Look, art is difficult. I am not by any means the first or the only one to say it and I won’t be the last. Whenever I hear or see this mentioned, I want to nod my head like a woodpecker on high speed.
It takes a tremendous amount of introspection, dissociation, persistence, patience, and probably just plain don’t-give-a-damn weirdness to make art. On the other hand, it is also child’s play, which can be pretty hard to achieve once you’re past the age of about ten – just ask Picasso*.
The process and the results can be either extremely frustrating and disappointing, or deeply, soul-wrenchingly satisfying. Or both.
But art isn’t all heart and guts. It is also bone structure and skin and hair and a face, although not necessarily a pretty one. Art has a surface and it’s called technique. The good news for all struggling wannabes? Technique can be learnt. And practice makes near enough perfect for my liking.
Now I am not a full-time professional artist. I am not even part-time, since my creative down-time has to be divided between visual art and writing, and then subdivided into drawing and painting, poetry and prose, and again subdivided into realistic and more abstract, Afrikaans and English, and then... You get the idea. I can’t even presume to take an artist’s holiday (see Julia Cameron**), as this would be a holiday from a holiday. I’m more or less artistically schizophrenic.
The point is, I have spent the past three or more decades pottering in and out of art and I have always envied the apparent ease with which real artists could make pen or pencil or paint do exactly as they wanted to. Other writers could sit down for hours on end churning out words by the thousands, while I struggled to fill one page or stay put for more than an hour at a time. Other artists wielded their craft with the authority of the pros they are on a daily basis, while I had half a sketchbook of mediocre images after years.
But now, as if overnight, all the years of ambling along seem to have paid off. Those weekly walks around the drawing block have strengthened by muscles. The five-minute finger exercises have strengthened my hand.
I am no genius, no master, but I am better than I was. I have become writing fit. I have become drawing fit. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I can do that five-day hike and I won’t slip on the slopes. Eye and ear and heart and hand all aligned, fighting fit.
So keep going, because see, after all, it’s easy. (But oh, boy, is it difficult!)
* Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. Pablo Picasso
** The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron