Two weeks ago I signed up for Effy Wild’s Book of Days Programme. It’s an art programme in which participants use mixed media to create an Art Journal – at the end of the year each of them should have a book (or a number of books) which journals their journey through the year. She teaches how to bind your own book and cover it – and she demonstrates different techniques for decorating it.
Now, for those of you who know me well, I’m sure you’ve spotted a number of flaws here. Art, for one. Weekly journaling, for two. Commitment for three. And that’s not even all of them! I last did ‘art’ at school in 1973 (Tech Guy wasn’t even born then) and I don’t remember doing particularly well. I have two sisters – one was ‘the musical one’ and the other was ‘the arty’ one. I was the eldest!
I have done crafting. When I was suffering from depression, making cards helped me through it. So I can cut out paper and shapes. I can trace pictures. I can stamp and I can colour in the images. But ART? (On my face I am currently sporting a frown and a mouth that is twisted into an expression of disbelief and doubt!) I don’t think so. Plus, my crafting is clean. I don’t do mess. Double sided tape instead of sticky glue. Pencils or felt tip pens instead of icky paint that might mess my tabletop or, worse, my hands.
But all these lovely ladies out there on the interweb tell me that I can do anything I choose. If I want to be an artist I can be. I’m told I should play, have fun, engage my right brain. Well, I am extremely left brain. I like common sense, logic, being in the box. Too much right brain leaves room for ‘getting it wrong’, for ‘not being as good as others’. I’m not very good at that. It scares me.
So I signed up for Effy Wild’s Book of Days Programme. And I love what she does. I love what she produces. I love the amazing pages that all the other participants produce. Art from the Heart. And I despair. How will I ever be able to do this? I know nothing of paints, papers, which goes with what, how to get the desired effect – or even what the desired effect is. And with this in mind I signed up again. This time for an art class at a local college. Eight weeks to get a feeling for painting and sketching. ‘Do I need to bring anything with me for the first class?’ I ask. Just some pencils and paper. Aaargh! What type of paper – watercolour, cartridge or something else? What is the difference anyway? What kind of pencils – colouring pencils or just graphite? 2B or not 2B? That is the question.
Perhaps you can see where my problem is.
I bought a book to start my Book of Days. A gorgeous, spiral bound, square, hardback book. I opened it to begin and here’s where the brick wall appears. That same imaginary, impassable wall that plants itself in front of me when Tech Guy goes online to update our finances – or worse, when I go online to update mine.
It’s not futile. It’s bloody hard and it’s annoying. It’s disabling and it’s disempowering and it eats at your soul – this invisible bully who laughs when you begin to reach out for that joy. Who seems to be able to put things just out of arms length – just outside your comfort zone. And when you stretch that far the voice gets louder. ‘WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? EVERYONE WILL JUST LAUGH AT YOU, THERE’S NO POINT TRYING, YOU’LL NEVER BE ANY GOOD ANYWAY’.
And in writing this the realisation occurs that the point is not to be any good. The point is to enjoy. If like me, you grew up in a family culture where nothing you did seemed good enough – where getting 99% in a test didn’t get praise, it got the question ‘what happened to the other 1%?’ or when colouring in was criticised because you coloured out of the lines – you may have developed the defence of thinking that if you don’t try, you won’t fail, because the only thing that’s important is getting it perfect. And if you can’t make it perfect then you’ve failed. But if you don’t try, neither will you succeed. So move the goalposts. Ask, ‘can I undertake this experience with nothing in mind other than enjoyment?’
This is my challenge for my BOD spread this week – to convey resistance and to consider how to break through it.
Well, I brayered acrylic paint. I drew and cut out a picture. I sizzixed some letters and printed and cut out others. I tore paper and stuck it down (with my fingers) and I painted on my hands!!! Then I drew and stuck some more. And this is what I got.
And guess what? I didn’t die. No-one told me it was wrong. I am happy with the result – and I enjoyed it!
Bring on tomorrow’s art class!