This Saturday I picked up my brushes for the first time in a couple of years and did a live art session for a gallery in Peterborough. I tried hard not to think about it beforehand, because it’s been so long since I did any painting. I needn’t have worried. Turns out it’s a bit like riding a bike. Actually, much of my nerves was about putting myself ‘out there’ to be criticised. When I’ve had pieces in exhibitions in the past there’s always been someone ready to say that abstract isn’t real art or their five year old could do better. It’s one thing coping with one-star book reviews, or even sarky comments in a guest book, and another to have it said to your face.
It didn’t start well, as I misunderstood a joke made by one of the gallery volunteers when he said “It doesn’t matter if you’re rusty – you paint abstracts, no one will notice that you can’t paint.”
I was later assured by the manager that it was a joke, but it did leaving me a bit sensitive. Once I started painting, however, it was fine. I love my painting style and I’m not precious: it isn’t fine art but it is fun. A bit like literary fiction versus genre fiction; there’s lots of snobbery nonsense said about both but in the end people like what they like and we’re all on the same side trying to make a living out of something we love.
The other challenges were the heat (acrylic dries very quickly in direct sunlight) and the evangelicals preaching via loud-hailer a few metres away. So much for a relaxing few hours away from the children: there wasn’t much restful about an afternoon listening to the denouncement of sinners and fornicators. Each to their own, of course, and I’m all for the freedom of speech, but if it had been me I’d rather have sat down the pub with a cool drink.
The best part was talking to all the people who stopped by to watch. I met a lovely couple of singers and encouraged the man to go right now and buy paint, because he kept saying he’d love to try painting abstracts ‘one day’. I met an old lady who loves Lowry and a young girl of seven or eight who will definitely be a children’s book illustrator one day. I wish I’d taken her name. Her mother showed me drawings of giraffes she had done and they were brilliant. I like to think I suggested a career path in illustration that she hadn’t thought of before.
I met a pregnant artist hoping to find time to paint when the baby is born, and a man who apparently comes to the gallery every day, who thought my red painting looked like a volcano erupting.
It was a rewarding day, despite the headache, and I look forward to doing it again. Next time I’ll take ear plugs!