On Painting

Circa 2005


I was never naturally gifted at either drawing or painting. And this is true and you have to believe me; many don't in view of my recent work but I assure you I had no more gift than any balls-scratching monkey out there.

I first started with watercolours. Since I was sadly hopeless at drawing anything that looked like reality, I decided to play around with water and watercolours. This would be most of the watercolours paintings you can find in my gallery. I started that in 2001. I wanted to paint but I wasn't naive as to my actual skills, I had none. So that was the result of a will without the skills. But I'm still quite happy about these, I knew what I wanted to do and it mostly worked out fine, I think.

The real trigger to improvement was when I started trying to draw faces. That was very hard because I knew I had no skills, and like most people who "can't" draw, I thought I didn't have the necessary "gift" for it and that trying was merely pretentious and pathetic. But I'm stubborn. So I tried. And the result was horrible. I had tried to draw a most beautiful woman's face, and the result looked like some horrible tiger-looking mongoloid alien from Mars. I was gutted and felt like utter shite, but I'm stubborn. So I tried again. New results were still horrible, but slightly better. And I kept trying and trying, seeing a little spark of progress.

Then one day, Hallelujah, something looked like something. The real trigger was to realise that it's not in the hand, but in the eye, and that the real one true way to learn how to draw/paint is to LOOK. Look closer, then things appear. And that's when it becomes really fascinating: you start to see more in your every day life. For instance, when I tried to draw portraits, I paid high attention to shadows and stuff; consequently, I started to be much more aware of those shadows on people's faces in my daily life. And I swear that's more impressive than it sounds. I'd look at teachers and then I'd see how the shadows were shaped on their skin. And that's like some sort of mind-expansion sort of thing. Quite trippy in a way. Really fascinating because it's something I never expected to learn from drawing/painting.

So that's basically when I realised that probably everyone can draw and paint. And since then I pushed everyone I knew to give it a try, and I explain how it worked for me and how it could work for them. I can be quite a pusher. Remember, it's in the eye not in the hand. That's the most important thing I learned. Technically you all can manipulate a pen and a brush, there's nothing magic about it; the real trick is to look at something and see more deeply than you would in an every day life context. In your every day life you don't need to see exactly how shadows are shaped on people's faces, so you don't pay attention. That's how our brains work, there's so much information that it needs to select stuff in the raw material of vision and dispatch it into bigger baskets just so your mind won't explode into an LSD trip from hell. Using your eye to look closer is the opposite process; you try to see what's out there in its infinity and all its details. And that's a fascinating journey, believe me.

©Nicolas