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Art Traumas


When I was about thirteen or so, I vividly remember sitting in ‘art class’ with a huge sheet in front of me covered in what looked like watercolour vomit. The instructions for the class was to paint a feeling or a memory. I happened to feel the early teenage turmoil of my secret crush not noticing me at lunch and decided to throw paint on paper to look as confused cocktail of colours as my thoughts were. My art ‘teacher’ walked by, looked at my colourful self-expression on a big sheet of paper and actually said ‘well you’ll never be an artist’. Apparently I was supposed to do a ‘real painting’ not just make a mess. I was supposed to be creative and not make a mockery of the assignment. She then proceeded to lift up another piece of work, a very realistic, and very good may I add, painting of a girl’s face close up. ‘This is what I want you all to achieve’ was her advice to all of us. ‘But we were meant to paint what comes from within!’ I whispered to myself and then proceeded to strengthen the idea in my head that I am, as it were, a talented artist after all.

Cut to twenty years later and I’m still working through that block of fear I have towards visual arts. As soon as I take a pencil or a paint brush in my hand, there is a tiny voice reminding me not to bother. Stick to movement and theatre, leave the paints to someone who can appreciate them. But now, being a tad bit more confident, I go ‘hell no!’ I need that paint brush! I have the right to own it.

Art and creativity belongs to everyone. Creativity is inherent in all humans, it is our inheritance. To tell someone they are not creative or artistic is a big pile of bs. And for a teacher to do so, it is just criminal. Without creativity we wouldn’t have modern technology, medicine, let alone art. Scientists, teachers, you name it, need creativity as much as artists do. And as an artist I believe art can support creative thinking in all fields of work, study and more importantly it simply just helps us to be and feel. There are plenty of studies to suggest that participating in arts encourages children (and adults alike) to take risks and develop a sense of innovation. In addition there is a correlation between participating in arts and improved academic performance.

One day lost online I came across this brilliant point made on earlychildhoodnews.com: If children grow up believing they are creative, they will have a better chance of finding constructive outlets for creative energy in later years. A child’s creativity will not be just a memory; it will be a valuable, personal resource to use every day.

To sum it up? To kill the creativity and freedom of self expression in children is extremely damaging. And may I add, to kill it in adults can be disastrous.

Kurt Vonnegut famously said in a letter to a class: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” 

I’m taking his advice. I’ve started to keep a visual diary in which I doodle and paint my thoughts and feelings. And I love it! I love it so much that I have started using forms of visual art in my workshops and as a stimulus to create movement. I have not only found a new way of expressing myself, but also a new depth in my work.

What to do to tap into our creative sources though? If there are anyone out there working through their art teacher traumas, just go ‘do art’. Even if there is no bad memories of art classes, ‘do art’ anyway. Do anything. Write poetry, draw daily, dance for while every morning. The only thing that matters is that whatever you do, you do it to be true to yourself. Let it come from within.

Anna Olkinuora

Painting Credit : ‘Sirpaleita’ (‘Fragments’) By Jukka-Pekka Uusikyla

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