When I was younger, there was a time when I was resentful of being associated with art. I’ve never taken it for granted since, but I was always ‘the arty one’ or ‘good at art’ (by no means am I trying to sound arrogant – I still can’t draw animals), and I didn’t want to be defined by that (insert hipster/pretentious artiste mock here). However, since graduating from university last summer, it’s starting to feel like art, for me, has never been something that has been developed as an association – it’s been the foundation of who I am. Not in talent or skill, but in outlook, in what I really care about.
Art at school
I took art for GCSE and AS/A-level without hesitation. Bar Year 12, where I felt pretty much totally directionless throughout, it was always my favourite part of school. When I wasn’t in another lesson, I was in the art room – at breaks, lunch, after school, and even on weekends during Year 13 when we had access to the room.
Our art room was beautiful – I still miss it now. It had a tall pitched ceiling, with beams running throughout the room, and a strip of windows running along the side of the main teaching area. At one end was my art teacher’s office, a small corridor to one exit, and the photography room, with a huge storage space above (always looked full of junk – signature art room props perhaps). At the other end were the stairs down to the pottery studio, a higher platform, two above storage spaces and this little old nook containing another tiny room for printing and drying. These details sound unexciting, but it was all so old, and such a quintessential art classroom, that I truly felt I was at home there. I think that after I left, not having a space to match that in any capacity is what attributed to growing distant from art.
I chose not to pursue an Art Foundation, which is one of those things that I could regret, but there’s no point, because of how things are now etc. etc. In hindsight it probably would have been a better decision all round – mainly because art, now, is my life goal, in whatever capacity it comes to me in.
Art at university
At university, I majored in English Literature and Creative Writing. While there was a lot about my course that I enjoyed, especially my dissertation, I couldn’t help but envy those with 24/7 access to the art studios. It wasn’t just that, either – especially when I found out that one of my freshers was majoring in Creative Writing and Fine Art. I can’t whine about it though, as I chose my path.
Because of the general madness of uni, I neglected art almost completely in my First year, instead favouring naps and Buzzfeed. I let myself forget about it, and carried that into Second year, when I picked up a pencil once, maybe twice. In Third year things got a little better, as I became close friends with someone who was also going through a bit of a detachment from art in not being able to access it everyday (so it felt like), and so did a few more doodles here and there. However, I boxed myself into completing Third year solely as an English student, and that was all that I focused on.
I don’t think social media helped, really, because I was – and still am – an Instagram addict, using it mainly to look at art and illustration (see my first blog in my bi-weekly post series, Fortnightly Four [https://trogstadart.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/fortnightly-four-hanecdote-bymariandrew-gemmacorrell-adampaints/]). Now it’s beginning to change, but I used to look at Instagram and wonder, with revere, at the artists with beautiful portfolios of work, and the thousands of people who followed them. Rather than being a goal, it became a fixation, but a passive one: I envied those artists as if they’d woken up one day with a tonne of work and the admiration of 30k people. I didn’t do anything about it to get there myself. It took completing my degree to move on from this.
Graduating was very freeing. I was delighted with my degree, and wouldn’t change my university for the world, but from the perspective of getting re-involved with art, it felt great. At this point I was interning for my current full time job, which sapped up a lot more time than anticipated, but it still felt as if I could get more done – because the time outside work is yours to do what you want with, and there aren’t any pressing seminars to prepare for/essays to draft/poems to redraft etc.
Largely, I was more productive. Nothing substantial, but everything I drew felt like a step towards something real, rather than just a strained effort to try and get my affection for art back.
I think this is when I realised how much self-motivation you need to succeed in anything you love: it doesn’t matter how skilled you are at something, but how much you persist at it and how determined you are to succeed in that area, whether being successful to you is catching one carp, or catching the biggest carp the UK has ever seen.
When I say ‘now’, I mean from about October onwards. Once I’d settled into the flat I currently share with my boyfriend, the first step after I’d regained my determination was to allocate a space to create art in. It could be argued that you shouldn’t need a specific space to work in, and maybe some artists can work anywhere, but for me it felt right to designate somewhere that was solely for doing art. This is especially in light of the art room I mentioned towards the beginning of this post – I’m a strong believer in keeping work in one area, rest in another, etc., and therefore this felt like a natural progression, and one that had been strongly missing for the last three years.
Since then, I’ve been focusing on how to get back into art properly. Looking online at other artists, you get what feels like flares of inspiration trailing through you to emulate that creativity. I’ve done bits and bobs with sketchbooks, canvases and random sheets of paper, trying to find my ‘niche’ – my illustrator friend told me that I already have that, because she was worried about the same thing, but suddenly it was obvious to her. I don’t know when, or if, I will feel like that, but that’s what now is for – experimenting and finding out what techniques, styles, medias work for me.
It’s going to be tough, a long journey and more cliche phrases here, but there are three things that I do know going forwards:
- I love life drawing and painting, but I also love writing sassy statements (see ‘bad bitch’ poster above)
- I want to, hopefully, study Fine Art some day
- I always have time for art.