I’d always had this weird belief that if you were creative you could only ever really call yourself one thing. For example, I tell people I’m a writer. That to me precludes myself being able to call myself an artist. Yet for the last ten years I have painted, crafted and created things! The other day it struck me as really surreal that I imposed that ban on myself. Why do it? Who says I can’t call myself an artist and a writer?
So I changed the name of my blog to embrace that side of myself. If you came to my home you’d see it’s filled with colour, brushes, a huge variety of paints, multi-media bits and pieces, paintings and an easel. I visit art shows and love speaking to artists and gallery owners gleaning tid-bits of information from them and advice on techniques.
Though I got a grade ‘A’ in Art at school when I was fourteen, I never felt confident enough in my ability to take it as a GCSE. Stupid really, I should have. I could have learned so much. But my sister and younger brother were phenomenally gifted by comparison and I felt compelled to focus on my English. I have this silly side of me that feels that if you cannot get something right first time maybe you should leave it be.
So I left Art alone, but carried on doodling. I doodled in lectures at university, meetings at work, on the margins of pages as I wrote. And what did I doodle? Eyes, hearts, smiles, geometric shapes, flowers, faces – and I got very, very good at them. Unwittingly, I learned, crafted and improved over the years until I could draw a feminine, exquisite eye in seconds if I relaxed and let instinct take over. And I could do it with pencil, pen, acrylic, oil, eye-liner, lipstick..
Eyes please me. My kitchen door has blue eyes painted all over it. God knows what I’ll do when I move out. Unhook the door and take it with me?! I could wax lyrical about eyes for hours. There is a multitude of messages and meaning you can glean from a gaze. A few years ago when ‘Gunshot Glitter’ was still being written, I was invited to do a reading from the novel at my friend Rosered and the Butterflies album launch party. I decided to create my own visuals for the event using close-up self-portraits of my eyes and mouth. It was a strange exercise to under-take but I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. There is a part of me that one day hopes to go back into acting and in a way creating these photographs was a chance to try on Cornelia Friend for size. Inhabit her skin and be seductive and violent all in the space of an hour.
Over time I’ve learned to ditch my boundaries and desire to categorise myself. My home is very much a reflection of this. Sometimes my use of paint has been functional. I festooned my toilet cistern lid with an array of colour, stick-ons and glitter – mainly to distract from the cracks running through it (I’d smashed it in 2004 and pain-stakingly glued it back together again).
I figured your eyes would be distracted from the fissures if you were too busy admiring the lush patterns. And I was right, no one ever noticed the cracks unless I pointed them out!
And then there are the jars. As a writer I have to have pens and pencils in each room. And I went through this phase of eating Russian seasoned aubergines that came in these gloriously curvaceous jars. So I rinsed them out and painted them to store my writing tools in. And I’d also discovered a love of iridescent paint. So just had fun painting them and rubbing a sheen of lilac over the surface. I just created them on instinct, I used ribbons to decorate, scored the paint and created tea-light holders too. Raided Paperchase and employed glitter to truly bring them alive.
Friends started noting them, so I made a handful as gifts. If I’d created them with method and consciousness I doubt the results would have been as pleasing to the eye. I do everything best when it’s not deliberate or calculated. I ride my bike better, write better, have more adventures, become more attractive to other people. Once I’m analysing stuff there’s a chance for fear or doubt to take hold and it’s never as good. (One of my resolutions in 2012 is to ditch that self-consciousness more.)
But this isn’t to say I wouldn’t like to learn some new tricks. I do! I want to broaden my remit beyond what I can already do. I remember when I first came across writer Chris Pink’s blog being really impressed by his watercolours. Especially a painting called ‘The Blue Collide’. It was beautiful, akin to 23 Envelope artwork who worked with 4AD record label artists in the ’80s. But he can also do portraits, landscapes etc. It struck me though it was possible to ‘be’ more than one thing. He’s way more talented and schooled than me in Art. But it’s not a competition. I was very inspired by the notion though.
I want to be more versatile for sure. My Brighton-based friend Helen Brown does these detailed, vivid lino-cut paintings which you have to understand the mechanics of creating to truly appreciate the talent, skill and patience involved in creating them. I get really excited when I see her work in a gallery and I’m very proud of her. I have one on my special dresser in my bedroom.
You can see more of her work here: http://www.helensprints.co.uk/
I intend to take Art more seriously. I plan to paint more onto canvas and start to speak to galleries next year. At the end of the day I see the beauty and value of what I do so why not share that? What is there to lose? So I’m ditching the tags, the labels and the belief in separation. Writing, painting, acting, dancing. It’s all good. It all adds up to who Yasmin Selena Butt is. And I don’t doubt over time I might be adding more to that repertoire. Who knows I might decide to take up throat singing or do a Pete in Season 3 of ‘Friends’ and train to be the Ultimate Fighting Champion.
Actually I think I’ll stick with the art for now!
One thing at a time, Yasmin…