A lot of things dissipate over time, especially once we reach adulthood. Our taste evolves. Our interests go through plenty of transformations. In the end, what we used to dwell on loses its charm. Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? I wish I knew. One thing for sure is that it happens outside of our control. We have no other choice but to experience it just as it is. Embrace the change. Own the new self.
This thought emerged when I faced a well-renowned artist who told me that I should learn from art history instead of Instagram. It was a statement that hurt me deeply. Up until one year ago, I had been unable to learn art because of medical school even though I wanted to. The social media was the most accessible place where I could see good art so I was angry about it being “mocked” for being my primary source of knowledge. On the other side, I can’t help but wonder why my interest in learning art history had diminished. I had tried watching a few documentaries and ended up yawning after ten minutes.
It made me wonder if the artist in me had died. It wasn’t used to be like this. I used to be very enthused about learning art. But then again, that was a long time ago. Now things are different. I don’t care about it as much as I used to. So, what happened exactly that made me become this way? Here’s a bit of a story…
Before I went to medical school, there was a time when all I wanted to be was an artist. It was an obsession I couldn’t contain. Perhaps it was due to my inner conflicts which propelled me to create something out of my misery. I kept drawing, and drawing, and painting, hoping that someone would notice how much suffering I had to bear from my art. At the same time, I was extremely enamoured by it. I wanted to be as good as possible at art, maybe so I could deliver my message, express myself clearly. The beauty I see, the darkness inside my mind. Come to think of it, it had a lot to do with my ego.
The thought of going to an art school had crossed my mind, but I didn’t have the courage to pursue it. It was a road that none in my family had ever walked. Of course, the usual reasons also applied: unstable income, toxic environment (possibly), waste of money, frugal life, etc. It was my own decision not to pursue art, and I don’t regret it even though I wish I could improve my artwork. Bear in mind, though, that at the time I still wanted to study art.
And then I got into medical school and basically lost the time to do the things I loved. My environment was all about studying and most people didn’t care about art. Art was taken away from me and it was one of the most stressful part of medical school for me. That’s when the artist in me died. I resorted into drawing original characters and writing a story, but they failed to take me anywhere. Everything was not how it used to be. I felt like my potential in art was wasted. Everything I worked for during those years in high school, gone with time!
So, when I graduated from medical school 6 years later and finally got the time to draw, I didn’t have any idealism left in me. I drew and painted simply for enjoyment. I didn’t care about the quality of my art. As long as it’s good enough according to my friends, then it’s okay. I stopped trying to reach the highest level of skill. They simply didn’t mean anything to me anymore. I no longer wanted to be the best I could be, perhaps because my inner conflict was gone. I had nothing left to desperately express.
I guess it’s suffice to say I had the mind of a retiree. Just doing art for fun. But things changed when an artist I contacted for oil painting lessons discovered my past artwork.
With this level of drawing skill, it’d be a shame if you don’t become an artist, he said.
Well, I’ll be damned.
It’s already too late for that. I was no longer the student who aspired to be an artist. I was just a doctor who happened to make art. I had stopped so many years ago during medical school. I hadmade peace with the death of the artist in me. There was no use trying to revive it again.
That was the beginning of my second disillusionment. I started making art again, having that artist as my mentor. Sometimes I make good artwork, sometimes I don’t. It’s an ongoing struggle. Recently, most of my work has been trash. Once in a while I was reminded of who I really am; that I’m a doctor, not an artist. But drawing kept coming back to me no matter what. It’s like an itch that won’t go away. The artist kept dying and then resurrected, and then dying all over again. Disappointment after disappointment, I kept on going.
It was never not painful. But the fact that I still felt pain tells me something. It seems like I have not truly died after all.
Picture: My watercolor copy of The Isle of the Dead, by Arnold Böcklin