tao  •  21 Sept 2022   •  

I scrolled Instagram for the first time in a few weeks and clicked on a cool looking painting, then flicked down and down and down the never-ending stream of artwork.

Often, I judge the art by my own measurement of “Could I do that?” or “I could do that!”. There are some very talented people out there, doing amazing stuff, but I don’t think I could do any of it. Not because I lack the technical ability to draw or paint; it is the lack of ideas or motivation that stops me from even trying.

Malcolm, My art tutor (RIP) used to say to us “It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It could be painted with shit for all I care. It’s the story, the meaning or the message that’s important.” I think he was just frustrated with me. I was happy painting trippy patterns and textures off the top of my head. He wanted Guernica. He knew we had talent, but were all stuck in the high-school method of art. Doing detailed pencil drawings of shells or animal skulls, not thinking big, out of the box.

I wouldn’t know where to start if I took up art again. What would I create? What ideas would fuel my creative process? I would be lost and give it all up too soon.

I looked up from my phone and tried to imagine how or where I would put a canvas to create some kind of experimental work. Dark lines and shapes loomed in my mind. I imagined myself huddled in the garden shed, tripping over the tools and half-empty paint pots. Not the most ideal space to be creative. I imagined filling a sketchbook with a drawing a day, which felt more possible but then I felt stupid; who am I to want to do “art”? The creative process clashes with everything I am now. The boy who lived for drawing and painting all day is long dead.

The truth is that I can’t do art because I can’t be me. I am not allowing myself to be that creative person, too worried about what people might think or say, comparing me to more successful people we know. How can I create when people are looking over my shoulder, even if they aren’t really criticising me?