Losing my creative virginity

On Friday 17 May, I made a conscious and important decision: to force myself to be more creative.

You see, I haven’t been creative since leaving school. Yes, creativity comes in various forms. I could easily argue that I am creative in my analysis of data. I love to make data sing. And I like to think that I’m more creative than most in my emails. I like to craft them and try to make them pleasing to the reader. Only their recipients can vouch for my success in this area.

And arguably, this very blog, all nine years of it, is a symbol of creativity.

But no. Here I mean creativity in the sense of art. I don’t draw, I don’t paint, I don’t sculpt, I don’t write music or make things. And I haven’t done anything in this field since leaving school. (At school, I made an ace keyring for my mum, which I believe she still uses to this day. It’s a rectangular piece of brass, maybe 3cm x 2cm, adorned intentionally with vice marks and drill holes. I also made a supremely shit owl in pottery class. I also happened to write a full orchestral symphony for my music GCSE. Pretentious doesn’t come close!)

But since 1991, I’ve not done anything remotely artistic.

It seems that my brother got all the creative genes. He can pick up a pencil and things just flow. He draws for fun. He’s created artwork for CDs. His works litter his own apartment—sketches, black and white ink work, watercolours, the list goes on. And it’s all fabulous. If we were both asked to draw a horse, any genealogist could only conclude that one of us was adopted.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon some work done by a Twitter follower/followee. She’s a friend of a friend who I’ve never met, and likely never will. But I liked her artwork and felt an urge to do something in a similar vein. So I did. (She was nothing but supportive of my endeavours, btw.)

I bought some paper whose gsm count would make my printer weep. I bought myself some tracing paper, traditional pencils (2B), some mechanical pencils and some fine-tipped black pens. And I set to work.

The idea involves tracing from printouts and a degree of creativity thereafter. (I’m not going to share any more detail at this stage, for reasons that I won’t go into. Suffice to say, I will share some of the pieces at a later date.) I like to think that I’ve taken the idea that formed the inspiration, and put a spin on it that has made it my own—although at first, I felt a small sense of guilt at the similarities.

I started off doing a handful of pieces on A4. And I’ve since graduated to A3, a size that seems beautifully suited to the style of work. Thus far, I’ve done three full-size pieces (ha, “pieces” sounds *so* pretentious).

At first, I was nervous. I was uncertain of my own abilities, scared of putting pencil or pen to paper, much like the act of hitting a key on a traditional typewriter. There’s no turning back once the ink is on the paper. But once I’d overcome this initial fear, things started to flow and form.

And now, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I would guess that the big pieces are averaging about 15 hours each. The process is therapeutic. And liberating. And my production from scratch of something that I consider to be quite beautiful is rather exhilarating.

It’s also wonderful that one or two people have voiced genuine (I think) appreciation of the pieces produced. (I have always been the type of person who needs some form of external validation in life. Weak? Maybe. But honest.) So this goes down well. (Some people have even suggested that it’s saleable at a far from insignificant price. These people are deluded.) And as with everything, there are the nay-sayers (“it took you how long??”), and that’s fine. They’re welcome to their opinions, and I won’t foist my efforts upon them.

I have planned another piece, and have another variation on the theme to play with. And the nature of the work means that the only limitation to its possibilities lies in my own imagination.

So if you’re one of those people who, like me, is devoid of any true creative outlet, I encourage you to challenge yourself. Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.