I keep paints and brushes and bottles of solutions around to remind myself that I am an artist, or, rather that I want to be an artist or to just be considered one. As though through the surveillance of the items on my desk, I can be encouraged to see myself that way. I have bottles of things with fancy names like gouache and varnish and I know what they do but I’m not totally sure I’ve ever used them correctly. I have a wooden paint chest that was given to me as a gift by someone who looked at me once with my messy hair and eccentric clothing and thought “I know just the thing.”
I have based my artistic pursuits on the idea that all art is art, or, art is whatever you want it to be, or, there’s no such thing as bad art. I do not actually believe any of this is true. The truth is that I like looking at the art materials on my desk and thinking “an artist lives here” and the artist in that sentence is me or some version of myself that I am perhaps creating or molding myself into through the things I have purchased from the little shop on Old Brompton Road (near the hospital) which allows my dog inside and smells like old books and clay. The thought pleases me because it makes me see myself as an outsider would; like I am a character in a film which makes me feel capable of transforming my circumstances into something more interesting for myself, the me who is also the viewer.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve hated anything I’ve ever created with the exception of blind contour drawings which is only because there’s no accountability when you’re drawing without looking at the paper. Talent doesn’t really come into blind contour – there’s no need for finesse or exactitude or understanding perspective or depth or shadow or hint or hue. These things are necessary when you’re drawing perhaps a building or a basket of fruit or a sad child or a running deer, etc. but not when you’re just moving your pencil or charcoal or pen around on the paper while staring at a thing.
I was once tasked with drawing a crystal bowl in an art class I was taking and I couldn’t catch the light, I couldn’t form the shape I needed out of pure illumination. It was frustrating in a way I still can feel when I think about it. I tore a hole in the paper with erasures. I wanted to be able to draw the light, goddamnit. I’ve felt since failing at that exercise that real artistic talent will always be out of reach but I feel important when I gesso a canvas. I feel significant when I mix a little bit of linseed oil or turpentine into my oil paint. Here’s a girl who knows what she’s doing, I think as I struggle to create something I’ll be happy with knowing full well I won’t.
Claudia Lundahl is a writer from New York City who now lives in London, England. She has a husband and two dogs. Find her on twitter @claudrosewrites.