WHY I MAKE STUFF + WHAT CREATIVITY MEANS IN MY LIFE

I’ve been reflecting recently on why I make stuff. Why I paint, why I draw and why I experiment in my sketchbook and I thought it may be useful to share some of these thoughts with you.

Perhaps my musings might help you to reflect on your own creativity and motivations. Perhaps they might act as an invitation for you to consider your own ‘why’ or perhaps these words might even be a tiny rallying call for you to start something, to take the smallest of steps or the biggest of leaps.

helen+wells

CREATIVITY IS INTERPRETING THE WORLD

When I was a kid I just loved drawing from life or playing about with colour and pattern. I was always drawing. Then I became an adult and some of that colour and pattern left me. I didn’t pursue art as a career. I put it away in a box marked ‘childish’ and did more studious things. I lost a lot of my playfulness. I tried to be serious and sensible. During my twenties I didn’t make anything at all, I just stopped. And in this stopping, I lost a lovely and important part of who I am and it took me nearly a decade to find it and reopen the box.

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I was 29 (I am now 43) and feeling a little bruised after a breakup with a boyfriend, not sure how to use my holiday as a single person, feeling a bit lost and lonely, a little uncertain and stuck. On a a whim I signed up for a two week painting course at the Slade Art School in London. It was the most magical fortnight. I felt alive and excited. Curious and contented. Playing with colour and paint all day, every day felt like a home-coming for me. I felt energised and alive. Like I was learning a new language. The act of drawing from life, literally meant that I had to look at things in a new way. See things in a new light, under a new microscope. I remember that one of the first small activities was drawing an office chair. I looked at that chair and I saw the beauty in its lines. I began to actually appreciate the curve of the arm rest and the shadows it made on the wall. That course re-ignited my love affair with drawing and painting and set me off on a path of re-discovery. Importantly for me, it also helped me to see the beauty in every day objects, to reconnect with the physical world with a child-like sense of wonder and awe.

helen wells artist

CREATIVITY IS MAKING MISTAKES

After those first tentative steps, there were some road blocks along the way. Looking back, most of the road blocks were entirely of my own making. I was hugely self critical of anything I created. I was the opposite of kind and nurturing to my newly found creative ember. I was mean and critical. I would stamp on it with wild abandon and large heavy boots. I hated everything I made. Everything I painted or drew was rubbish.

My internal radio was tuned to Critical Witch FM and the volume was turned up to the max. I nearly let this internal negative dialogue dictate my actions and stop me from creating, but I knew I had to carry on and nurture my curiosity. I knew I had to keep taking small steps, to keep on exploring, even if the radio was still on.

helen wells artist

I’m not sure if you can ever turn this radio station off, but I’ve certainly learned to turn it down, tune it out, to create and experiment even though it might be playing away in the background.

Now, I do not believe everything it broadcasts. And I no longer let it stop me, because I know that it is through creating, that I understand myself, feel energised and express myself.

helen wells artist

I also now know that I don’t have to love everything I’ve created. It is totally fine for some of my creations to be completely rubbish. By making stuff I don’t like, I might move to the next stage of making stuff I do love. I have realised that it is through making, good or bad, that I develop, learn and make better work. There is no such thing as perfection, there are things that have worked and things that haven’t.

helen wells artist

CREATIVITY IS CURIOSITY

Since attending that first art course as an adult 15 years ago, I have followed my curiosity and it has taken me on an amazing and circuitous journey. I had no idea how the film of my life was going to play out, no idea that attending that one class would be a turning point, an important moment, pivotal to my story.

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But what I do know is that in following the thread of my own curiosity, I have patched together a different kind of life and a different way of seeing the world. I now take more seriously the small things which fascinate me, interest me and enliven me, that pique my curiosity and I feel more ‘me’ as a result.