We all live with some false crutch that we give ourselves – some believe they aren’t good in math, or technology hates them, while others believe that they can’t draw or paint and aren’t artistic. Most of these false realities (learned helplessness) have been reinforced in us during our formative years either by the education system or by family and friends. We may even have tried our hand at something new and not lived up to our own expectations, developing a fear associated with it.
One such false reality that I earlier believed was that I wasn’t artistic. As an engineer, I was taught to get the job done and find innovative solutions to a problem – not necessarily the most aesthetic. In my head, it was black or white – most of us are either artistically inclined or technical, and a gifted few could be both (which I didn’t believe I was).
Sometimes all you need is a little nudge in the right direction
I had just started dating this girl from fashion school and like most new relationships, it forces you to move out of your comfort zone and try new things. One such incident was when she got back from college, she showed me her assignment on Pointillism. It was a beautiful moon and surrounding landscape drawn only with black dots. I was in complete awe of it since I believed I could never do it. She explained how she did it, which seemed pretty straightforward and something a novice like me could do.
Her next assignment was a Jackson Pollock inspired action painting. When I saw what she had done, I didn’t understand it, but immediately loved it. Memories flooded back about the time I was in school and actually enjoyed art class. We had a kind teacher and she was always encouraging. I had even entered this inter-school drawing competition, where I had to prepare something in advance and recreate it in a timed setting. I took the help of my aunt who taught me how to draw this beautiful elephant. I practiced for the event, but when the competition started, I was told that we had to paint it as well. The elephant I drew was great but I didn’t have the skills to paint the elephant. I felt inferior to the rest and was ashamed by this incident. Thereafter I somehow convinced myself that I couldn’t paint.
My entry into the world of art
Amused by my sheer wonder of something which was so trivial to her, she decided to remove a blank piece of A4 paper, some paint and brushes which she had in her bag and showed me the Jackson Pollock technique. My technical brain found it simple enough – just throw the paint on paper. What could go wrong? Before I knew it, the bright red, yellow and white looked amazing on the white background. I had created my first painting in years.
Most of my life, I had convinced myself that I could not paint. I had an unrealistic notion of art and had not taken the time or effort to nurture this skill. With the initial barrier broken, I went and got myself some art supplies and locked my room to create a safe space. Without a thought in my mind, I painted the background black. The feeling of brush on canvas felt amazing. Next with red color paint, I started from the center and created a sort of circular figure with uneven brush strokes. I topped this off with a Jackson Pollock inspired splatter of white paint. The movements and freedom in expression were nothing like I had felt before. I kept staring at it and wrote down my thoughts. Next thing I knew, it turned out to be a poem describing the painting. I had not only created my first painting, but also my first poem.
Eddy – The underwater creature
Fascinated with the abstract style of Jackson Pollock paintings, I started incorporating different mediums and using varied tools to create that motion effect. I turned tooth brushes, coins, straws, syringes, leaves, and anything I could get my hands on into a form of brush I could use. I wasn’t creating these to sell or even to show anyone. I was solely doing it to express something that was inside me through art. I even wrote something pretty much every time I painted.
I spent that entire year learning new forms of paintings from YouTube– anything that was quick and easy and could be done in 30 minutes or less like fluid art, drip art and other abstract art forms. I had even tried getting my friends to try their hand at painting. We each painted a portion of the same painting and when it fell down in a puddle of water (it was during the monsoons), I still loved how it looked and dipped it further in the puddle. I was realizing my taste in art – I loved Abstract expressionism.
Don’t be afraid to copy what you see
People create some really realistic paintings and whenever I had tried creating something tangible and realistic, I felt anxious and that I’m not good enough. Of course it takes time and effort to perfect something real. I spoke to my cousin sister, who was the most artistic person I knew. I told her my problem and she had a simple yet elegant solution. Just copy whatever you see. She took an example of a glass on the dinner table and drew the glass from her perspective and asked me to do the same. That’s it.
Just draw what you see and you’ll develop the basic skills.
That night I looked outside my window and saw the street with the trees and buses parked. I decided to test what I had just learnt and simply copy what I saw. After 15-20 minutes, I looked down on my paper and to my amazement, it was exactly like the street (at least my version of it). She had unlocked another skill within me.
Remove the fear of failing
I started carrying a small book and pen with me everywhere I went. I formed my own style, which was quick and easy. Over the years, I have gradually learnt to add my own creativity to reality. Objects like rocks or other things which looked like birds or mountains could be weaved into a world of its own. I was still rigid in my movements on paper. Seeking advice from people, I tried drawing with more free movements of the hand. Human figures, flowers and other natural designs became more fluid and life-like.
I am still learning and will continue to do so. I have come a long way – from never believing that I had an artistic side, to being open to try any form of art. I no longer have the fear of failing, since I now know that art doesn’t have to be perfect. You can choose to go outside the lines, or stay completely within – as long as your able to be freely express yourself.