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How I got into art

By Cherrie, Nov 16 2015 11:33PM

Looking back, I think the roots of how I got into art lie in my childhood, which was both creative and colour-filled. Despite growing up in the ‘70s I don’t remember much brown, beige or avocado in our home. But I do still clearly recall many of the colours from my early years:

• At aged two and a bit, the bright yellow peeler my Mum was using to peel an orange not long after my brother was born.

• The little red painted wooden wheelbarrow I helped my Dad to transport manure from our front drive up the path to the back garden.

• A pair of purple flared trousers I often wore to Sunday School

• The emerald green pedal racing car my brother and I played with.

I showed an early flair for drawing. One of my first pictures that attracted praise was a heron drawn in felt tip pen on shiny paper that Dad had brought home from work. We didn’t have a TV when we were growing up so had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. Whether it was colouring, copying Sad Sam pictures, painting by numbers with those ridiculously small pots of oil paint, making candles or performing home-grown plays with my friends in our front room, I usually had some sort of creative project on the go.

I studied art at school and created several unusual pieces. There was ‘Pollution’, a painting and collage featuring computers, bits of litter and cigarette butts I’d picked up from the street. ‘Metamorphosis’ was a somewhat lurid construction made out of an old sock and ‘Rise and fall’ was a snakes(!) and ladders board created with paint and PVA glue mixes. Alas, I received little encouragement from my art teacher and after leaving school didn’t pursue art any further.

After university, frequent holidays to Cornwall reawakened my interest and inspired me to start painting so I went to evening classes at the local college. It grew from there really. I’ve continue to do short courses at the St Ives School of Painting and Newlyn School of Art.

My paintings are typically characterised by rich colours and strong textures, sometimes I find composition a little more challenging! I enjoy the freedom that comes with painting and the exciting possibilities that a blank canvas or board presents when I embark on a new painting. Sometimes I begin a new piece with a clear idea in mind, at other times colour is the starting point, and everything else flows from there. There are strong references to geology and the natural environment in some of my work.

I think creating art is as much about having the confidence to just give it a go than necessarily having all the technical skills or a formal art education. People often tell me they could never paint and that I’m really clever to be able to create what I do. I disagree and challenge them to give it a try. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t like what they paint, throw it away and never pick up a paint brush again. On the other hand, they may feel the excitement that I felt as a child when opening a new tin of beautiful crayons or a bumper pack of felt tip pens in every colour, and end up becoming an accomplished artist.

When I first started painting I expected to create work I was pleased with every time and was disheartened when I didn’t. I soon realised that it’s as much about the creative process, or perhaps more, than it is about the end result. For every painting I’m happy to frame and put on the wall or share with others, there are several in the discard pile.

I’ve also learnt that knowing when to stop is vital. In many respects I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but that doesn’t sit comfortably with my style of artwork. It’s so very easy to overwork a painting and I often do. Frequent cups of tea are essential, providing a moment to take a breath, step away from the canvas and reassess.

Me with my wheelbarrow transporting manure
Me with my wheelbarrow transporting manure
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