Collapse the Box!
I was tootling around the Internet the other day, as you do, and somehow I wound up on one of those sites where people can ask questions and random people can answer.
Some young girl had just started painting in watercolour, and she asked “How can I add white to a painting? Should I use ink? Acrylics? Pastel? What do other people do.”
(This is a common problem with watercolour – because it’s transparent, you can’t add white watercolour paint on top of colours. Well, you can, but all you get is a muddy version of your original colour).
Anyway, some lady, obviously replete with years of experience, answered as follows:
“Real artists don’t add white in this way. Instead they plan ahead and leave white spaces on the paper.”
I don’t know this woman, but I wanted to slap her anyway.
Like there’s some kind of real artists club, and she is the gatekeeper!
Listen to me, random Internet lady … I am a real artist and I add white to my paintings all the time. I use white guache, white ink, white pastel, white anything-I-can-get-my-hands-on. Then I paint over it and scribble on it with coloured pencils and black ink and whatever else I have to hand.
And when I’m done, I might load white acrylic onto a toothbrush and flick it all over my painting. Just to spite you!
I’m joking (partly) but here’s the thing …
One of my favourite quotes about art is by the street artist Banksy, whose simple advice is:
“Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a f******* sharp knife to it.”
I can’t count the number of people who’ve told me that they used to love painting or drawing or sewing or sculpting or whatever … but then they stopped because this or that person told them they were doing it wrong.
So they quashed their instincts, and stopped being innovative, and learned to do whatever was expected of them, to draw within the lines, to always, always think INSIDE the box.
And isn’t that true of life in general?
We all learn to stay within the lines. We learn what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. We get trained to conform. And to never ever show our true selves for fear of rejection.
But here’s what I’ve learned …
I started out creating conformist art.It followed the rules. It looked pretty. It was safe and conventional.
But it was boring.
So, to alleviate the boredom, I started experimenting … trying new media, new techniques, new ideas …. some worked and some didn’t, but all of a sudden I felt like I was actually alive. Like every day was a little adventure, because who knew what I’d discover next?
And the more I experimented, the more I poured my own over-emotional, too-caring, disorganized, chaotic, funny, introverted, anxious, mixed-up personality into my paintings, the more people wanted to buy them.
And even if they didn’t, even if I never sold a painting again, it wouldn’t matter. Because creativity of any kind is all about the journey and not the destination.
A bit like life.
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