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  • Writer's pictureMereida

That Big Plug Drawing

SO. Transformer. I said I could write an essay on it, so maybe I will. Just to get the writing practise in. Its not like anyone is reading anyway.

On the second day of art foundation some six months away, we were instructed to create an A0 drawing on an 'Everyday Object' we'd been randomly assigned. I got an adapter plug. For reference, A0 is about the size of a decently fed 12 year old. It's big. And scary as hell.

The more I think about it, this may turn into a story of my entire creative clusterfruitcake of the last several years. It's kind of difficult to overstate the significance of that one drawing without an understanding of the Creative Constipation that was Sixth form and most of Gcse's, how much I needed that stupid little plug after the barren wasteland of the last four years. I still wholeheartedly blame GCSE art (and textiles) for choking my creativity and stabbing it 47 times in the back with its own scalpel - the sheer volume of work required did not mesh well with my own drive for perfection and over-achievement, meaning I hated doing so much work to a high standard but not as much as I would have hated not doing it. If that makes sense. It wasn't only the amount, as people taking one subject were just as frustrated: the cold method of teaching and assessing a creative gcse subject takes the focus off the actual creative process and puts it on 'assessment objectives', a fancy way of pleasing old men who get hard from having little boxes ticked. It forces naturally creative people to make work they don't want to make or even associate with. Of course I can moan and moan without ever suggesting a solution, and I admit that grading something as subjective and 'art' often calls for some corporate method to give each child a fair chance at passing. But why does it need grading in the first place? Surely merit for creativity ad effort can be given in some other way, one more encouraging and nurturing for those within the system? Thoughts for another day there, I think.

I had an easier time in Sixth form, but that was partly due to the fact that I felt so creatively exhausted and barren after finishing 20 hours of art exams that I completely stopped creating for myself that summer. Two years prior I was still a prolific creator but gcse art sucked it all out of me. This led me to choose art as only a Standard Level subject (2.5 hrs a week) at IB, opting instead for Higher Maths. Along with HL Physics, this put me on an especially academic route through the IB which I don't necessarily regret but which pushed me in a distinctly uncreative route. Art was my one reprieve from stress and equations and 4000-word essays, a counterpoint to my other subjects, partly because I was no longer taking it as seriously as at gcse. Don't get me wrong, I still did work on time and got stuff done, but I was being inched into the engineering direction so art took a backseat. It was also great because it was run in a far more relaxed way - there were fewer targets to hit, less importance given to project structure and exam board requirements, we could self-direct everything we did. Shout out to my amazing classmates for giving me such a fun time and for my teachers who allowed me to basically draw naked ladies for two years! It did get stressful towards the end (inevitably) but I relished those days in the art room until the end.

It did not, however, water the soils of my creativity. I was making again, but again for an exam board, even if this time I associated with the work I was making. As my brain gradually broke down with stress, a process which began in the summer between years and climaxed around February of Year 13 (something for another day), my anxiety about not creating grew more and more acute. I had many, many panic attacks focused solely on the fact that I could no longer create for myself, that I no longer created, that all my creativity had left me and would never come back. I survived IB on the belief that my creativity would all come flowing back once I finished exams, left school, had time.

This belief was not unfounded and I had such a strong desire to be creating again, but save for a week of gesture drawing practise and keeping a regular journal - slash - sketchbook, not much changed. I immediately began to work a shitty service job which drained my creativity only marginally less than school (without the added bonus of art classes) and until an extended summer holiday with lots of drawing and writing my breakdowns over creativity continued. I was slowly beginning to rediscover the creative process but I still wasn't making what I wanted to make. I wanted to do art foundation so I finally would. I will talk about foundation and life choices and all that shizz another time (wow this blog post is basically a trailer or lots of yet to be posted posts, fuck) but it was a pretty last minute decision that my usually unvocal gut kind of made for me.

That brings us to the plug: why we're all really here. To begin foundation, we were each assigned a random object for a project entitled 'Making Art from Everyday Objects' and I got a plug adapter, which may have been luck on my side, or maybe I would have used whatever I'd gotten to my advantage. Regardless, being forced to do a massive fucking drawing on day two made me incredibly scared of the blank page, being forced to do a massive fucking drawing on day two made me incredibly scared of the blank page. All my anxieties about creating art that needed to be perfect rose up, anxieties that ruled my brain during gcse but which have been around a lot longer than I care to admit. Scratch that, in fact I wrote a story about four-year-old Mereida obsessively overthinking her art on the drawing itself. See, I was sitting at the bottom of this ridiculously large sheet of blank paper looking up at it looming over me, so afraid to blemish it or make a false move that it crippled me out of starting. In a stroke of -may-I-call-it-genius I wrote across the top of the paper in large messy letters 'I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE BLANK PAGE' and voila, the paper was no longer blank. It was tarnished. I had no need to be afraid of it. (I would definitely recommend this technique to anyone afraid of beginning a new page).

The adapter was probably just luck for me, because in my head it began to turn into something wonderful - an adapter transforms the electrical bits of one plug into the electrical bits of another (don't ask me any more please I haven't done physics in nine months). I chose to explore the transformative power in terms of my own creativity by beginning the drawing of the plug at the bottom in my current, clean, constrained style, hopefully loosening up as I moved up the drawing to a freer, unconstrained drawing style at the top of the drawing. Transforming my current creative process into something new (insert electricity pun based on the word 'current' which I'm too tired to think of). This involved writing straight on the page whenever I felt the urge, including the aforementioned story about four-year-old Mereida who tries to draw a princess on a horse in a field and for the life of her can't get it right, ending up adrift in a sea of imperfect drwaings. I think I'm still slightly traumatised from that experience.

(Through some visual experimentation, the plug also assumed the guise of a power station (more electricity puns please) which I hope comes across in the drawing. The words are the smoke et cetera et cetera.)

So there you have it - how a simple adapter brought back all my creativity. Since then I've been pretty much solidly creating, mostly for myself, and yes there are definitely ebbs and flows (I seem to follow a sine wave of creativity) but this time I hope my creative drive sticks around. I have to be careful not to let myself get stressed, although pressure does help me actually get things done. All the writing unlocked something in me too - instead of the neat, clean boxy sketchbook pages of yesteryear, my current sketchbooks are crazy scribbled over, sometimes as much writing as drawing. It helps me think, not forget things and let go a little of my obsessive neatness and perfectionism which just isn't helpful when all I'm doing is idea-generating. And perhaps it explains why I enjoy combining words and images so much.

Here's to you, plug, and I hope that anyone reading may find their own plug to unplug their creativity. (please don't judge me that that's the only pun I've got...)


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