My school’s astronomy club is having an art exhibition on the 17th of January, with all the paintings revolving around the theme of space. I found myself committing to around five paintings myself – not many realize what a big deal it was for me to have committed at all. Since IGCSE art, I’ve sworn off commissions of any sort, only working when I feel like it, and hardly finishing anything short of sketches. That just takes the pleasure out of art for me.
But I began tentatively working on paintings. And I decided to experiment a lot. I realized that I wasn’t being graded – that this was work that was being exhibited but not critiqued by anyone (well, except my father, anyway). That gave me a lot of room to breathe. And so I painted. And I found myself enjoying it. Each canvas was succeeded by a larger one, a more ambitious concept, a more frightening medium, and I started tackling methods that scared the proverbial crap out of me as a 15 year old.
I get it now.
There really is something liberating about painting. I know I shy away from calling myself a painter – because I honestly am not a painter; I don’t like calling myself an artist much either – but when I’ve got my painting knife scraping against the canvas and thick, blotches of paint on my brush, I do feel like a painter. I hold the battle scars I acquire with pride, the streaks of paint that somehow got smeared against my cheek, my arms, even the part of my neck that should have been covered by my hair. My favorite sight, though, is getting pastel and charcoal dust smudged over my palms, with only the lines of my palms peeking through unscathed.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom put me in a summer art class in Karachi because I asked her to. There was not much else to do in Karachi as a 7 year old. I was in two classes – one where we would do all kinds of studio art, like pottery, jute work and oil painting, and the other which was glass painting. When we were doing oil painting in the first class, my teacher would get annoyed at me for all the paint I got on my clothes. In the same breath, she’d laugh and call me “choti Da Vinci.” I remember how proud my mother was when my teacher “complained” to her.
That’s why I’m never phased when I get paint on my clothes, no matter how nice those clothes are. An artist’s battle scars are to be held with pride.
…you know something? I think I could get used to calling myself an artist.