I’ve been painting this morning. A friend of mine gave me a blank canvass for my birthday and I’m putting it to use today. I haven’t really been painting much before, at least not on canvass with real paints, so it’s something of a new hobby, but I really really like it. There’s something so pleasing about messing around with paint. The freedom of it, the way the brush glides across the canvass, the way something is being created right in front of your eyes.
And, also, it reminds me of my mother.
My mother paints, you see. Lovely watercolours. And it’s something she’s passed on to me. Not necessarily the artistic talent, which she has an abundance of – but the joy in being creative.
As a child we were allowed to – no – we were encouraged to be creative. We’d paint on the window panes of our playroom with watercolours and soap (stops the colours from running). We could paint anything we wanted. No restrictions. Mother would paint a season inspired theme on one of the windows and we’d paint on the other window.
And when it was someone’s birthday, before the party started, she’d cover our enormous kitchen table with drawing paper and draw circles in front of each place and let us draw our self-portrait before sitting down for cake. Sometimes – depending on how messy the paper was after the cake eating was over – she’d cut the self portraits out and give them to each child to take home at the end of the party.
At midsummer she’d use the big roll of drawing paper and let it run right across the kitchen floor, so that my cousin and I could make a huge “Happy Midsummer!” banner. I still remember that feeling of laying or sitting on the floor, just drawing all around me, enjoying being in the painting. When we were done she’d help us take the banner outside and staple it to the front of the house (yup, she actually used a staple gun to nail it to the outside wall of our house!) so that people driving and walking past could see our artwork.
It was never about creating something aesthetically pleasing, it was all about enjoying what you were doing and being proud of what you’d made. For example she insisted on us alwayssigning our artwork, because, no matter what, it was something we had created ourselves and so it was something no one else could have made, something to be proud of.
Unfortunately that is something we often lose as adults: the natural ability to be proud of things we have made. Rather than saying that Yes, this is something I’ve done and I rather like it we tend to quickly brush it over with an embarrassed It’s not very good, is it? Too afraid that people will think we are boasting or blowing our own trumpet, so to speak. It’s sad, really.
The last few days I’ve been working on the cover and layout for a poetry collection. I’ve been really thoroughly enjoying it – it’s been a creative outlet for me – but when the person who is running the project said I should put Cover & layout by Ssomewhere on the booklet I immediately went into Adult Mode and thought that No, I can’t do that. People will think I’m showing off. But then, yesterday, while finalising the layout I thought of my mother and how, despite all of our differences, that is something we do have in common; the joy of creating. And how, no matter how many other things were going wrong, she’d always encourage me to be proud of my art. So there it is now, on the back cover, in black and white: Cover & layout by S. Because, in actual fact it was made by me. And I am proud of it.
So, here’s to the joy of creating and letting your inner child rule the adult you every once in a while!