When did you last make a new friend? It’s a funny sort of question to ask as you get older. Kids seem to make new friends as easily as agreeing to play chase in the park. Before you know it they are besties and you are organising play dates.

As adults, we get to know people often by talking to them and finding things in common. Before we know it, trust is built, and you realise that you can call on that person to have a chat or ask a favour.

Did you ever consider that art is a way of communicating and therefore establishing relationships with others? Part of the beauty of relinquishing your art into the world is that your audience must use their own sense of creativity to interpret your work. By engaging with art we can walk away with a sense of peace, uneasiness, wonder or even anger/disgust. Art can provoke a reaction.

I would argue that some of the most successful and memorable artworks are ones that prompt people to ask questions about the topic, the artist and themselves.

Banksy

You don’t have to “know” the artist in terms of having met them/read interviews about them to get a sense of who they are – Banksy is a case in point.

For his/her reasons, Banksy has created iconic, graffiti artworks in public places without revealing their identity – not an easy feat when you consider how famous some of his pieces have become. It is ironic that by withholding the identity behind Banksy the value of artwork attributed to this artist has skyrocketed – given their reported aversion to selling their art.

Rightly/wrongly I feel that I have a sense of Banksy’s personality, and I enjoy the humour and social commentary in their work. I like the art’s cleverness, and it gives me a lift when I look at it. I have a relationship with Banksy’s art that they will never know about, and that is ok. Not all relationships are two-sided, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a lot from them.

I can’t help wondering if Banksy may have started with a secret identity to prevent being caught by authorities in the early days of graffitiing…But has somehow been able to capitalise financially now?? (Fingers crossed).

Girl With Balloon is one of his iconic works that has been reproduced and reworked several times over the years since it was first stencilled on a wall in London 2002. The artwork’s original version shows a girl reaching out towards a heart-shaped balloon, her clothes, and the balloon blowing in the wind. Over to her right is the message, ‘There is always hope‘.

One hundred fifty limited edition prints of this version were released in 2004/05 (publicdelivery.org 2020).

Whoever sold the Girl With Balloon at a Sotheby’s auction in 2018 certainly made a fortune. Here’s hoping Banksy is living above the poverty line. At the end of the auction, Girl With Balloon spontaneously started to slide out of its frame in shredded pieces (I would have given good money to see that). Luckily for the new owner, it got stuck partway through being shredded. It is speculated that the damaged artwork is now worth more than the sale price of £1,042,000.

Talking of stunts, did you see Banksy on the news in July 2020? I couldn’t help laughing when I saw the clip of Banksy spraying rats with Covid19 messages over a train carriage in the London Underground because the artwork was promptly wiped clean by authorities. Did they have a chuckle about some of the messages to the public to wear masks and cover their snotty noses before they eliminated them?

The video of the stunt released soon after is also performance art. The work is called, ‘If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get.‘ The chorus from Chumbawamba’s 1997 song Tubthumping (BBC News 2020) plays at the end of the video and reflects the vision of the message ‘I get lockdown‘ on the station wall outside, ‘but I get up again‘ on the train door as it shuts.

For those of you not familiar with Tubthumping, the song’s chorus is, ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again…’ The layering of the message from the art with the music makes me appreciate the work even more. It is now one of my all-time favourite art experiences. I even love the irony that Banksy encourages people to do the right thing (mask up, be covid safe) when they are illegally graffitiing in the London Underground. Priceless.

Conversation Starter
Art is a conversation starter, a way of reaching out to the people around you and increasingly to people around the world through digital media. Not to harp too much on Banksy, but when I read about ‘If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get’, I couldn’t help talking about it to all my friends. To my surprise, my husband didn’t know who Banksy was (well technically not many people do, but you know what I mean). Anyway, I introduced him to one of my favourite artists and have an interesting conversation about some of the messages conveyed through their work.
Exploring new ideas and artworks with those around you is a fun relationship builder.

Art Therapy
Our mental health and wellbeing are just as important as our physical. Creating/viewing art can help us explore our emotions and focus outside of our immediate problems and calm racing thoughts. As we allow ourselves to be absorbed in the creative process, we exercise a part of our brain that we might not always use. This means that we have a better chance of reaching our full potential, or in other words, ‘ self-actualisation’ (Prera 2020). When we have a better relationship with ourselves through stronger mental health, we encourage healthier and stronger relationships with other people.

Using art as self-directed therapy has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years. Mindfulness (living in the moment, focusing on what is in front of you to exclude other distractions) is often encouraged with things such as colouring books. Focusing on colouring a picture can be incredibly satisfying and calming.

Colouring in
You can take colouring one step further by drawing something simple and repetitive, such as a mandala flower and then colouring it yourself.
Here are my top tips for giving this a go:

1. Start with a central point, the middle of the flower.

2. Create petals/designs starting around the middle.

3. Aim to be symmetrical.

4. Choose your favourite colours and start colouring in.

Gifts of Love
When you create something as a gift for someone, you put your time, energy and love into it. Art is a very personal gift and is an expression of a deep and abiding relationship between the artist and the recipient. There is nothing more special to me than to receive a homemade card from my kids for a birthday or special event.

I completed a version of the following Blossom picture for my brother and his wife to celebrate their marriage a number of years ago.

When I handed over the gift at the wedding, they told me how much they loved it. I basked in the glory of accomplishment and didn’t look back. Deal done.

Since that time, and since having kids I have thought a bit harder about artistic gift-giving. Nothing is more difficult than receiving art/craft as a gift that you don’t like (macramé necklace anyone?). What do you do? Should you say it’s not really ‘you‘ and give it back? Pop it in the garage?  There is no easy answer to this.

I have come to a conclusion over the years that it is essential to honour the gesture, thought and time that has gone into a creative gift and find ways to express that rather than necessarily saying how much you love the piece. My brother and his wife could have said, ‘Thank you so much. I love that you have put so much time and effort into the detail of our Blossom picture.” Instead, they told me simply that they loved it. And because I appreciate my relationship with them, I am happy to say that I have not since checked their garage.

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