When I lived in Scotland, I not only attended but helped run an Art Club. I was also a member of my local photography club. All of that creativity has been in stasis for the duration of this relocation and I recognised a couple of months ago that I need to have an outlet for that side of me, a way to express myself artistically, in order to feel fully me. I, therefore, started to look into groups operating in the local area which led me to MeetUp.com.
MeetUp.com is kind of like a dating site but instead of hooking people up for romantic or lustful prospects it is about helping people with like-minded interests meet up and do something together. It’s a great idea. Since I don’t know anyone here, it seemed like it might be useful to me as it would help me connect with total strangers. So I signed up and ticked (or checked) a bunch of boxes to indicate my interests – finding, in doing so, that I actually have much wider hobbies and interests than I thought – and this then produced a list of groups in my vicinity that I might find interesting. A lot of them were total right offs, either because my interests did not exactly correspond or because the distance was just a bit much, but a lot of the matches were spot on. The problem was that most groups I might have had an interest in were being held on weekday evenings at 7pm. Since Mr Pict has to be home to look after the kids so that I can be foot-loose and fancy-free, that was never going to work out.
But then, last week, a group popped up in my email notifications that met on a Sunday afternoon. They were meeting just ten minutes away and the purpose of the group was Art Journaling. Despite all my years of being part of an artistic community, I confess I had never heard of Art Journaling so I had to google it. It is basically a journal book full of artistic and creative expression, often mixed media, often blending texts with visuals. I have always kept sketch books but they have always been generated either from my attendance at life class or as the starting point of a more finished piece of work. So even the concept of Art Journaling, of largely just going with the flow and it being so personal, was new to me. But it was a way to be around creative people, doing something artistic and at a time when I could actually be out of the house on my own. So I clicked the button and joined the group. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly online but it was still a bit intimidating, the idea of going along to meet with a group of strangers and embark on something new, but nothing ventured nothing gained.
The group met at a coffee shop and in the end there were so many attendees we were spread across three tables. It was all women. I shouldn’t really be surprised by that since I was the Secretary of my art club in Scotland so was well aware that the membership of that group was majority female too. I am sure there must be men who do art journaling too. Perhaps they just like to do so alone. Because that is the thing about art: it can be a very solitary pursuit. I find I work best when I am home alone without distraction so I can just focus on the art. However, it has always been nice to get out and be among other artists. I have learned so much from being among other creative people, far more than I ever did in school art classes, and being around other people who approach things differently and use other media is inspirational. So it was definitely nice to be among other artists again, people with whom I could have conversations about print making and materials, and it was definitely inspirational to look at their journals and see the amazing works they had produced. Inspirational and also a tad intimidating. I am an ink artist primarily. I don’t paint – I can’t paint – but I draw and my finished works tend to be ink. I have also in the past year rekindled my love of lino block printing again. So ink it is for me. The mixed media approach the women in this group were taking was entirely new to me. I don’t think I have done any collage work since I was in school. I was soon aware that my approach to filling up a page was still to rigid and controlled, too precise and not instinctive enough. One of the women helpfully pointed out that sketchbooks are really created with intent whereas art journaling is really about the unintentional. So I am hoping to become a lot looser in my approach to being creative as a result.
I filled two pages of my book while I was with the group. One was a page full of ninjas, a monochrome set of drawings with just a tiny pop of colour on each figure, but I definitely found myself drawing them and thinking about how I could work it up into a finished work of art for the boys’ playroom or how I could use the graphic, monochrome quality as the basis of a block print. Too much intent was going on in my brain. So the second page was much more random. I drew a tree, started colouring it with pencils in the colours of the spectrum and drew little creatures and shapes all over it. Totally just off the top of my head. Zero intention of turning it into a finished work of art. But still just a drawing.
So ahead of next month’s meet up I am going to get a book with thicker paper – for greater absorbency – and gather together some bits and bobs to try and break out of my comfort zone and dabble with mixed media and I am also going to try and be much looser in my approach, much less controlled, just go with the flow a bit more. In doing so, it might even improve my regular art – when I get time to do that at home again that is. I am starting to think I might transform the spare room into a part-time studio space and actually schedule in some time for my art, perhaps one morning a week.
It definitely felt good to be creative again and to be out on my own and to be doing something just for me as myself, not as someone’s mother or someone’s wife. My first ever MeetUp group was definitely a positive first experience.