I got my first set of acrylic paint when I was 11 or 12. My grandma is a difficult woman, and our relationship is basically non-existent these days, but back then things were different, and one day she arrived with a bag full of arts supplies – soft pastels, little tubes of acrylic paint, heavy artist paper, a canvas and a wooden palette, all for me. This was almost as good as being allowed to choose whichever books I wanted in our local bookstore.
Apart from one workshop at school a few years ago, I had never used acrylic paint before, and I was terribly excited to change that. I remember looking at the blank canvas and getting a lot of old newspaper to cover and protect our kitchen table, and I remember suddenly thinking: What if I do something wrong? What if I waste the canvas and the expensive paint? What if the result looks ugly, awful, horrible? And as easy as that, my joy and excitement made place for self-doubt and worry.
It was stupid, really, but I just couldn’t get myself to use the canvas. I told myself that I’d use it for something special. More than 10 years later, that canvas is still in my room, as blank and white and ready as on that day. The paint is gone, though – it ended up on paper, birthday cards and all over my hands.
Last Christmas, my parents got me a new set of acrylic paint. This time, I didn’t hesitate: I started mixing colours and spreading them on paper with brushes, fingers, wooden sticks, pieces of plastic and even a squeegee without ever worrying – I didn’t think about results, the only thing that mattered was the process. Interestingly, the paintings actually turned out better than expected, and much better than the stuff I had produced years ago. Not thinking, not worrying, not aiming for anything but having fun might just be the right way for me, it seems.
I’ve finally realised that it’s okay if things don’t turn out perfect, and that neither the paint nor the canvas are any use if they are stored in a safe place for forever. I didn’t get these things to let them rot away somewhere, and I didn’t get them to become the next Picasso or Van Gogh – I got them to have fun.
And that’s why I’ll dig out that old canvas today and cover it in the brightest, weirdest colours I can imagine.