Am I an artist?
Or what else am I?
Janin tells a tale:
As long as I can remember books and pictures have had a grand significance on my life. Bent over a piece of paper, I always spent many happy hours creating colourful worlds. I remember very clearly one day in kindergarden when my best friend taught me to draw the head of a horse properly. And what was only a circle with an attached snout and some ears before, suddenly became fluent lines and an almost realistic image. I kept on drawing horses for weeks.
What a success!
When I got older I attended drawing lessons and discovered some difficulties with wet paints, like oil or watercolour. I played around with clay, soap stone and wood, bringing out no more than tolerable results. Every now and again I tried new creative variations but got back to pencil and paper in the end. A certain affection for perfection polluted many of my projects. A bit spoiled by the admiration friends and family gave me as a child, I wasn't able to comprehend why my work would not pass my own judgement. My talent was attested to me so often that I was under the impression the according skills should be accessible to me without any problem.
Instead I experienced the same perplexity again and again when the material in my hands would not mould into the shapes I had in my mind. So, slowly, the trust in my abilities began to crumble. The fear of the white sheet of paper I confronted with grim determination at first. Tensely I tried to maintain my beloved hobby and produce a few presentable results at least. Each time I was relieved to finish a project and file it away afterwards. Long gone was the excitement I felt before when indulging in that sort of work.
What a disappointment!
I turned to other things. The ever assumed study of art no longer was an option but life got on nevertheless. I let luck decide what to do with my future. It brought me a job I took on with verve and elation, a move from Hamburg to Munich and many new friends who made me forget about my creative failures. I worked, organised and coordinated, used my creativity for other stuff. And still there always was the feeling something would be missing. After a while my office job became dreadful routine. I quit and went travelling, came back after 2 years and found myself confronted with the same question again: What to do with my life? A retraining later I sat in another office. And the story repeated itself. As much as I tried to fit into my role, I never was able to silence this voice that urged me to just create something. In the small hours of the night I allowed myself to tinker - collages and Origami-flowers, birthday cards and sofa cushions. Hesitatingly I pulled out my old drawings and began to digitally enhance them. Photoshop became my new tool of choice and suddenly they were there again - those happy hours full of colorful worlds.
What a discovery!
When the images I made 10 years before were all used up I had developed a rather peculiar Photoshop-style that would probably only earn bewildered incomprehension by any professional digital media designer. As draft I always use handmade drawings, mostly single figures with strong contrasts. I take photographs, download them into the computer and start to edit the pictures. At this point the images have a horrible quality. Pencil smudges and rubber traces stand out clearly and every irregularity is visible in fringed edges and broken outlines. So I cut out the character and repaint every streak with digital colours, erase, adjust, correct and expand it. Then I add a couple of effects, a hint of threedimensionality , an adventurous filter, a patterned background in the end - and then I lean back, astounded, wondering how this great image managed to flow out of myself. And the result excites me so much I want to start a new project straight away. Finally this nagging feeling of emtiness is gone. In this moment, nothing is missing.
What a relief!
I may not be an exceptionally gifted artist but I came to the conclusion that I need not be afraid of neither a white sheet of paper nor my own judgement. I might not have studied art or learned a creative craft but grasping beauty with my hands and my eyes, that I can do perfectly well. I probably will remain the harshest critic to my own work but by now I know the difference between perfection and quality.
So many years I spent with denying, restraining and fighting my inner creative flow. And I ask myself: Why?
I depredated myself of so much joy and fulfillment! I now am able to see that I must never do that again. The little artist in me will never be silenced. Many small and big projects lie ahead of me. I can hardly wait.
What a revelation!