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Indulge the artist inside

According to Nietzche profound problems should be dealt with as you would a cold bath – quick in and quick out.

Being an artist is to commit to quite the opposite; to run your bath hot, fill it with bubbles and wallow in it until your toes wrinkle and you are saturated with the scent of the world around you.

People often say ‘I wish I could make art’ to which I would respond ‘you can’. There’s a feeling between non-artists that there is a rule book; work should be crafted in a certain way, a specific identity assumed before you can say around a cocktail and mini hamburger “I’m an artist”. In reality to be an artist is to simply give yourself permission. To have something to say and continue to say it in creative ways on a daily basis. If that requires going to art college then do so – though many successful artists don’t. If it requires technical excellence then learn observational drawing, though many of our favourites from Picasso to Kahlo, Bacon to Dumas did not become famous for their photo-accurate depictions. The point is that if a little bit of you wants to be creative then get involved. Enjoy it, make something, but don’t be too critical of yourself, don’t worry about mistakes, test new things and play. You may find that your mistakes are ‘happy accidents’ that give the work its edge or lead to new territory.

When you start to make you often have an idea in your mind of what you might approach. I find one of the biggest challenges is to allow the art to take over and give yourself the freedom for that idea to move. A tutor once told me that in the doing I would find my way. At the time it was incredibly frustrating – I wanted her to say that I should make that figure larger or use red instead of black. Now I realise that the doing is why art is considered a practice and simply by practising in the studio, in the street, wherever the urge may take you, the art will appear. For me it is not about creating one piece, mapped out on plan start to finish. It is a journey with pit stops along the way. It is the urge to create and make meaning of the life we move through, whether in paint or plaster, music or performance.

So look around you, what is interesting about the tableaux you are observing? Look at the way the light hits the person next to you, what they’re doing, where they’re going, why? Ignore that voice that says others won’t find it interesting – it’s not the time for critique. If you just enjoy the colour focus on that. If colour is challenging squint your eyes and imagine it all in black and white. Look at the shapes of things, not just the outlines but the interior space – the shape of the air between the leaves of a tree as well as the shape of the leaves themselves. Once you begin this journey you’ll find it’s not about not knowing what to make it’s about deciding where to start because there is so much. Suddenly you will walk down the street and find that the world around you is buzzing with ideas, that art is everywhere, even in the litter at your feet.

What inspires me? People…society and the city… the way we move through the space that we share so closely. The way we identify with each other, the narratives of who we are. For me the meaning of life has to start with the human and that is why most of my art will always start with a figure, a story…

Of course this is not the same for all artists – remember there is no rule book!

Catherine Lette is an atist exhibiting at the Urban Art Fair