Its a shame that there seems to be a certain exclusivity to art. In regards to personal feelings I mean, I’m not going into taste and class in the art world. Depending on the context I think many people are conscious of creating something visual. Is there creative types and ‘non-creatives’? Or are we all creative beings who just need to find that little gateway out of the consciousness? Its this self awareness that keeps us from some things we would do when we have that voice in our head saying “people will see this”, “what will they think?”, “they’ll think you are unskilled”. I say ‘depending on the context’ because of the many conversations I have with people who work with children saying they’re rubbish at art yet support children in their creative play everyday.

When I make work, I’m self-conscious but when I’m being creative I seem to lose myself, whether that be writing something, moulding something out of clay or even just playing around with Photoshop. Play is full of moments you have as a child that is considered innate, driven by natural curiosity that needs feeding. But as you grow older as a self-aware, responsible adult the ‘non-creative’ may feel they’ve grown out of it or never had it in their blood to begin with. Its not inherited completely obviously, we are conditioned as children to take/lean towards preferences or steered away from some, depends on your teachers/parents/environment etc. But as I was growing up the focus was on ‘its in the blood’. “You take after me, so does your brother”. But this isn’t right! I feel so sorry for those kids who would express themselves/experiment/play/feel through art but just didn’t have the environment or opportunities to do so. Yes mum, you did have a flare for drawing until you had that bike-ride accident where you severed your finger and then was told you had to learn Latin instead of art at school, ripping your dreams from your clasp. Then there’s inspiration. I had my brother growing up to watch, admire and I had a duty to turn out equally as creative, if not more. Now I’m older and have learnt to appreciate myself as an individual rather than want to be anyone else but myself (as you tend to do at that mouldable age). I have learnt to appreciate also the talents of others and celebrate differences. My brother Sam is a fantastic artist and I love the drawings he makes, the songs he writes and sings, AND the films and scripts he writes/directs/stars in. A multi talented English graduate, whom I hold so much respect to and am so proud to have these links to him. But this must mean in my case it was probably more nurture than nature, as Picasso says, “We are all born artists, the hardest thing is to remain an artist”. We must fight the urge to say ‘No I’m ok, I’ll just watch you draw because you know what your doing’.

At the National Play Conference last week I ran a workshops that was on-going for the two days. The canvas I had was pinned up on up-right boards that you could wander around, with paints and charcoal sticks available to use at your disposal. The canvas was for anybody attending to create images of children playing, with me floating around to be of assistance. I made it clear to those who read the catalogue of the conference and to those who approached me with queries, that this was not ‘representational’ so I didn’t expect any actual images of children playing. It was an opportunity for expression, words that needed to be said, colour that when applied hits that spot in your tummy where its feels ‘right’. Symbols or interpretations of those words I gave. Some were itching to have ago, and I love meeting those people who snatch a brush out the box and just get cracking. Now, to be really honest I genuinely believed the canvas would be a hotspot and there would be overlapping, layers of form, colours and mush. But is this because I’m USED TO PAINTING WITH CHILDREN?????? This was fresh in my mind when I attended the conference because of the previous children’s workshops I had ran at a school the week before. I would shriek “Go!” and the kids would just go for it diving in with brushes and crayons, either ignoring this middle-man in their thought process of being conscious or anxious of what they’re about to make on that paper, or that middle-man may not even exist.

The canvas wasn’t a splurge of imagery and colour with abstract shapes and some relatable form amongst it all. I’m not dissing either approach, and I don’t want to seperate children and adults too much, because this contradicts this whole self-awareness issue I have with working with these self-labelled non-creatives. I would never label anyone with this. The canvas instead was calculated, considered imagery that had been thought about, some maybe not so much, I don’t know. But it was a fascinating experience for me who had never done something so expressive with adults before. I felt fuzzy inside when I went over to a lady at the conference asking if she’d like to paint something, her reply was that she wouldn’t know what to do, she can’t paint and she was bad etc etc, she laughed nervously as she claimed her lack of artistic experience. But my response to that was “you work with kids yeah?” she nodded. “So when a child says to you that they can’t draw or paint or make anything, what would be your response to that child?”. She kept smiling and her face changed to of somewhat agreement and empathy. I told her, pretend you are that child and you needed someone to reassure you of your capability and restore your confidence in just letting go. If you can create alongside a room full of children and instill that confidence in them, why not do the same for yourself?

So an hour later, just as I was about to pack up, she approached me with open arms saying she had drawn something after speaking to me and I’d made so much sense to her make her realise she was holding back when there is no child to be creative ‘through’. As a playworker the messy, arty stuff tends to be just part of the job. Its standard, you work with kids you can’t stay clear of PVA and poster paint. So when you are faced with a creative opportunity, be the best playworker you can be for yourself. Playwork yourself. Be supportive and an advocate for your own creativity, if you struggle just think of what you tell that child who says they’re rubbish at everything.

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