The depth at which artistic talent is buried in some of us gives meaning to the word "unplumbed".
This does not mean we cannot appreciate the art others create, admire a painting, or wonder what it would feel like to have something we have drawn put on display.
Bad art, or meaningless scrawls on a fence or building, are just plain annoying.
But, at some level, the idea of making our mark in a public place has a kind of intuitive appeal.
So this was my mission - to find out if I could make a picture, turn out something reasonably pleasing to the eye, and understand the magnetism of a blank wall.
As a result, I have a spraypainted, stencilled work of art that it amuses me to call "Words".
I also discovered that the creative process takes more energy, soul-searching, time and technique than I had imagined.
My mentor was Passionart chairman, founder and senior tutor Neil Wallace.
When not humouring wayward journalists, he is working on the society's aim to use art as a tool to increase community wellbeing, to transform the community by enabling individuals with creative skills, and empowering them by opening their minds to a world in need of their full creative potential.
In practice, this means running urban art classes at Youth Space, community art classes at Queen Elizabeth College, tutoring at the Lower North Island youth correction centre, and working with schools and community groups on their projects.
His most recent creation was Reflections, the black-and-white mural at Te Manawa, created in collaboration with Ariana Te Awe Awe to complement the foyer's window art and the history behind the wall.
He is preparing for the Pulse Urban Festival in Broadway in April, and this is, perhaps, where my piece de resistance will take pride of place. Make no mistake, my work of art means something.
Long before I was allowed near a spraycan or a canvas, my homework was to make up two lists - 10 things I love, and 10 things that make my blood boil.
Then I had to halve both lists. While I pruned, Mr Wallace helped explain why people draw on buildings.
It is about belonging. It is elemental, like the urge to carve initials on a tree or a school desk. It says, "I was here". People who enjoy a secure sense of belonging express it in more creative ways.
Then I had to cut my lists down to two each. Then it closed down on one thing, and that was words - something I was certain was as impossible to draw as the smell of orange blossom, although the manipulative part of me still hoped I could develop a new form of graffiti code based on shorthand.
Then came the brainstorm. What was it about words that got me going? It was too easy. Puns, humour, truth, communication, power, a good book, a crossword puzzle, my pay packet, lyrics, therapy, poetry, knowledge . . .
Mr Wallace approached with a pencil and started crossing things out. "Do you still care if I take this bit away?"
Gradually, despite my protests, the list was whittled down to a few integral features, which I will leave it up to the beholder to figure out. Therein lies the magic, says Mr Wallace, or words to that effect. Public art can be in code. It has to mean something. But it does not have to be explained. Not in words, anyway.
At last, it was time to start designing my picture, searching for symbols and shapes and colours that helped me communicate what I was thinking.
In the interests of meeting a deadline, Mr Wallace stepped in to help turn my doodles into something more aesthetically pleasing, and prepared the stencils ahead of my appointment with the spraycans.
"Look, you're an artist now, you don't need words," came a well-intentioned voice of encouragement.
This, then, is what it feels like for an artist to be misunderstood.
"I don't mean to rush you, but we have to be out of this place in 10 minutes."
Thus, a taste of the pressure the authentic graffiti practitioners know when they don't want to be caught.
I worked quickly, and surprisingly hard. The result is delightful, if I say so myself, and to me, it has layers of meaning I had not even intended, but it works.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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