You’ve wanted to paint for years – but always filed it away as a nice thought, one that can wait until say… you were older? Until you realise you’re already there. And once you’ve declared your interest in the craft to an old friend over coffee, you’ve already painted yourself into a corner, because friends being friends, listen.
Then, because they know you’re easily scared of easels, they wrap you in their best intentions and ensure you have the details: time, place, email contact, phone number, address and times. Now you’re driven by both interest and obligation.
So one sunlit morning when autumn refuses to bow to winter, you stand at the entrance of a community hall filled with creations that deserve to be in an art gallery. Right there, inadequacy doesn’t begin to describe what you feel. Panic and a desperate need for retreat do. I could try the ‘sorry wrong place’ excuse but there’s this A4 drawing pad in my hand…
I’m welcomed in, settled in a seat and offered all sorts of tips aimed at stimulating the imagination.
“What do you paint?” somebody asked.
“Stick men” I said, hoping this would lower expectations. But no. A woman took me through the way in which even cotton bud matchstick men could help make a canvas different.
We sat down and drew – guardedly in my case as if I was in an exam room and somebody was looking over my shoulder trying to cheat. Two hours whizzed past and then I had to reveal my questionable creation to an encouraging, if puzzling chorus of approval.
Regardless of what I’d attempted though, they had quite literally opened my eyes. Everything I’d seen and heard from them remained. As I went home and in the days after, I began to look at colours and patterns in ways I’d never done before. Along with that I also knew that I knew nothing. So I returned to a book on the basics of drawing, one given to me more in hope than anything else a year or two earlier.
A blank canvas, like a blank page can be daunting and that day it was comforting to see I was not alone. Another newbie arrived after me, clutching her handbag and standing at a safe distance from the doors, as if some force field held her at bay. She was Asian and shyness was only one of the hurdles she had to overcome. While staring intently at the ground, she did say she was an artist, and that yes she would come… another time.