Part of a series of articles about our Members, helping you to know more about the things that we do when we're not doing Rotary activities! Here, a Member talks about her hobby of doing arts & crafts.
"You'll never have the time ... if you REALLY want to do something, you'll MAKE the time!" These were the words that a friend once, in exasperation, said to me - and they were the words that got me to pick up a childhood hobby after many, many years.
Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to draw. I'm afraid I still have some of my mum's knitting patterns where I unleashed my creative urges (using a biro in fierce black circles) at the tender age of two! From there I went on to copy cartoon characters, draw flowers and design clothes at every opportunity I got. My father worked in Margate every Thursday, so every Thursday during holidays I could be found in the reference section of Margate library, assiduously copying drawings from beautifully illustrated books on flowers, birds of prey and big cats. I even started to illustrate my own book on nature - but perhaps writing that will be part of another story!
I continued to draw at school - but was always sad that I couldn't do art 'O' level - it didn't work with the timetable as I was doing all the sciences, so I stopped art at 13. Nevertheless, our art teacher was encouraging and suggested I sit the exam anyway - as a private student. But the timetable still didn't work out. The same happened when it came to 'A' levels. I was so busy at university that I didn't seem to find the time for art - though fellow students remember cartoons, sketches and decorated rooms. My cleaner was the only person who got a painting!
While doing my MSc I started to dabble again, thanks to encouragement from others. But time was still an issue. Then, while doing my PhD, the housemate at the start of this story asked if I'd go to French evening classes with her (I'd said for ages that I'd like to pick up French again). I said I didn't have the time. She turned to me, hands on hips, and said the above words.
Suitably embarrassed, I went along with her. But the French class was full. I was just walking out of the door when I spotted a little desk with a lady asking people to sign up for art classes. Of course, I put my name down!
Lessons started at 7pm, which meant I rarely made it as I was still in the lab or prepping for teaching at that time. But we got a chance to enrol for an Art GCSE if we were good enough, so of course I signed up for that too. I would come home from the lab, tired at the end of the day, and sit on the floor to work on my prep or my final 'exhibition piece' on the theme of culture using faces. I finished the piece just in time and, phew, got an A*. I'm more proud of that than my PhD! I was told that the moderator said I should exhibit and sell my work. That was lovely to hear; she'd quoted a price she thought the picture was worth; as a poor PhD student I figured I could make my salary if I painted just 18 such pictures a year! Of course, I never did - I never tried selling the piece and I'm not sure that I could have brought myself to part with it. I did think about what the moderator had said about exhibiting, but beyond some tentative queries, never had the courage to do so. Why would someone come to see or buy something by me?
I then went off to do post-doctoral biomedical research in another part of London. Each time I looked down the microscope I saw amazing beauty. I wanted to capture it - and sometimes I did, but in photos. Then one day, inspired by a poster of a nerve cell that I'd seen on a wall, I joined an organisation renowned for its promotion of Science and Art - the two subjects that had always gripped me in equal measure. However, the science won out and yet again the art fell by the wayside - although, whenever I could, I tried to bring some creativity into my work. I moved to Switzerland, but again my spare time was taken up with other stuff (such as that French that I'd always planned on studying!)
So again, the art was ignored ... although I was always daydreaming and making plans. I joined Rotary and my spare time got taken up with Rotary things ... until a day when our President announced we'd be having an Art & Craft fair. It was to showcase Rotarian skills, but we could donate a % of our sales to charity. Suddenly, everything came together for me - art, craft, science, culture, helping others. So I used the fair as the excuse to dig out my paints, pens and art books and do some sketches, paintings, illustrations and crafts. I worked busily for several weeks, turning our living room into a chaotic studio! I found the ideas kept bursting out. As soon as I completed one thing, I wanted to do something else. All the ideas I'd built in my head over the years came gushing out. Most of the pictures were either inspired by science or by my cultural background - it was all great fun. I'd sit painting abstract shapes that looked like microscopic images in delicate watercolour, or vibrant acrylic and canvas pieces inspired by street art I'd seen overseas.
At the same time, I finally created a Facebook page for my arts and crafts, fulfilling another one of my dreams. The feedback on my dabbles was amazing and it was great fun talking to everyone at the fair. I even sold some of my art & crafts - so there was some charitable good done too.
At some point I'd came across a quote from Persian poet, Rumi: "Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray." When I think about it, I reckon that all my life a strange pull has been steering me - art & creativity.
And now that the bug has bitten me again. I hope I can continue. (Though, of course, I just don't have the time ... !)
Taking up art as a beginner is really easy - you dont have to start with anything more than a pen or pencil and some paper. Colour can be added in all sorts of ways - felt pens, pencils, paints or even collage. Pictures can be as easy or as hard as you want, and you can find inspiration even if you're stuck indoors. Illustration is great as you can allow yourself to be really creative with everyday objects that you see.
Here are a couple of challenges to start you off:
1. Find an everyday man-made object and make a sketch. Then, using whatever media you want to, use nature to help decorate it. For instance, you might draw a bottle and turn it into the head of a deer!
2. Flick through an illustrated magazine or book and find a picture of an animal. Draw, or trace, its outline. Then, using any colouful medium, colour the animal in a totally different way from it's natural form. For instance, you might outline a picture of a brown bird that you can fill in with candy-coloured stripes and polka dots. The more unlikely, the better!
Make sure you have lots of fun. There are plenty of other tips or sources of inspiration on the internet - for instance, on Youtube or Pinterest. Here's one on how to boost your creativity.
With thanks to Rotarian Julie Reza for this article. (c) Julie Reza 2020.
Picture: Arts & crafts. Picture credit: Julie Reza/Rotary Club of Canterbury.