Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Taking up the Brush Once More


Many years ago, I decided it was time to recognise a dream. I had long wondered if I could support myself as an artist. All my life I had drawn and painted things but I wanted to know if I was good enough to make a living doing so. Just as importantly, I also wanted to do it somewhere warm and sunny.

Eventually, with much encouragement and support from my partner, I resigned my job, bought an old campervan and set off for a new life in Menorca in the Balearic Islands. We rented a small house way out in the middle of nowhere and I began to paint. For a while I was living the dream, but of course it was only a matter of time before reality kicked in. When you depend on your art to pay for the groceries, you soon learn that you have to paint subjects that sell rather than those you would chose to paint for your own enjoyment. However, I didn't really mind as long as I had a paintbrush in my hand so I was prepared to try whatever was necessary. This included painting murals on the walls of holiday villas; learning signwriting, painting watercolours of gardens and pets and even stencilling pictures on t-shirts. My biggest success however was a series of large watercolours of black singers and musicians but it was still very much a hand to mouth existence. If we sold a picture we could eat, and if we didn't sell a picture we worried. Eventually I was offered an opportunity to earn a slightly more reliable living running a bar and restaurant. I accepted and I put away my paints and brushes.

They stayed that way for the next 18 years. Several times I had the urge to paint once more but after such a long time I lacked the confidence I once had. I got as far as putting the paper on the drawing board, putting the board on the easel and surrounding myself with brushes, tubes of paint and all the other paraphernalia you need before you can paint. And then I put it all away again.

But this winter I resolved to start painting once again and eventually, I made the first brush stroke for 18 years. Once again it was a black musician. It wasn't the best painting I have ever done, but it was a start and it was good to know that with practice I could regain my old skills.

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