The older I get, the less I know. The less I know, the more I explore. The more I explore, the more I change, grow and rethink everything I once thought I knew. It is a beautiful, frustrating cycle.
This approach to life has not always been my style. I tried jumping ahead and in the art world, that’s not how you find a style. Yet I tried and tried to be more than I was. As I continued to paint in one particular style, I’d find myself frustrated that it wasn’t turning out as I’d planned, and I’d rush through and switch to another. Then, I would become petrified that I would be pigeon-holed into being the type of artist who painted in one style. There are so many sides to my being that I can’t imagine being just one type of artist. This is where I learned the biggest lesson: everything changes, all of the time. And that is okay.
I had become so engorged in becoming a successful artist, that I’d lost the art. I was producing products but none of it resembled the passion that was inside of me. It was what I thought would sell. I still struggled with this: if I paint something amazing, but it won’t fit into the mass market, there is a certain level of frustrating concern – as an artist-on-the-side, I don’t really have the time to be creating things that aren’t my best. But without the time to explore, what can really be considered my best?
I think that this approach is so very adult. When I visit the kindergarten rooms at the school I teach in, I see these newer humans diving right in. They’re exploring with their full being – no fear. As time goes on, products are expected (by adults! Shocker!) and we (adults) more or less suck their creativity dry. We encourage them to follow their favourite styles of drawing, their favourite subjects and to use their favourite colours. Great. But, what about exploring?
It’s great to be great. I’ve taught art students who are INCREDIBLE manga artists. Some draw the most GORGEOUS flowers. But the point of being an artist isn’t to be great at one thing – it’s to see the world as lines and colour and contrast. If you would like to encourage your child (young or old!) to pursue their creativity, one of the best things you could do, would be to encourage their passions and interests, but to give them opportunities to explore other avenues of art. If painting watercolour landscapes is their forte, dig through the recycling and make a sculpture instead. If drawing manga characters is their main interest, encourage them to develop their characters by painting them in acrylics – it will flex a new muscle and may open their eyes and hands to a new way of being creative.
Being creative is about variety. It’s about switching things up when they become too familiar. There should be a certain level of discomfort when creating – that is where the passion and life in art comes from. It is a beautiful, frustrating cycle, that can become more normal and accepted if it is experienced from a young age.