Writing an adventure story
- My seventh form art folio
- Being a rock star
- Looking cool
- Being a poet
- Being a playwright
- Being an academic
- Writing a novel
- Having a wildly successful blog
Let’s get it out of the way early.
It’s my painting portfolio for Seventh Form Art. God it is crap.
Towards the end of my Seventh Form year I got glandular fever, and had to stay home. I no longer had to sit the end of year exams as all my final results were to be taken from my mid-year exams, but I decided that I could finish my art folio at home and submit it. I did this for two reasons: (1) we didn’t have a mid-year art exam so there was nothing to base my result on except a bunch of crappy drawings, and (2) it would give me something to do.
I took Art right through secondary school, but only got a teacher who thought it was a subject you could teach in my final year. My previous Art “teachers” had viewed art as a divine gift that you either had or you didn’t, or used Art as vehicle to try out their sarcasm on adolescents. Of course, there’s something in the art-is-a-divine-gift approach, because some students are obviously better at Art than others, but that is really not the point of being an Art teacher. Surely the point must be to develop each student’s skill, and help them to find an avenue or an area to explore that satisfies them.
I once tried to run a creative writing class for a term, but I didn’t do it very well. I didn’t do it very well because I didn’t know how to persevere with the students who loved creative writing (loved it), and would come every week with a fresh pile of crumpled pages, but who weren’t very good. In this way I was exactly the same as the Art teachers I disliked when I was at school. By the time I finished for the term I had come to realise that the main thing I could do was give them a platform to have their work read out with a few other sympathetic people, and occasionally offer some gentle advice.
Which is what my last Art teacher did. He was a great guy. Unassuming, kind, and knowledgeable. He took the time to be with each student in the class, to listen to them, to quietly offer them directions to explore, or to steer work away from the absurd. Unfortunately he was working with 17 year old Man of Errors and not 37 year old Man of Errors, so I:
- Was pretty interested in the absurd
- Was pretty clueless about directions, and
- Wasn’t mature enough to get over the fact that he had hair growing out of the tip of his nose
Which was my loss.
I spent an incredible amount of time trying to work up an idea which was something to do with a silhouette of Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses, and Jesus on the cross. Dimly I think there was a concept about following leaders or icons, but really it was just a chance to do some guitar paintings. Correctly, in hindsight, this was the point that my Art teacher suggested I switch to Photography.
Which didn’t last, and I was back flailing around with a paint brush and trying to create a set of related drawings that showed development. I made my mother pose with a lantern and took some photos and then I did a series of lumpy, turgid paintings in various styles (you can see these efforts above). There were a couple of problems with this. Firstly, it was supposed to be a study of light and shade but when I took the photo of my mother it was in broad daylight and the lantern wasn’t lit, so I had to make up all of the light and shade. Secondly, I didn’t develop my ideas I did all my paintings at the same time and bunged them on the folio, and finally, I’m not a very good painter.
I like drawing. Specifically, I love drawing buildings and sometimes landscapes. From about the age of six or seven what I wanted to be was an architect, and in Fourth Form I took Technical Drawing for a term as an option and absolutely thrived. I loved it because it was all drawing, and you had a whole lot of fancy equipment, and it was about shapes, and blocks and designs and buildings. The teacher thought I was clever and put my drawings on the wall. Looking back on this now I cannot for the life of me understand why I never took Technical Drawing again, and persevered with Art until the bitter end (which was a failing grade in Seventh Form).
Which is all a lesson about not knowing yourself. I was good at drawing. I should have taken Technical Drawing. The feeling I had when I saw my drawing displayed in the corridor outside the Technical Drawing room was a feeling I never had in all the years I took Art, but I took Art because I thought I was an artist, and carried on painting because I thought artists were painters.
Not that we are talking about any great loss to the world of Art. It’s not a story like that. I think this is a story about figuring out what I am truly interested in and doing that, rather than doing what I think I should be interested in. Which makes me think that I should try and run that creative writing club again at school. Perhaps some of those students who showed up with their sprawling, epic novels are only writing novels because they think that this is what writers do. Maybe they need to try poems, or plays, or limericks. Or maybe they just would like somewhere to go and share something they enjoy.