It was a bright sunny day in April when I decided I wanted to write a lovely blog about art and creativity. And on that day, I also happened to be pottering around in the summer house, putting my daughter’s belongings into boxes after she’d gone off to start her new career.
As I sorted out her stuff, I chewed over this blog post like a toffee.
Please note that I like toffees, but this toffee flavoured blog post was getting really stuck in my teeth.
Wedged in my molars.
Glued to the roof of my mouth.
In my head I knew what I wanted to pen, but every time pranced across to my pad to write it down, the words would stop. My mind went blank. My brain went, “uh-uh. Get back to the sorting the clothes!”
So back to the sorting I’d go. Books, notepads, a textbook on Mandarin, sketchbooks, a box of paints all went begrudgingly into one crate. A kimono, a T-shirt from work, a pair of trainers and two jumpers got flung into the clothing pile …
“Grrr, why is this blog post so hard to write?” I demanded out loud, hands on hips. Picked up a teal pillow with bright magenta flowers, then threw it back down on the bed. “It shouldn’t BE this difficult!”
All I wanted to do was pen a simple little post to say, “Hey guys, look – I’m clearing this space so I can bring all my art stuff in here and make art and call it a studio and be an artist. Whoop-whoop.”
I wanted to explain that my eldest child had moved on and that now I would be claiming a space – for the first time ever – to do my work as an artist.
But every time I went to say that, all I got was … blankety blank paper.
Well, you want the truth?
I the guess the reason why is that … I’m not an artist.
I know – funny hey?
I don’t see myself as an artist. I definitely don’t identify as an artist. I don’t even like thinking of myself as an artist. It’s what I am NOT. Yes, I’m creative and artist-IC, but hell, I am NOT an artist. I know artists. I love artists. I admire and adore and respect artists. I’m not one. Full stop.
So to write a post pretending to be one just went against my values of honesty.
Which is kind of weird.
Because I make art.
Right now I’m in the midst of redesigning the gift products for a local company, with my artwork as the surface design. There’s a massively exciting book illustration project in the pipe-line, just waiting to pop out. I am spending hours each week working on my own visual explorations which are then given form through greeting cards and wall art.
But in my head, I’m NOT an artist.
I’m just making some pictures for a thing.
I sat down on the bed, in between the box that I’d put my daughter’s books into and another that was filled with ornaments and records and weird shit that 22 year old girls hoard and that I don’t need to tell you about here.
And sitting there, I thought about being a kid and how I have always been a creative. I’d paint, draw, collage, doodle on walls, graffiti, pen poetry, make puppets, script productions, write novels. My favourite thing was to write books, bind them and illustrate them.
And somewhere, around the age of 5 to be precise, I became attached to the very seductive dream of one day being a writer. Being a writer felt breathlessly noble and powerful and serious. To be a writer meant that I could travel the world, make a treasure troves of money and be famous. I declared to my parents, “I’m going to be a writer when I grow up.” And they smiled happily at that.
Permission was officially granted.
From that moment onwards, I became completely comfortable calling myself a writer.
Art played second fiddle. Art was the support role. Art was like the overlooked, Harry Potter-style, stick it in the cupboard under the stairs and don’t take it seriously poor relation of writing. Art supported the writing. The pictures illustrated the story. The drawings were just shadows of the words.
And yet art always hung around. It came and saved my financial backside when the writing proved not to be as lucrative as it had made itself out to be. Art attracted opportunities – and people. It loyally stuck with me through thick and thin and it’s still here with me today. Art, I realised as I sat there, was like the invisible, overlooked, devalued, unmet, unnamed, disowned part of myself.
It was a wild creature that I’d discarded but yet it had remained loyal all this time. And now I was attempting to let it in and make it acceptable, but it was actually quite traumatised and … well, a bit hairy and in need of a good meal. And probably fucking pissed off with me after years of devaluing it so badly.
So, there I was stuck between two boxes full of 22 year old girl stuff, 42 years old in my own life and a bad, BAD mother to my artistic tendencies.
I walked across to the pad on the drawers. I picked up my pencil. And wrote:
“I know I’ve been a bad mother to you, Art. In fact, I don’t know if I’m an artist, but I do have a feral, cast aside creative creature that lives in me. It’s going to need some love and a bit of coaxing. Anyway, that’s who this summer house is going to be for: my Artistic Creature. Her.”
And so – there you are. Blog written. Ha.
The Summer House is for my feral, neglected, angry, ferocious, soft, loving Artist.
And because the writerly side of me also get’s angsty if she’s not involved, this blog will document – in words - the journey of that feral Creative. If I go quiet on here, it means the writer is sulking. If the words disappear, the art will keep coming. I hope!
I also hope you’ll hang out.
And that you’ll bring your feral Creative to say hi, too.
(Since writing this post and not publishing it back in April, there's been a whole journey that's opened up around the Feral Creative in us all. Will be reporting on a weekly basis from today onwards. Xx)