Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I am not very good at playing. It is not something that comes naturally to me. I have been working on pictures of rocks and of dry-stone walls all term in my art class but am missing something in my slavish copying. My tutor sat me down for a demonstration of different techniques yesterday: wax resist, oil pastels, ink, wet-in-wet, drawing with the paint brush. She encouraged me just to play around. It makes me nervous. I can look at the paper and grasp that is is a single sheet, worth perhaps 20p. It doesn't take much paint. It is one afternoon, time for myself, away from the children, and I don't need to achieve anything. But I still feel that I can't do it. I still feel that I'm going to mess up. With the courage it would take to jump off a diving board, I persuaded myself to try everything she had shown me, to work my way across and down the page, a few rocks at a time, deliberately playing with each method. Some worked, some didn't. Some were fun, some weren't. By the time I reached the bottom left of the sheet, I was pleased with what I had done. I worked back in to a lot of it, covering over what didn't look so good and using the styles that were expressing what I wanted. Taking away the pressure of producing something, seeing it as an exercise in playing, in experimentation, freed me to paint and to let go.
I went swimming today. Another activity that makes me nervous, makes me tense. I know I'm supposed to have fun, but don't quite feel it. Taking the children to the leisure pool, I was enthusiastically taken to the slide as my way in to the water. We played in the wave machine, tried out both slides, once even with my little girl on my lap. I found myself laughing, chasing, splashing and, yes, playing. Maybe it's not all about growing up, maybe it's about letting go!

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