Between Me and Art – Part Two

Grammar school – and two art classrooms. I took up O Level Art later than my other ones. My work was a mix of still life and surreal. I liked this combination. I liked pastels, charcoal, acrylic and poster paint and ink.

My art teachers liked my work. One art teacher gave me materials. He knew we were hard up. I still have the end bits of those pastels and paints. The class was dominated by girls, some boys. The girls were mostly middle class – producing album cover art for bands they liked, mostly prog rock.

I was indie/punk. The others didn’t get my work. The teachers did. I worked from my feelings.

My mother taught me to knit. Everything and anything you could wear – jumpers, cardies, socks, footsies, gloves, hats. We did a lot of it. I wore a lot of hand-knits. I got in to mohair – it worked well with the punk image. I am also allergic to lanolin!

This phase saw a lot of making and a step in to sewing – clothes and soft furnishings. Again I was taught by those around me.

School finished and I decided I wanted to get a job. And off I went to the tax office sandwiched between Salts Mill and Jerome’s Mill. Both mills redundant by then. A working life in textiles wasn’t going to be our future.


Image    Salts Diner

Me and the Dalai

Have you ever tried to meditate? You’re probably really good at it. I’m not. I have a HUGE admiration for people who have that kind of focus. The only time I could describe myself as being in a meditative state is when I used to paint and draw. There would be long moments in time of being at one with a piece of work. Nothing else mattered, nothing else was in my mind. Haven’t painted a picture for twenty years. That is, completed a whole one. Plenty of half done ones by the book case behind me.

Plenty of paint brushes, pastels, charcoal, inks, nibs on the shelf to my right. And down in the seagrass basket by my feet there are tubes of used acrylic paints. Friends and family members would buy me these things for presents, and art books. I have plenty of those too.

People still pester me. Why aren’t I painting? My own child despairs of my reluctance to take it up again. I ventured to the local print studio a while ago with a friend for a couple of sessions. I loved the serenity and calmness of the space. It suited me, because in fact I am a peace-loving person.

I spent some time when at home, looking after my son, learning new decorating techniques – even venturing on to an Open College course. The folder is somewhere – the course was on interior design. So I decorated a few folks’ rooms. Again working with a brush and tin of paint gave me that sense of calm. I moved on to the OU and studied Art History and Modern Art scoring over 95% in assignments and exams.

My art teachers at high school liked my work, indeed raved about it. They were both of an era – 1950’s I think, and liked work from then and before. This amused me. Some of my work was about visions and dreams and some still life. I enjoyed both types of expression  – pouring over an apple or red pepper for hours was really satisfying. Seeing all those  hues.

Colour does it for me. One of my art teachers used to give me free paints, pastels and paper. We were pretty poor at the time. No, we were really poor and he knew it – mills closing and all that. I still have a couple of tubs of poster paint and some old pastel ends from school.

So what did I want to do with my life? An art and design course – textiles mostly. Did I? No. Instead I decided that too many people had hard lives and I wanted to help in some way.

Most of us thought we would go work in textiles  – making, buying, selling. Instead we became civil servants – those of us lucky enough to get the work. A lot of young people had nothing at all and became the lost generation, now the parents and grandparents of forgotten children – you know – the ones the middle classes love to hate.

Now I have a notion in my head that art is what folk should do when life’s a piece of shit. They should do it together, make, create, be and forge a new and stable future for themselves. It’s like we have to go back to the cave, learn to appreciate what we can make and enjoy it, and not want the funcy over-priced things. But will that happen in a world determined on self-determinism and palace-building?

Somebody, somewhere is meditating on the same ideas. Somebody, somewhere will start the process.

Search for Swedish artist Per-Olof Olsson’s BAKERY JAZZ…no images here today.