So.... I’ve been suffering for my art just lately.... again (claps hand wanly to forehead, and sighs deeply in an affected manner. Not really. But I could be doing).
Every so often I feel myself filled with an over-abundance of self-doubt about my ability - usually when I’m beginning, in the middle of, or finishing a painting. So that’s approximately every time I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush, then.
But this time I seem to have been filled with even more than the usual amount. It’s not even as if I’m experimenting with anything different. No, I did that with the last painting, when I took the plunge and delved into the world of mixed mediums (and no, that’s not a reference to confused spiritualists). I’m not even trying to paint anything unusual.
Yet, for some reason, I have got it into my head that the way I paint is now no longer any good, and it’s time to move on up the artistic ladder (hopefully not getting distracted and falling off half-way up), develop my technique, and start painting the way other people do it – ‘other people’ meaning ‘proper’ artists.
You know, the kind who wear smocks and get paint everywhere, who have studios (or at least a space in which to permanently leave out all of their artistic equipment), use an easel, and have a collection of brushes that would have drastically reduced the sable population (or, at least, the tail end, since that’s where the hair comes from, out of which the brushes are made). Oh, and who’ve had basic instruction in watercolour techniques. And I forgot to mention the ‘seriously proper’ artists – the ones who live in a garret, and eat, drink, breathe, sleep, and suffer their art.
Not people like me, who don’t wear smocks or special clothes ‘cos, basically, I am the neatest painter in the world. Even my tubes of paint are clean, and sit in an orderly manner in their original box. And, given the size of my home, I have to paint at my kitchen table, which means there’s no room for me to leave things lying around – unless I want to risk getting food all over my art. I guess it could be a new art-form – painting with mung dal. Mind you, someone’s probably already done it; and it would be so messy (which, as you may have gathered, is something I don’t much care for).
Nor do I have an easel – just a multi-functional, drop-leaf kitchen table. But then I don’t do ‘big’ art: you won’t find me attempting to paint a masterpiece on a life-size canvas. Good thing, too, or I’d be crowded out within a month.
As to my brush collection, it would probably be considered a little on the sparse side, and devoid of all the relevant equipment (since I have very little idea as to what I “should” be painting with – other than it should look like a stick with some soft bristles sticking out the end). The sables can breathe a deep sigh of relief with me around, especially as I’ve recently decided to go the vegan route and buy synthetic instead. I hadn’t realised that they actually kill the animals for their tail hair, as well as their pelts which are used in other goods. I really don’t want ANYONE suffering for my art.
Which kinda excludes me from the ‘seriously proper’ art set: although I do tend to do a lot of suffering – just not quite in the dying-in-a-garret style. For one thing, I love my food and my sleep too much to give it up for painting (although I can lose interest in the one and be deprived of the other when I get seriously obsessed about something). And for another, I’m just too flighty and easily distracted. I’d get bored if I had to spend all of my days just doing art. I’d want to do wood-whittling, or stonemasonry. Vincent Van Gogh I definitely am not.
All of which is tediously familiar territory. I have the same doubts about everything I do. I’m not a ‘proper’ writer because I haven’t written a book yet; I don’t own an extensive library; I don’t read ‘proper’ grown-up literature (‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ are what my tastes run to: along with an occasional foray into the ebook world of erotic romance literature, with which I seem to have developed a peculiar fascination just lately.)
I’m not a member of a writer’s group; I don’t read extensively (except when I go off on one of my web-trawls, and end up reading anything that pops into my view); and I certainly don’t have a study, with a ‘proper’ desk, at which to do my ‘proper’ writing – something I thought at one time was an absolute necessity, if I was ever going to become a ‘proper’ author. As if I’d ever get any writing done, sitting in a room surrounded by shelves filled with books from floor to ceiling!
Now I sit at my laptop, which sits on a desk that used to be a dressing-table, which stands in my living room: and I’m as happy as a seaside donkey wearing a bonnet.
