I have painted for as long as I can remember. As a family we painted the outhouses in the garden together and Dad let us start with large brushes and pots of white paint. I found this liberating and, when eventually all the surfaces were covered and tidied up, I felt on top of the world!
For me creating has always been a necessity and a compulsion, I felt the need to draw anyone or anything around me. As a creative person I'm sensitive, vulnerable and exposed but I continue to paint because it makes me happy, balanced and satisfied.
I had my first solo exhibition at the age of 14 at school and I was elated when a teacher bought a painting for £40, which was a lot of money in 1974! This belief in my work was a confidence builder and, throughout my career, which started in the ruthless world as a designer, I always sought to improve. As so many artists and designers do, I struggle with comparison, asking myself questions like: “Am I good enough?". It's not always easy, especially when I'm in pain with my disability. If I don't paint for a while I feel uneasy, sometimes low and I recognise this as a feeling that can be easily addressed.
The creative process can be challenging and frustrating, especially having high expectations of myself, but other times it brings overwhelming happiness.
Creating is a joy, it is both fulfilling and always a unique experience.
A sense of wellbeing
Painting always provides me with a sense of wellbeing, balance and serenity. Becoming lost in the moment, absorbed and completely immersed in an artwork gives me equilibrium and calm. Drawing and painting is in my blood, in my soul and I love the challenge of navigating my way from an initial concept to a finished piece.
As artists, when we show our work, we are exposing ourselves to potential criticism, ridicule, comparison and our own inner questions of whether our work is good enough, brave enough, beautiful enough or whatever we have set out to achieve. However, it is also exciting to show our work and when viewers respond with positivity and enthusiasm, it's a wonderful feeling.
Artists are often considered as having a “talent”, but I believe that everyone can create and that some of us have been creating throughout our lives. I now hold occasional painting workshops with adults and am always surprised by the number of times I encounter lack of confidence and doubt in my students. Often this can stem from a teacher at school having told a student that they weren't good enough. Small children don't have these hurdles and so naturally practice unconscious creation.
Art is about seeing
For me art is about seeing. When I was 4 years old I told my mother that the leaves were dancing and I danced along to the rhythm of the breeze, before drawing them in chunky crayons on rolls of unused wallpaper. She told me, many years later, that how we look at the world and ourselves is paramount to how we deal with times that aren't always buoyant. For me, with the disability that I've had for over 30 years, creating is something I can always do, even from my hospital bed. It has taken me a long time to realise that not everyone understands what I do and, if they don’t, that's totally fine.
I am lucky to have worked in the creative industry all my life, as a fashion designer, colourist, illustrator, gallery and shop owner and artist. There is rarely a day that goes by when I am without my sketchbook and pencil!
Putting ourselves and our work ‘out there’ for all to see is brave, because we risk occasionally being knocked back. Getting back up and continuing is what makes us artists, always pursuing something, always wanting to be better or to discover more.
Identity, self-esteem, self-worth and self-image are all tied up in the way that I express myself creatively even if this is subconscious. The best feeling is being lost in the creative process and feeling enlightened, enriched and euphoric when in flow but anxiety, mood swings and doubt are always just around the corner. Getting up every day and going into the studio isn't always easy as a professional artist with a list of commissions on the books, but once the artwork has begun I find that the magic happens and I'm in a world of my own. Then it becomes an absolute joy.
I live in a vulnerable space and I show up continually because something inside me drives me forward. Thinking time often exceeds painting time and dictates how I sell my work. Above all I paint because I always have and always will.