Moments that changed my relationship with art (Part 2)
What if your supposed art style starts to choke hold you?
Every now and then something happens that changes the way you think about art and the whole art making process. These moments usually creep up on you when you least expect it. In 2018 there was a moment that changed my philosophy about making art in a significant way. Something that I would still, to this day, continue to remind myself of. But to get there, we first need to take a tiny step back.
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When I first started to make art again, one of the art materials that I discovered and immediately fell in love with was ink. Standard black indian ink. My first pot was one of those from Winsor & Newton with the spider drawing on it. I loved exploring this versatile medium. Using a dip pen and drawing with it. Watering it down into different shades and painting with it. I even joined in for a few Inktobers. At one point I started using it to sketch on location, for urban sketching. People thought me brave, taking along a pot of ink that could so easily leak into your bag. But I loved the ink and the ink loved me and to this day has never acted out and leaked into my bag.
I became known for making black and white ink paintings and sketches. When someone asked to buy one of my paintings it was always the black and white ink ones. At first I felt encouraged to hone down and turn this ink thing into my “style”. And then there is also the fact that the Instagram algorithm really likes it if you make the same thing over and over again. But at some point it started to feel stifling. I started to feel a lot of pressure to make a very specific type of art in a specific style. Over and over and over again. And it felt like something inside of me died. Don’t get me wrong, I love using ink. I love painting with it. Dipping sticks into the pot and making marks. Using chinese brushes to make strokes with gradients. But the idea of being limited to just this one material, because it was my supposed style, was sucking all of the life and joy out of me.
I started to feel a lot of pressure to make a specific type of art in a specific style. Over and over and over again.
Then on the 1st of September in 2018 we had a National Sketch Day in Rotterdam. The evening beforehand I was packing everything that I would need for the day, art supplies being the most important thing of course. I was holding my beloved pot of ink and just feeling nothing. No excitement. No joy. In that moment I decided that this was not the way I wanted to live, being a slave to an art style. It was time to rebel. I am going to take and use the supplies that make me happy, the ones I feel excited to use. The ones that make me want to make more art. I don’t care if the art I make with it sucks at first. I’m not scared of it, because I know from experience that you can only get better at something if you actually practise it. So I packed my watercolour set and my inktense pencils. (Yes, I know the word ‘ink’ is in there.) And then to cement this new found freedom, I went to the art supply store just before the event started and added a few extra colours of the intensely colourful pencils to my kit.
In that moment I decided that this was not the way I wanted to live, being a slave to an art style. It was time to rebel.
I had fun that day. I love the sketches that I made. Not necessarily because they were my best sketches, but because they landmark a significant event in my life.
At one of our sketch days in Haarlem, the lady who leads the group made a comment about my work: She said that I am always searching, always pushing for more. And that is true. I am always experimenting, always exploring new ways to do things, trying out new art materials, testing out new ideas. When I decide that I want to get better at a specific aspect of my art, I figure out a bunch of exercises to help me do just that. This is something that drives my art forward. Knowing that I will never arrive. Knowing that I will never get bored, because there will always be another thing to improve on, another thing to learn, another thing to explore or experiment with.
This is something that drives my art forward. Knowing that I will never arrive. Knowing that I will never get bored, because there will always be another thing to improve on, another thing to learn, another thing to explore or experiment with.
Once again the thing that changed my whole relationship with art making wasn’t something external. It wasn’t a new skill or technique I learnt. It was something internal, something that changed inside of me and the way I thought about the art making process. A realisation. A decision. And it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made.