Sunday, 27 February 2011

Why I paint...

 Throughout my life I have questioned myself as to why I paint. I have pummeled my mind mercilessly needing to justify and validate my existence, never mind my art.  That is until yesterday, when I saw a pattern in my behavior, and moved closer to an answer. 
 Although slow and sporadic my artistic inclinations have never truly left me.  I first turned to art as a release from childhood boredom. Long days with an active mind and nothing much to do, but swing back and forth on the garden gate looking at stones on the pavement and passing cars. I was a shy and serious child so had limited means of expression. While my mother toiled with her hot-tub and mangle, I would create imaginary worlds on paper, lose myself in colours, or copy from Disney cartoon characters and nature books.
 The next time I turned to art I was a teenager. A combination of zero revision and loosing touch with the relevance of school, resulted in mediocre O'level results and failing mathematics.  In a state of quiet fury and hurt pride, my immediate response was to march up to the art shop and purchase materials for painting. Internally voicing the words, " I'll show you what I can do." I spent what I had on four tubes of oil paint: red, yellow, white and black and a Daler art board. I returned to my bedroom and put all my feelings into my first oil painting.  The subject was a tiger, the image taken from the front cover of an animal encyclopaedia, a source of my earlier childhood drawings.

Oil on board. A2. 1985.

 At the time I was not aware of the option to thin down paint using turps or linseed, and manipulated the paint as best I could, straight from the tube. I went back later to buy blue when I had more money.
 The tiger painting led to my friend asking me for a painting of a castle by the sea. We were what was known as "goths", which explains the imagery of the painting and our attire.

My friend and I in the back garden.

All I have of this painting now is an old photograph, but I particularly loved how by moving my brush I could create a sky.

Oil on board. A2. 1986.

My next attempt at painting was aged twenty, my boyfriend at the time was at art college. I worked as a waitress to pay the rent and was feeling increasingly trapped and dispirited watching students being creative as I went off to fester in a monotonous job. Remembering my passion for capturing the sky in my friend's painting, I began on a very small canvas about A4 in size, and tried to recreate the power, the movement and the beauty of the sea against a night sky. I put all of what I was, that had no outlet or freedom in my real life, into that small space. Students visiting remarked on it. I gave it away and have no knowledge of what became of it.
 Art again took a back seat, instead I worked until the birth of my first child when I was 25. It was the death of my father when I was 27, awaiting the funeral in my childhood bedroom, that brought about my next reach for expression through art. Finding only a pencil and a scrap of paper, I felt an irrepressible need to channel my mounting feelings of grief, out of myself and into an image.  It was also the only way I felt able to keep hold of him, before my eyes last vision slipped away, only to be seen again in photographs.

Pencil on paper. A4. 1997.

It was the first artwork I had done that I was really pleased with, I felt I had managed to capture something of his spirit in my marks, and it consoled me somewhat during that difficult time.  Looking back, this pattern of turning to art in times of need is the answer I've been looking for.  I paint to connect my inner world with my outer experience of reality. A means of integration and connection.
  Hopefully along the way, I may also communicate and be understood, and ultimately through sharing who I am, help others.


  1. Wonderful first posting, Julie. Had me captured from the first line right to the last word ... & then I wanted to read it again. A really interesting read &, at times, quite moving. Hope it's the first blog of many. I shall certainly be joining your list. Many thanks for sharing.

  2. What a wonderful and insightful first post!

  3. Like your first post Julie. Looking forward to more...

  4. I am struck most by your last sentence as I think this is really important. It's an interesting and well written first post and I hope that you continue your writing. I enjoyed finding out more and can really appreciate how art and expression are linked being an artist myself. Well Done.

  5. Thank you all for your comments. I am left stunned, surprised and smiling by the feedback I have received. Thanks again :)

  6. Beautiful art, and I enjoyed the story sooo much.

    Thanks for sharing!

    All the best,
    Sammy Sutton

  7. Wow these are amazing!!! i would love to do a piece on you for my blog!! You are very talented, I am now a follower. Can not wait to see more.

  8. Saw this post retweeted by a few folk I follow, so thought I'd check it out. Kudos first on your first post. Getting such a personal narrative out for the world to see shows great courage. And the story of why you paint is wonderful, as are the pieces you've shared. As my writing mentor says, we write (or paint) because we must.

  9. Hi. I sketched + painted all my life until 12 years ago, when we had a bit of a weather disaster. I say this 2 let U know i think(lol) I know what Im saying when it comes to art. A few years later I turned to writing. You have a gift for rendering... the visual image. I would say a GENIUS for it. Take some painting courses, some live model... see if U like it. Someone so talented should explore visual art more. Writing is good too. I'll BfollowingU : )

  10. I am blown away, by the positive response. It's inspiring. Courage?, well maybe or it could just be brave foolery, either way I am older now and I find it liberating to share. It means a lot that my words have struck a chord with you, turning my experiences into a useful thing is what this blog and my future paintings are about.
    Will get in touch about your blog, Xychlerconn, it's great that you want to include me. I have much more to share through the blog. Tried to keep this post a reasonably short intro. The plan is to bring you up to date with what I am doing now. I am going to Life Drawing this morning! Time to get on...