To paint like a child.

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” - Picasso

Many of the great artists, like Picasso or Matisse, hint at how they always tried to paint 'in the moment’, unshackled by thoughts of what the picture may look like or what people may think when they see it. They let go of thoughts of past achievements or future judgements. Instead they wanted to find the space between those thoughts, a place of stillness where creativity can flow. In effect, they wanted to achieve the same freedom of expression that a child has, revelling in the process.

When I went to art school, they taught us about our ’signature style’. When we are young we quickly learn that if we draw a house in a certain way, Mummy will recognise it and praise us. We naturally crave that affection and so develop the style in accordance with how our society (or Mummy) has decided art should be. This becomes our signature style, where we are comfortable and know that we will achieve some recognition. The problem is that we stop seeing things as if for the first time. Instead, we automatically distil what we see through our preconceived signature style. In order to break out of this, we were made to draw with the other hand, or draw with our eyes shut from memory. By losing control we made marks that we would not normally have made. When we opened our eyes, we were presented with a new library of marks that were out with our familiar signature style. It was fascinating to see a drawing that we had created….. but also a drawing that ‘we', being the signature style, had not created. It was as if a different person within us existed and suddenly we had access to that voice, that had been repressed for so long. On reflection, the process of losing control when drawing is the same as being in the moment. We let go of any premeditated styles we have and in so doing, draw for the first time. We let go of everything we have learnt and all the well worn paths we have trodden. We abandon any expectations of doing a drawing that will ‘please Mummy’ and in so doing, we let the drawing be what ever it wants to be. And here is the magic…. we then look at a drawing that we create and the drawing now tells us things we didn’t know.

Finally, my partner and I went to Edinburgh to see the Rembrandt exhibition a few years ago. It was great and we loved it. Afterwards we decided to get a coffee and so made our way through the gallery to the cafe. By accident, we ended up in a small room that was exhibiting paintings for a competition for 5-7 year olds. As you can imagine, the pictures were so full of colour and life. Everyone of them was pure magic and the memory of the day was no longer Rembrandt but Jake aged 7 and a half and Susan aged 5! The difference? I reckon the children's art captured the magic of the present moment while Rembrandt, who has many fabulous qualities, did not achieve that one.

artist mike Heseltine

To view the paintings please click here: Chapter 1

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