Life as an artist. Some things I've learnt.

Don’t be a good girl. Do embrace your weirdness. Jealously guard your time to create. Don’t iron your shirts. Feel scared and get on with it.
— Helen Wells
Life as an Artist.Some things i've learnt.jpg

I read a lot about creativity, what it is and how to nurture it. I have so many books on the subject. I'm fascinated about the creative process and find myself frequently reading about it. Recently, as I've started to develop my online class on Expressive Sketchbooks, my reading on the subject has reached fever pitch. And today I was thinking about whether this excessive reading was helpful and why I felt the need to read every single book, ever written on the subject...

It dawned on me that I was doing what I know a lot of women do and what we have been conditioned to do. I was being good and diligent. I was over preparing. I was hiding behind research. I was being a good girl. I was wanting to know all the theory to feel equipped and confident and in charge and in control. I was hiding behind collecting and collating other people's ideas.  I was unconsciously thinking...if I read just one more book, one more article, it will make me a better teacher, a better creativity coach, more informed, less vulnerable and it might do these things...  

Then I gave myself a talking to....the truth is I've been running sessions on creativity, and teaching people creativity techniques for 20 years, I'm a professional artist, I literally create new art works every day. I have a story to tell and I don't need to tell somebody else's. I have my own thoughts on this subject, I don't need to collect everybody else's to validate mine. 

So in the spirit of not telling you what other people think, today, I thought I'd shake myself out of good-diligent-over-prepared-researching-not-doing mode and just write a blog post, off-the-cuff about what I've learnt as an artist. I'm just going to get on and type and see where it goes. No preparation, just honesty. Here goes:

Helen wells art

 

1. WEIRD IS WONDERFUL

There is no such thing as normal. I've done my fair share of people pleasing and trying to fit in. But now, rather than trying to straighten out my quirks, I realise that my weird bits are perhaps the most interesting bits about me. My lifelong obsession with patterns (I can still remember all the carpet and wallpaper patterns in a house we left when I was five), that fact I think that some smells have colours, my highly sensitive personality, my all consuming love affairs with random items from the natural world, (shells, feathers, pine cones, leaves, seaweed, fish scales)... all these things are the things which come out in my art. Rather than suppressing them, I am trying to embrace them, celebrate them, utilise them.

helen wells

 

2.SET BACKS CAN HAVE SILVER LININGS

I was once rejected from a prestigious London Art School because I was useless at talking about my work. I heard after the interview that they would have enrolled me on the strength of my work, but that I was terrible in the interview. They had a point, I was terrible in the interview. I think I was actually crying as I zipped up my portfolio case and left the interview room. The interview was brutal and left me feeling bruised and humiliated. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, I would have hated studying at that particular university.  I've probably been more successful and happier because I've followed my own wonky path and forged my career on my own terms. 

Helen Wells sketchbook

 

3.ONLY COMPARE/COMPETE WITH YOURSELF

Social media has made it so easy for us to compare ourselves, our lives, our creative output, our artwork with other people’s artwork. Or so we think… in my experience we tend to compare our very worst bits with someone else’s best bits. I've now learnt to stop comparing my artistic journey with anyone else's. I believe that comparison is the thief of joy. I now only want to compare my work against my work. Am I learning? Am I developing? Am I expressing myself? Am I connecting with others? Am I doing my best work? Am I feeling fulfilled by my output? Am I pushing myself?

helen wells.

 

4.CREATIVITY IS A PRACTICE

Creativity takes practice, it is not about innate genius, or talent necessarily, it's about doing, and doing some more. I'm a great believer in the power of starting. The power of taking some action and going from there. Turning up at the page and just starting. We can spend out lives thinking... and planning...and pondering... and ...considering. Sometimes this thinking and planning can be especially valuable, but we need to guard against it stopping us from progressing. See above.. I'm as guilty as anyone. So rather than thinking about starting and unproductive procrastination, sometimes we just need to give ourselves a good push up the bum, count down from five and begin, five...four...three...two...one.. and we start. And then we respond to what we have done. And then we edit and refine, but we take some action...we are progressing.

Helen Wells abstract art

 

5.MAKE AND FIND TIME

Life is hectic. There is always too much to fit in. I get it. But finding and making time to nurture my creativity and explore my ideas has been life enhancing and life changing. I am often guilty of playing the too busy card, but when I find time to play and experiment in my sketchbook I always feel more alive, more inspired and more connected to myself. There are always other things I should be doing, but I now don't iron a single thing and my life is better for it. I draw whilst watching television. I always carry a notebook and write down ideas whilst on the train or at the bus stop. I take photos of interesting patterns on the way to the Post Office. I bung food in a slow cooker before breakfast and dinner miraculously makes itself. I turn off my phone and paint. I sometimes cancel social engagements because I want to make art. I have become better at jealously guarding my creative time and carving out space.

HELEN WELLS ART

 

6. FEEL SCARED AND GET ON WITH IT

Insecurity, anxiety and fear will always rear their heads. In the past I have let my internal negative monologue stop me in my tracks, in fact it stopped me creating and drawing for years.  I’m sad that I let that happen, but I’m making up for lost time now. I still fear scared, I still feel uncertain, but I just get on with it and the 'doing' makes me feel so much better than the 'not doing' ever did. 

helen wells abstract art