Do we actually need an art school education? Must we be taught to paint? How long does it take to learn a new artistic skill? And is there any fun to be had in trying? Since taking up visual art, I have experimented with life-drawing, described myself as a Dadaist (sharing their love of photomontage and embroidery) and obsessively painted abstract watercolour landscapes. I’ve even shown work in actual, proper galleries.
You might cynically decide that I am a chancer evading the awkward silence accompanying the phrase: “I studied art,” that I should do my foundation and get poor and grubby like everyone else. I have some basic experience, having recently graduated with a useless research masters from an institution I decline to name, but mine is punk art, currently text embroideries: as Sid Vicious might have said, just get some fucking thread and do fucking stitching. A friend sent a fools-guide to cross-stitch, after which came extravagantly foul language as I sewed my first text based samplers.
For subject matter – how about death and misery? I have written about housing, and realised that conversations overheard on the balcony of my former home might be informative. Eavesdropped dialogues involved murder, suicide, drug dealings, and infidelity. I copied down the heart-rending graffiti found in women’s toilets: “I’ve just been diagnosed with bi-polar. What my gonna do!” I got funny looks when edging closer to capture accurately some surly, mismatched couples speaking in cafes: “…but then, my mum was only fourteen when she had me.”
My first embroideries were completed in a mist of blood oozing from my now pricked-to-the-bone fingertips, sorrow, growing enthusiasm and some surprisingly positive feedback (from certain others there was also beard stroking and bile but let’s ignore that.) I’ve enjoyed some success. At the time of writing, this stunned but proud chancer has a diptych showing at the beautiful Bury Art Gallery, a drawing shown by invitation in Edinburgh and been featured in a book – all just one year after my debut.
Over the next few months, I shall try everything once and then maybe again: performance (boy, do I have plans for that) a wilfully and spitefully languorous artist film, painting pretty pictures of cats, displaying appealing found objects, watercolours, life-drawing, causing critics to say: “…call that painting? My toddler can do better than that!” along with installation, and sound work (my first attempt with the latter involved my friend Sara screaming into a microphone so ferociously that my nose melted) and even the cranium-grinding bane of every artist’s life – proposals and applications.
My life will become a conveyor belt/smorgasbord/tasting menu of artistic experience and practice. I will share my success and failure with you all, ascertaining if technical skill, art-school life and the assistance (shame and vitriol) of those notorious and punitive crit sessions is necessary, or indeed desirable. And so the adventure begins. Pass the turpentine and strap me in.
(Note to self – do not drink the turpentine.)