We can ALL be artists

I’m a firm believer that anyone can make art and anything can be art. Never was that more clearly demonstrated than by THAT unmade bed by Tracey Emin, exhibited at the Tate in 1999 and still notorious 20 years on. Whether you believe it to be ‘good’ or not, there’s no denying it caused a stir through the art world and beyond, even being shortlisted for the Turner Prize. Art aims to make us feel, whatever that feeling may be, and if it does that then it has achieved its goal.

Art, like music, theatre and other creative practices, can make us cry, make us smile, make us think, change our perceptions, challenge us to look deeper into the piece or ourselves and get people debating the world over. Art can be beautiful, political, terrifying, hilarious and everything in between and I truly believe that everyone, yes even you, can create it.

So why do so many people think they’re not creative? That they can’t paint? That they’re not ‘artistic’? I think a lot of the problems begin at a very early age.
When children first start to make marks and create, it is such a beautiful thing to watch. They have none of the anxieties or pressures that we, as adults, place upon ourselves, and they just create for the joy of it. They have no idea of what they’re trying to produce, they just love the feeling of splattering paint around or scribbling frantically with pens. They don’t care that all the colours mix together, making a muddy brown, as they revel in the joy of getting their hands dirty through the exploration of textures and colours.
Kids painting
Painting by me and my two sons
But all too soon, those anxieties and pressures creep in. Too often they’re asked “What is that you’re drawing?” Too often we try to put our adult ideas of a ‘good’ picture onto them and they begin to worry that their wonderful abstract creation doesn’t look like something recognisable and that they can’t do it, so they stop. One seemingly meaningless comment can go a long way to someone losing all confidence in themselves. I remember at school my little sister loved art. She used bright colours in abundance and always gave her people blue faces. However, one comment from a teacher about how people don’t actually have blue faces and her confidence was gone and her love for drawing with it. Luckily, coming from a super creative household, she got this confidence back and went on to become art coordinator at the school she taught at, hoping to encourage the next generation of creatives.

But I imagine the story is the same for many people who believe themselves rubbish at art and isn’t that sad? A while ago my five-year-old started to get upset about the pictures he was creating. He was trying to draw himself and it just didn’t look like he wanted it to. So firstly, we looked at Picasso and the way, in his portraits, the features were all over the place and yet he is still one of the most famous artists. We chatted about how art is never wrong and how everyone sees things differently. We read some wonderful books by Peter H Reynolds called “ish” and “The Dot” about children who lose confidence in their art until they are taught to look at it in a different way.


And you know what? It was like magic. His confidence soared and he started to draw his feelings. Angry red jabs on paper became “anger” and swirly greens and blues were “calm”. Instead of asking him ‘what’ he was drawing, I asked and said other things instead.


“What does this picture make you feel?”
“I love the colours you have put together!”
“What do you want people to think of when they look at your painting?”
His imagination went wild. He treasured every mark he made and didn’t berate himself that they didn’t look like something we could recognise. He created images from his head, not copied from other pictures. He learned to put his feelings down on paper and express himself through colour.

Darkness painting

My five-year-old who chose to paint using a feather and named his artwork "Darkness"


By allowing him to work in this way and to realise that ‘mistakes’ were just opportunities to add more things to his pictures, I hope we can help to protect his imagination and realise that anything he creates is valid and good.


So I ask you to try and reset your mind and look at your artistic endeavours differently. There will always be incredible artists who can paint or draw something so realistic it looks like a photograph. There will always be experts in any field, who’ve put in the hours over a long time to perfect what they do, but don’t let this put you off trying. Find an outlet for your own creativity, be it painting, drawing, sculpting, cake decorating, cooking, singing, dancing, the options are honestly endless. Know that your worst critic is always yourself and learn to take that critical voice in your head and use it to improve on what you do.


I say this whilst also realising how much I need to apply this to myself. I have days where I look at all the work I’ve done and can’t see any worth or skill in it at all. On those days I stop, I move away, I walk the dog or play with the kids. I come back refreshed the next day and always look upon everything more favourably.

Anya's studio behind the scenes

Me at work in my studio on a day where I lost confidence in my ability to paint

It’s never too late to find an outlet for your creativity, explore something new that you never thought you could do, or revisit something you were told you’d failed at. Be brave, be adventurous and you never know just what you’ll discover about yourself in the process.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes by Picasso:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once they grow up.”

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