I have just spent a day assisting on an "In Real Life" day course "Art for Starters" that I will be inheriting next year.
In the course of the day we helped 8 people explore how a huge range of art materials work. From watercolour pencils, charcoal, various pastels and three different forms of paint. Afterall, when, since leaving school do we get a chance to play with all this stuff? Our usual option is to buy ALL the art materials and have a go. We might, for example, decide we want to try our hand at acrylic paint and buy a whole load of paint, brushes, paper, gesso, mediums etc, spending a small fortune, then have a go. Maybe we find a video or a book to help us....and then...what if we really don't like it?
We are then disappointed. it's hard to know where to start, we are not used to being beginners and not being able to make something we like straight away. We start to believe all those stupid stories and lies we were told at school, that we were no good, we can't draw, or paint, or that we are "too - SOMETHING" to be an artist. Or that we're scientific and therefore don't have a creative bone in our bodies, as though those things are mutually exclusive. And what will we do with all the unused materials? We fret over al the money we wasted (and out come all those other money stories on top of the "not being good enough" stories!). We decide it's just not for us, that those stories were probably true and we're not good enough, we never will be and we may as well just give up and forget about our creative dreams.
Having a chance to get together with others on a course or at an art club, where you can share resources, sample a new medium or technique is a great way to learn to play, to experiment. From this we learn what we like, what we don't like, to surprise ourselves and to find something new to be excited about, to have a direction, a focus. We can learn to let our fear and anxiety sit in the back seat, while we just play to see what is possible. Indeed many of the 8 on the day course really surprised themselves. They either expected to like or not like a particular medium, or to find that the old stories were true....yet went away full of joy that they loved working with watercolour, soft pastel, pencils, gouache....and were renewed to go buy only what they needed and start their journey!
For me play is vital, it keeps me from being precious or perfectionist. it allows me to find the happy accidents of new materials, mixing new colours, making new marks and patterns. there is always something new I can learn about my art and about myself in the process. Sifting out the stuff I don't like, doing more of the stuff I do like and ever journeying onwards, wherever my art may lead me!
And the "failures"? The rubbish stuff I make that I don't like? Hey, it's all useful, it's all learning. It is also only a bit of paper. I am prepared to let it go. And trust me, I throw over 70% of what I play and work on away!
Play! And Let it GO!