This is me introducing you to this limited-time series where I talk about a part of my creative process which I call “wuru-wuru to the answer”. Creating art takes knowledge, skill and a bit of insight, but I have come to find out that sometimes it’s also about just seeing where things go. I hope you enjoy it.
It was 2015 and I had just rediscovered my love for painting amidst my frustrations with veterinary school. A friend of mine had helped acquire the expensive materials needed to paint with and I was like a child with a new toy. I would spend my time in class doodling at the back of my notebook and trying to figure out how to execute ideas. Sometimes I would be excited about new ideas that I would leave in the middle of class to get started on the work…. Okay, not sometimes, most of the time.
Exam day came and there was a new development. Apparently, some classmates had offended the HOD of a department and they would be using the attendance register to determine the people who could go in to write the department’s exams. Normally it would mean they would delay you for fifteen or thirty minutes if you didn’t meet up the 75% attendance but we weren’t allowed to write at all. My attendance was shit and I couldn’t write five different exams. It looked like I was either going to have carry-overs or an extra year.
My world was shattered. Left to me I wouldn’t care because I was tired of the course anyway, but I thought about how upset and disappointed my parents would be and this tore me apart. I was a very average student but all that they asked of me was to start and finish school in the time I was supposed to. The first exam I couldn’t write had me walking home from the department. I wasn’t crying freely but sometimes my vision would blur and I would wish a driver would be careless enough to hit me on the road home or maybe I could just walk in front of a trailer or something.
I managed to get home and I tried sleeping with the hope of feeling better but I was distraught so I turned to the thing that had put me in the situation in the first place: My love for art. First thing I did was cut up some strawboard I had and pour my art supplies on the bed. I felt really terrible and I needed a safe way to release it. I did not know how I was going to do it but I began anyway.
A colour I run away from normally is black. My fine art teacher in secondary school almost caned me cause against her instruction I had used black directly on some work we were doing. “Black swallows everything. If you need to outline or create a darker shade mix a drop of it with other colours!” is what she said.
This time, however, I started out with black. I painted the whole canvas black. Then I used white to outline a vaguely human figure. The figure was me, stuck in a dark place, feeling despair.
Then with a few more lines I created white spirals and filled with red. Red is usually associated with danger and passion but at that moment it represented the turmoil I felt and it was inside me and all around me. I had started crying as I surrounded the figure with red as if they were tentacles that were trying to reach out to grab me. I put an eye crying blood because I would have cried blood if I could.
The thing about painting traditionally and not digitally is that you can’t press a button and fill the borders you created with colour. The process of painting is mechanical: your wrist is moving, you’re adding more paint to the canvas, you are mixing the colours and as I did these things I calmed little by little. By the time I was done it felt like I had transferred most of the negative feelings I had onto the piece. It was like the brush was a catheter sucking away negative emotions from my veins.
In about 45 minutes I was almost done adding the little details. There were white lines in a sea of red and black. I initially wanted to leave the chest area black and hollow, like how I felt from the events of the day but feeling a little lighter I decided to fill it with white. I was a little hopeful.
And that was how “Something beautiful” was created. Disappointing the people you love and care about is one of the worst feelings in the world (for me at least) but in the middle of that, I had been able to create something beautiful. It is my favourite work I have ever done because it came from a place of raw emotion which is something I aspire to do when I paint with traditional media. Heck, I love it so much I would be hard-pressed to sell the original copy because how do you sell something you are so intertwined with?