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Do I still believe my childhood dreams?

August 17, 2012

This old painting is dated in one corner, so I know that it is over ten years since I painted it.

It doesn’t feel like ten years ago.

I remember I was contemplating the future when I painted this. Painting and daydreaming in the room that had been my teenage bedroom, (and which was still my bedroom-studio), I was thinking about what I would do over the next few years. I would draw and paint lots of pictures, maybe write as well. I would exhibit, sell and publish my work. I would push myself, improve my skills and create better artworks. I would finally start to produce artworks which matched (or at least came close to) the ideas in my head. Yes, I was very young, and exceptionally naive – but I was also very motivated, hard-working and inspired.

I moved out of the inspiring but expensive inner-suburbs a year or so later. I’ve painted a little, improved a little and had a few things published. But really, there hasn’t been anything I’m all that proud of. My pictures still don’t live up to the dreams in my head.

It has been a busy decade in some ways: I’ve attained a couple of University qualifications, worked at several jobs, started a new career, gained lots of varied “life experience” and got married. But when I look at this picture I am reminded of all the dreams that I have not yet properly pursued. The childhood dreams I adamantly believed in then, but am scared of losing now.

I’m not as naive as I once was, but I’m not sure I prefer getting more cynical and jaded. In fact, I think that when I’m feeling cynical and jaded I simply cannot create the kinds of works I dream of. So I’ve got to give myself the time and permission to be a dreamer like I once was: naive but exuberant and fairly often silly; wistful, whimsical, impractical but inspired.

I don’t regret my new career – the intensely solitary and precarious life of a full-time artist-illustrator was not for me, and I enjoy being a librarian instead – but I don’t want to give up completely on my old dreams.  I  think I what I need to do is make myself practice. Enough with waiting for inspiration, or the right mood or inclination, I should just get on with it. Like exercise, the enjoyment and skills should follow if I make myself begin, but I need to start. Not just painting and drawing, but I also need to practice feeling wonder and being silly and practice letting inspiration grow. As paradoxical as it may sound, I think I need to practice forgetting about all the things I need to do. I need to wander aimlessly and daydream.

I’m old enough now to realise that life is scarily short. If I want to fulfill my dreams I’ve really got to start paying them a whole lot more attention. I still believe my childhood dreams… for now… but sometimes it feels like I’m hanging onto them by a tenuous thread.

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