Back To The Beginning

Save for an intermissme_beachswingion of 13 years when I was married and raising my 4 kids in Bahrain, my life has rotated tightly around one singular desire: to create art. It's been that way since I was about 11, as far as I can recall, when shortly after I started attending boarding school in Surrey England,I first picked up a pencil and drew something. I may have been drawing before that but I dont remember doing so. My life before then was filled with exciting travels through the exotic landscape of East Africa. I have vivid memories of my childhood there and colour features prominently in my recollections. I remember a lot of  safaris -to Lake Niavasha and watching the lake come alive as its blanket of pink flamingos took flight; to the dry yellow grassy Serengeti plains where the horizon went on forever; to Nikuru where our Land Rovers, trundling along the rough dirt roads, got stuck in the deep red earth that had turned to sludge after the rains. I remember staying in a cluster of wooden shacks tucked in between the palm trees that lined the white sands of Malindi beach and shielding my eyes from the brilliant azure blue of the Indian Ocean. I was immersed in an exotic adventure and my memories of it continue to inform my art.

When I'm not actively working on my art, I'm thinking about it. Virtually every experience I have in my life informs my art in some way. I can be the most frustrating travel companion because I am always inclined to lag behind as I latch onto things that others may walk past..a particular shade of lavender cast by a tree upon the yellowing grass at its feet- reflections in shop windows – the play of brilliant light and deep shadows at a cafe in a sundrenched piazza. When I started teaching art in 2005 I was astonished to learn that  many people simply don't see colour in their surrounding environment. This became most apparent when I asked students to describe the colours in shadows around them. Grey was the common response. What? No purples? Blues? Yellows from bounced light? For me, interpreting the colours in shadows makes or breaks a painting, as much as balance, tension, harmony, colour temperatures and other principles that when applied help to make a painting work. One of my most satisfying moments is when a student, after much squinting and frowning and head shaking suddenly exclaims "I see it!" Eureka!

sottovento_c_smallTeaching art, particularly to my young students, has always been a refreshing and rewarding experience. It's a two way trade. I share what I know and in return I am very often inspired with ideas, such as when I was teaching eco-friendliness to my junior students and told them to rummage through their bins at home and bring some of the detritus that had been thrown out-newspapers, packaging labels etc, and we were then going to produce a collage. Resolved to lead by example, I did the same. There began my love of collage art and I now have shelves bulging with boxes filled with stickers, flyers, samples of wrapping paper, wine bottle labels, stamps torn off envelopes etc. It also led in 2007 to the first exhibition of a series of large faces painted on canvas in mixed media on a collage background which proved to be my most successful art works. Symbiosis at its best. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why kids in my art classes always show such keenness and enthusiasm – I always let them know that the dividing line between teacher and student is very blurred and often, when observing them at work I say "what a great idea!". I mean it. And then I steal it! There's a quote I have written down somewhere which I periodically share with my fellow students: "Don't borrow an idea-steal it! And then make it your own." (A great little book to read: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon)

tbexbix-class-cropConsistency is not my strong point but I am going to attempt to maintain a blog and share with you my lifelong interaction with the world of art. A brief scan through art blogs on the internet has left me feeling a bit daunted by the sheer volume of such blogs. Yet even if my blog sits out there in blogoshere like a floating bottle in the middle of the ocean, I am pretty confident that at least one person will benefit from the exercise. Me. So here goes…

One thought on “Back To The Beginning

  1. Natalie Boehm

    Dear Caroline,

    It's been a couple of years since you last "painted with words" here on Paint Malta. Thanks for another enjoyable read!
    With me being a highly-structured person and coming from a scientific background, my first contacts with the legitimate "world of art" are still at the stage of a somewhat scary adventure into strange and wondrous territory.
    Your description of life in Africa hit me like a punch in the gut. I'm sitting here in cold, grey, damp Germany, yet your portrayal was so evocative that I'm literally smelling the dusty red earth of Africa – there's nothing else quite like it!

    Thanks for sharing – and much success with this venture! – Nat. 

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