Child Artist


When did you become an artist?

By a stranger who doesn’t know me.

I started studying art full time four years ago, so then, I suppose. But I wasn’t an artist then. I didn’t have an interior vision or a belief system. I didn’t even know who Grayson Perry was when I started. I had to google him. I made the work I was given briefs for, and flailed without.

So not then.

I started painting grids just over a year ago. That was the first time I had made work that felt true. I was no longer searching for a composition, and the compositional agony has felt at least somewhat resolved since then.

So, a year?

That’s what I told her – a year.

But I’ve been drawing pictures since I could hold a pencil (probably). I made a finger painting in nursery (that my mum still has framed), so possibly even before then.

I think about the work I made when I was 16; terrible pastiches of artists who weren’t even very good, and I cringe. So I couldn’t really call my 16 year old self an artist.

The stranger asked

What did you do at high school?

I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t have a choice – to be an artist or not. And when I think about high school, art is secondary; background noise. I think of J. Alfred Prufrock and integration equations. Those were the things I enjoyed.

So I couldn’t really call myself an artist then.

When did it start? When did it stop?

She asked

Did you draw as a child?

Didn’t everyone?

Does that qualify me to be an artist?

I don’t buy into Joseph Beuys and ‘everybody is an artist’, so … no.

I don’t remember drawing as a child. I don’t remember loving it more than everything else. Perhaps I did. I never felt very successful at it until I realised that I could make pencil lines look like the objects in front of them. The everybody was impressed.

But I didn’t draw for pleasure. I didn’t have an imagination.

I couldn’t draw until drawing became about copying.

She paused. Said nothing

I kept going.

I didn’t have anything I wanted to draw as a child. I had no compositions, no images in my head. Drawing always felt… stunted. Forced. False.

Until I began to draw grids. Until I began drawing motions instead of images.

Is that an artist?

Is it a copycat? A doodler?

When did you become an artist?

When I had something to draw?

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