arty play
15 @ 40 // day one

15 @ 40 // day one

“You don’t understand what art is, and having supplies doesn’t make you creative”

In a busy year seven art class, the words weren’t heard much past those sharing a table with me. I doubt the teacher who said them would even remember my name, never mind the specific incident where she spoke those words to me. Years later, one of those friends who shared that table asked me if I’d always been artistic, and I repeated what the art teacher had said, and even having been right there when it was said, she had zero recall of that moment.

And yet, twenty eight years later, those words continue to echo throughout my creative practice. I even mention it in this mornings podcast, when talking about my mini rectangles 100 Days project. “I’m not an artist, just ask my year seven art teacher”.

Those words have held significant power over me for the better part of three decades.

I have internalised them to the point of self-sabotage. I drew a charcoal portrait, my first attempt at a drawn portrait, that was a pretty decent replication of a photo I shot of my child. And then never touched those pencils again. I painted an oil painting, my first oil, and first painting something semi-true-to-life, that still hangs on the wall of a friend’s craft room. Eleven years later I haven’t once touched my oil paints.

I am not artistic. Just ask my year seven art teacher.

And yet, my heart yearns to make, to create, to see magic made real and visions made tangible.

I am not artistic.

Three decades since those words were spoken. For half of that time, I have been in this space, making, exploring, creating…but creating in safe ways. Ways that require a pattern and and clear path and a set outcome.

I am not artistic.

I’m crafty. I am not artistic.

Just ask my year seven art teacher.

And then, after not consciously thinking of those words for quite some time, last week, the lovely Kimberley of Lacelit posted a prompt. Step two, pick a phrase, was what caught me first, and started this piece with those words – FRAMING MY THOUGHTS. Step one is what informed my process – UNSEEN

Step three was to set a timer for 15 minutes, but my non-artistic creative heart had already heard the call. I knew, almost immediately, how I wanted to pull these prompts together. Those words, long internalised and mostly living in my subconscious, floated to the surface.

I am not artistic. I was sure as heck going to art out all the feels those words make me feel.

Layers, lots of them, and mostly incomplete were key to this piece. Starting with a small piece of kraft card, I pulled out my favourite lead pencil, and wrote. I wrote how those words sounded to twelve year old me and I wrote how forty year old me still feels them. I wrote of experience and exploration and the power of words and the power of letting go.

One layer in, I realised this piece would be more than a snippet of my history. I realised it was catharsis in action.

Over the top of those words, I glued gel prints, dark purples and dark teals and dark rust orange. Pieces of classic literature. A strip of dictionary index. Not covering the words completely, but a bit. A scraped layer of white gesso, some gelatos & pencil. Marks made, adding to the story, not taking over. Paint, those teals and purples made lighter now. Stamped text, for years of writing my way through my creative journey. Modelling paste, laying down texture to be felt through the layers still to come. A luggage tag, a label for the baggage we carry. Some die cut frames, framing my thoughts of the past, and my thoughts of now. Stamps designed for project planners, some of the ways I like to play. Alcohol ink, offering tribute to the messy and imperfect creative process. A layer of vellum, obscuring most of those layers, but not entirely. And yet, just off to the side, away from the main action of the piece, that little voice that likes to whisper….

You are an imposter.

Because of course I am. I am not artistic.

No matter how many layers I add, the layers below bleed through. Even going into the creation of this piece, knowing what I was wanting to create, I had no idea how powerful it would be. With each layer, as I felt my way through the piece of the puzzle I wanted that layer to tell, I could feel the story I told myself shifting.

I’m not artistic. But I’m making something art-adjacent.

I’m not artistic. But I’m using paint to express emotion.

I’m not artistic. But today is the day I stop letting those words define the boundaries of my creative exploration.

Today marks fifteen years since I hit publish on my very first blog post. In the decade and a half since, blogging has changed, my creative process has changed, our family has changed…I have changed. From a 25yo mother of one toddler and a baby on the way, to a 40yo mother of four rapidly becoming the shortest person in our family, the last decade and a half has seen so much personal and creative growth, and the blog stands witness to much of the process.

Today’s post is part of my “FIFTEEN AT FORTY” project, a fifteen day, fifteen project, celebration of creative exploration, to mark my fortieth year and my blog fifteenth. The journey so far has been amazing. The creation of the pieces I plan to share with you over the next fifteen days has been a revelation. I am brimming with inspiration and motivation for what is still to come.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.