I’m about to go on holiday and have had a hectic few days getting ready. Cup of tea in hand, I went to sit in the garden for a break and found my mind wondering to my art and trying to pinpoint when it went from hobby to something much more serious.
Perhaps I was always serious from the word go. For starters I never do much by halves and when I first started painting I was constantly frustrated by not being able to do this technique, not understanding that one, how on earth do you get the paint to produce that? I bought so many ‘How To’ books which for the most part were not very helpful. I think when you are right at the beginning you need a teacher in the flesh to help you. You Tube videos certainly helped more than the books but not always. With anything new you have a new language to learn, in practice as well as verbally and it can be very difficult to properly absorb ideas until you get a good basic smattering of that language nailed down. Learning is so difficult for the impatient and that probably means most of us! Thankfully there are many workshops and courses out there but always, always, they only take you so far.
In no time at all I was looking at Fine Art degrees and the like but when you get to that level the plain old business of painting seems to go out the window and it all gets far more theoretical when all I wanted was good painting skills. When I finally did find a year long course to teach this it was very expensive and I was paralysed trying to work out if I could afford to do the course, and if so, was it all a bit over the top for a hobby, no matter how much I enjoyed it? However, I kept feeling frustrated by not making the progress I wanted and coming back to the course repeatedly but unable to commit myself.
Two factors helped me make the decision to proceed. My mother died, and the following year after 8 months of being very unwell, I had triple by-pass surgery. My mother’s life had been one of struggle, disappointment and very much one unfulfilled despite many attempts by various family members to persuade her to broaden her horizons and enjoy life. That, and shockingly facing my own demise at a relatively young age owing to rogue genes, gave me a whole new perspective on what things are important in life and how true is that old adage, “you only live once”. It was a gift really because now I always weigh a thing up based on what happiness it will bring into my or another’s life, rather than any other kind of return. Whilst painting is unlikely to make me a living or even pay for itself with regard to courses, workshops, materials and so forth, it brings so much joy into my life in a multitude of ways and gives me the most powerful means of self expression that I’ve ever had. Every application of paint on the canvas is followed by questioning whether it makes me feel good or not and what I don’t like gets covered up. So, in terms of whether it’s a path worth following, for me, it’s a no-brainer.
Of course, once that year was over I was looking for another way to get to the next level and it became apparent to me that this is how it will always be. I want to take my painting as far as it can go. Sharing, exhibiting and selling it, is all part of growing and improving and constantly pushing it on. There are always amazing teachers out there to encourage you, fellow artists to inspire you as well as help on their journeys, and viewers whose enthusiasm invigorates and stimulates ever better work. I can’t tell you what a far happier and more content person I have become measuring my decisions against how much love and joy can result rather than more materialistic or practical concerns that have a habit of sorting themselves out anyway. Life without happiness and joy is no life at all and not how I am going to live my life. My only regret is that I didn’t come to this realisation far sooner!
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