I’m also not a “proper” craftswoman ‘cos my homemade cards look... well... home made. I think that I’m supposed to be aiming for having them look ‘professional’, like the glossy, mass-produced things that you get in card-shops. Except then I wouldn’t actually be able to describe them as being either home or hand-made – which kind of defeats the object, really.
And as for yoga.... I just feel myself to be a fraud half the time, when I refer to myself as a yogi. I’ve never been to a class, I don’t ‘hang’ or even speak with other yogis, yet I’ve somehow managed to bumble through teaching myself with the sole aid of a book (two books, to be precise, by the same author: ‘Introducing Yoga’, and ‘Yoga In Practice’, by Katy Appleton – beginners, and more advanced). As a consequence of which, I have probably taken a lot longer to progress than your average yoga student – what with the added impediment of trying to follow a book with an autistic brain ( I mean that I have the brain, not the book, of course!)
Then there’s the fact that, unlike the ‘proper’ people who do ‘proper’ yoga in their ‘proper’ yoga clothes at their ‘proper’ yoga classes or in their ‘proper’ sacred yoga spaces in their homes, I do mine in my kitchen. Yes – my kitchen. That multi-purpose room where nearly everything creative I do gets done.
My kitchen is my sacred space – a sanctuary to which I can retreat and enjoy the calming influence of yoga... done to the accompaniment of the fridge-freezer merrily gurgling away when it decides to kick into gear; the gas boiler firing up every five minutes; the dulcet tones (I’m being ironic here) of my downstairs neighbour drifting up through the floorboards to gently caress my eardrums, along with the heavenly aroma of his cigarette smoke encompassing me as it, too, insinuates its way into my flat; and the heavy bass of my next door neighbour’s music filtering through the walls, when he has a musical moment.
And not for me a statue of Shiva, Krishna, or even a Buddha to meditate upon and salute to during the Sun Salutation. Oh no. When I bow down, I do so to the ever-present figure of my Hoover Optima Wash System1600 washing machine (they do say cleanliness is next to godliness, do they not?) And I wonder why my journey is taking so long, when I’m surrounded by such an abundance of distractions?
So no, there’s nothing ‘proper’ about me. I’m not even a ‘proper’ person, being autistic and all. But I keep giving it a jolly good try. And, in an attempt to move myself up into the ranks of the “proper” artists’ set, I have been on a wild goose-chase for the last couple of weeks, surfing the internet, trying to find out how to do watercolour painting ‘properly’, whilst not doing any actual watercolour painting at all (it’s my favourite avoidance technique, looking on the web).
And you know what I found? A lot of convoluted confusion, which just added to my anxiety about picking up a paintbrush again. As my friend frequently tells me, the internet is not designed for me, and the answers are not ‘out there’ on the world wide web. Nor are they to be found in a book, or on a DVD, or in a class. The answer is to simply pick up a brush and just paint, and trust the process: stop analysing exactly how do you paint, which does nothing but bring me to a grinding halt whilst my mind kicks into obsessive gear.
I have nineteen paintings to prove that I can paint (most of them on my walls, and all done within the space of a week – that’s how long I’ve ACTUALLY been painting, when you add up the art time I’ve had in my timetable over the last year and a half): but do I look at them as a reminder of what I’ve achieved, and that I can do it? Nope. I look at them and worry that I won’t be able to repeat the process again.
So now I’m proper pissed-off with the whole bloody world of trying to do it properly, when it turns out there isn’t really a proper way to do anything anyway – just a lot of different peoples’ versions of what they all think is proper. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure I know what ‘proper’ means anyway, in this context – other than ‘the way that everyone else does it, which isn’t the way that I do it.’
Therefore, I shall go forth and continue to bumble through with my improper manner, and trust that it’ll all come right in the end. Or not. As the case may be. Depending on how you want to look at things. Perhaps there’s a proper way to look at things that I’m missing out on...?