Art has always been quite inherent to me as a way of self-expression, so I have never given it a huge amount of consideration. I’ve doodled for as long as I can recall, even if it was with a crayon all over the walls as a three year-old. More often than not when I sketch, I tend to favour using a biro over a pencil – possibly because of its fixedness and darker colour, and that it can be used as easily as a pencil for shading (I am a big fan of cross-hatching). The added bonus is that it doesn’t smudge beneath my hand (being left-handed, this is a common issue that I’m sure others will be familiar with).
I have experimented with a lot of different mediums in traditional art, including a long period when I was 11 or 12, and would only ever use gouache or watercolours. A lot of what I have learned when working with colour, however, has come directly from my background in Photoshop. Starting when I was around 13, I broke myself into the programme through extraneous trial and error, and hours of playing around with all it had to offer. Soon after I bought myself a Wacom tablet, and so began a three year period where most of my art was purely digital. From this I realised the importance of a palette and a colour scheme, and many habits – probably somewhat unique – that have continued into my traditional art, such as choosing one particular colour as an overarching theme, and the manner in which I tend to build up the layers of a painting: rough at first, refined at the finish; and having some areas ‘out of focus’ while other zones can be sharpened and more detailed. Usually now when painting I will use acrylic, because of its versatility and because it is quick-drying (unlike oils).
My relationship with art has always been capricious. I continued with it at school right up to my A-Levels, and although I always received excellent marks, the rapport I had with my art teacher (who taught me for four years) was always a little tense. He strictly dictated that our inspirations and historical studies throughout projects should be of the 20th century: namely, the Surrealists, H. R. Giger, or Banksy. On one particular occasion I chose instead the Pre-Raphaelites, and received no mentoring from him as a result. Fortunately, while studying Art History for the first two years here at St Andrews, I felt my horizons expanding immeasurably from the broad array of art covered. I discovered new artists who I adore: Van Dyke and Gainsborough, Vermeer, Ruisdael, Courbet and Millet, Goya, and one of my favourites, Gustave Caillebotte. But as studies continued past the First World War I felt my interest waning. I have the distinct feeling that people who enjoy and appreciate post-1945 art are those who do no art themselves.
Art is extremely close to my heart: it is a part of who I am, and something that I will never give up. I don’t consider it as a career choice (though I earned my wages through the summer painting portrait commissions), but I doubt it will ever leave me – it is too deeply ingrained to be going anywhere soon.
Madeline H. Lucas
Image credits – Madeline H. Lucas