By Gill Harrison
In primary school art class I repeatedly turned even the most promising of my paintings into one big brown blob. Instead, my childhood strengths showed in the classroom. This, along with my persistent brown blobs led me to a predictable stereotype: ‘Academic’. To me this also meant ‘Not Creative’.
It’s tragic that the labels of our youth follow us through life.
Years later and I’m sitting in a five-day sculpture workshop. The words ‘Not Creative’ loop in my mind. I stare at my abandoned drill and wire cutters, at the colored fabrics and scraps of paper, at the incomplete wire shapes I’ve attempted. The brown blob begins to seep in, especially as I watch the other work-shoppers already transforming scrap metal into tea cups and old t-shirts into baskets.
So with the ghost of Art-Class-Past lurking, I call out to our mentor artist, “Help! I’m stuck.”
But the help, when it came, took me off-guard.
“Draw me your mind” said the artist.
Huh? Did I mention I’m not the creative type? I can’t draw! But the Artist simply repeated:
“Draw me your mind.”
So I found myself that evening – 5000 kms from home – gazing into a borrowed view, wondering where to begin. The blank A4 page intimidated me; I missed the predetermined order of my evenly lined writing journals.
Thank goodness for red wine. The second glass relieved my fear and I found I could finally yield my writer’s pen in a new way. I drew a series of unrelated lines. Some jagged. Some straight. Some thick. Some thin. Hairy lines. Smooth lines. With each new line my direction became clearer; my mind felt full of disconnected thoughts. I didn’t know how to join the materials. I didn’t know how to connect my ideas.
The next day my simple drawing became a blueprint and three days later I had joined together a series of wire lines and fabrics. I’d shaped my disconnected lines into a circle, and twisted these to make a sphere shape. Like a ring with no beginning. No ending.
I had finally got past the brown blob.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “creative” as: relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something. Not, as my childhood-self believed, being able to draw the perfect Garfield (I couldn’t).
Maya Angelou said “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Last night, for the first time in my life I chose to draw and not write in my journal: a dragonfly. Imperfect. A little lumpy, but whole.
Until now I haven’t considered creative pursuits beyond writing. But if Angelou is right, and the more creativity you use and the more you have, then the only thing that can relieve the brown blob is creativity itself. If you are struggling to write, try drawing. If you are struggling to draw try sculpture. Or painting Or origami. Whatever it takes to get you past the stuck stage.
And a glass of red always helps.