot in love with my future husband but that’s a story for another day). In an amusing Youtube clip, Paul Joseph Watson speaks eloquently (if you can stand the expletives) on the topic of the modern art world and he makes a lot of sense.
No, I’ve realised something else all together and it happened over a bit of a process. It started about three years ago when one day I decided I’d like to paint the biggest canvas I could find in Wexford. I found one in a Chinese import shop that measures 76cm x 100cm and as it didn’t cost an arm and a leg I bought it. It then sat around for two years after that staring at me blankly. The large whiteness intimidated me and I couldn’t decide what would be a good enough subject to paint that big. This felt like a test that I had one shot at to create something perfect. I also wanted to be able to hang it above our bed to fill a large empty wall space so it had to be something both of us would be able to sleep beneath.
In my quest for the perfect picture I just gave up. I taught art classes to children and part of my preparation included reading about how we develop from children into adults as artists. A large part of how we express ourselves creatively has to do with the messages we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are able to do. These messages are reinforced by what the people around us are telling us too. Children paint so unselfconsciously until they reach the age of about 12 which is when other people’s opinion of them becomes significant.
I needed encouragement both externally as well as internally. A friend of mine helped me accept the fact that because we are created in the image of a Creator, the creative ability runs within all of us even if in some the depths it runs is very deep! It is when we express ourselves creatively whether it be through art, writing or any other medium that we loose ourselves in a wonderful way where time does not exist. Once we have finished we can step back and look with amazement at what came from our hands, at times with a momentum of itself that it hard to explain. The joy and pride in the result brings life to the hidden most parts of ourselves. It’s a child-like place where we are eager to return to. It’s private and unique to each one.
So I decided to paint like a child. I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to end up with, all I wanted to do was to enjoy the sensation of squishing thick oils alongside thin glazes. I desired the most vivid aquamarines, pinks and yellows straight from the tube. I didn’t blend colours properly so that I could be surprised by what happened in spite of me. I didn’t care how it turned out because I wasn’t intending to paint a ‘thing’. So the result is the picture at the top of this post. (It may be apparent in spite of what I said about modern art that I’m a great fan of Rothko) and I loved every minute of painting it.
When I finished I stepped back and said “I did that!”. Unsurprisingly, when I showed it to my husband and kids, the first question was: “What is it?” Haha it’s not a thing! It represents (maybe poorly) a gift I’ve been given. It hangs on the wall above our bed and my husband says he loves it! The beauty of gifts that God gives is that when we use them, they not only bring joy to us but to all those we share them with too. Maybe when we create unselfconsciously, we express more acurately the way He loves us, which is entirely sacrificially.