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Art – Can You Paint More Than Just Your Toe Nails?


Art is a wonderful thing but the art world seems to be dominated by snobs who won’t let me into the Royal Academy just because I ‘can’t paint’.


I clearly showed great promise with my fairy poem and picture in the 60s. My mother is my biggest fan – she has kept this for over 50 years!

Well I can and I do. Just ask my husband who has begged me, more than once, not to paint the curtains or the floor anymore. It is the only thing about me that seems to annoy him. I have tried to explain to him – when I am painting, I don’t see the carpets or curtains, much less care about them. I go into a trance like state where all I care about is paint. Oh and the music; I must have music when I am painting – usually Aerosmith or something equally upmarket. Art and music are inseparable in my world.

Are you someone who plays with paint but feels the title ‘Artist’ is too grand for you? Click To Tweet

So am I an artist then? Apparently not in the strictest sense of the word. Are you also a person who plays with paint but feels the title ‘Artist’ is too grand for you? How about ‘Painter’? Does that also sound too big for what you do? If you are like me, you probably feel as if the words Artist and Painter describe people who produce ‘proper’ paintings. One look at the definition of the word ‘Artist’ on makes me think we may be right. None of the definitions given apply to me, particularly number five which says, ‘a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill’. Nowhere does it say ‘a person who slaps paint around and annoys everyone in the vicinity’.


At least I am trying’!

Some days, I spend hours up to my elbows in paint. Quite often I end up with it on my face, in my hair and on anything else I happen to touch while I am ‘in the zone’. But according to (and possibly the very posh people at the Royal Academy of Arts in London), that does not make me an Artist. The mere act of transferring expensive acrylic paint from a squeezy bottle onto paper (or household furnishings that are too close to the paper) may not be enough to qualify me as an Artist with a capital A.

So how come I often see art that I consider to be as ‘naïve’ (a posh word for crap), as my own but done by famous contemporary artists and hanging beside classical works of art in the prestigious galleries of the world? How come I can’t get away with childish scrawls and be worshipped by the art world luvvies?


Somewhere in the world there is one iPhone case with this design. My one and only Red Bubble sale!

How come I can’t get away with childish scrawls and be worshipped by the art world luvvies? Click To Tweet

A couple of years ago, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, I stood for absolutely ages in front of a print, by a very famous contemporary Brit artist, with my mouth opening and closing like a rather surprised fish. I was silently mouthing, OMFG! Please excuse the expletive nestled in that acronym but I was shocked into f word territory that day.

 The picture featured crudely drawn willies jumping over a small washing-line towards an equally crudely drawn naked female. Well it probably wasn’t actually a washing-line but I assume one can interpret ‘art’ in any way one wants. There was a caption that said something like ‘I didn’t know they could jump so high”.

It looked as if maybe the artist’s inner child had produced the scrawly, infantile picture. Well gosh, my inner child can do stuff like that with no problem. However, I am pretty sure the Royal Academy elite would turn their delicate noses up at any little leaping penises I could draw.

The thing is, this print was absolutely plastered with sold stickers. From memory, I think a tiny print cost around £400 and a bit. I was tempted to stand around and tell potential buyers that I could draw better willies than that, in color, for a fraction of the cost but I thought I might be asked to leave.

My educated friend (who is a proper Artist having been to art school and held proper exhibitions) explained to me why someone like the artist in question could get scrawly willies into the Royal Academy while I can’t.


A venture into using the encaustic process.

I think the Royal Academy elite would turn their delicate noses up at any little leaping penises… Click To Tweet

Apparently, it’s to do with earning the right to produce childish scribbles and be applauded for it (if I understood my friend correctly). He said it’s about proving you can paint ‘proper’ pictures first and making a name for yourself in the very fickle world of art. Once you have become a darling of the RA, you can spit on a canvas and sell it for hundreds of thousands, apparently. And if you add a caption in your own blood explaining what the spit means, it could go for millions.

Or you could arrange a pile of toenail clippings carefully on top of a used tissue, put ropes around it and call it an ‘installation’. Or is that  ‘concept’ art? I am never quite sure. If the toenail clippings and /or tissue belonged to an important public figure, like say… Bart Simpson, you’d be made for life.

Last year, a very posh London Gallery was charging good money to see an exhibition by a German artist, consisting of chairs turned upside down. My friend and I had planned to go and see it while we were in London seeing the Anselm Keifer exhibition at the RA (now Anselm Keifer can paint). However, after finding that the tickets to get in to see the over-turned chairs cost more than an actual  chair from Argos, I decided to go home and turn my own chairs upside down and study them from all angles for free. It was fun. I had to do it in the garden because my dining room isn’t big enough to turn furniture over without creating trip hazards.


My Perfect Nowhere

Also, I was able to walk around my ‘installation’ a lot more easily and view it from the garden swing for absolutely hours. I was also able to look at it from the bedroom windows and gain an important perspective on what upturned chairs look like from above. As far as I know, that was an added bonus that the real exhibition didn’t have, although I may be wrong.

Now where was I? Oh yes, so us people who paint without knowing what we are doing aren’t Artists in the strictest sense of the word, neither or we ‘proper’ Painters, apparently. But don’t worry, I made up a new word just for us – we are painterists. I am sure there will be someone on the internet that will claim this word is not new so let’s just say, it’s new to me. To qualify as a painterist, you must be a dabbler who hides their work and then blames the children for the splashes down the curtains.

You must only paint in abstract and you must use a variety of household items to apply the paint. We’re talking scouring pads, sponges, toothbrushes, cocktail sticks, feather dusters etc. Actual paintbrushes are allowed but only as part of an overall mix of painting tools.


Mixed media experiment

Us painterists must stick together and claim the right to shine in our own way, even if the fancy-shmancy world-famous galleries don’t want our offerings. Some of my worst pictures are just as good as the ‘best’ (in my opinion) pictures that famous artists produce – I just can’t back it up with any ‘proper’ paintings and I haven’t been to art school. 


Us painterists must stick together and claim the right to shine in our own way! Click To Tweet

However, I paint on with pride! (That is, on the dining table, the curtains and even the laminate wood floor at times). The upside is, I have found a fantastic use for my boxes full of unappreciated works of art and now I wear them. I make jewellery and t-shirts from them and whether they like it or not, the public is forced to look at my art wherever I go.


More mixed media. Ok so this one left paint on the curtains. It’s still there.

I intend to exhibit at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 even though they have not invited me to. I won’t bother involving them in the process because they will only say no. I’m not being negative, just realistic – trust me. I will be exhibiting very subtly at the Royal Academy simply by walking in and standing around wearing my art.  I may even call myself a subtle walking installation. And then at least I can say I exhibited at the Royal Academy. I may have to disappear into the toilets about 15 times to change my floaty scarves, T Shirts and paper jewellery, but hey, who said being a walking exhibition would be easy? How Bohemian, artsy and ‘out there’ is that? I bet Picasso never thought of that but then, he probably didn’t need to, did he?

Do you paint or make art in some way? I would love to hear from you and see your work. If it is bad enough, I would love to have some on my Facebook page.

This post has a link to Perspectives On Leisure , a site where Terri Webster Shrandt and friends explore the many exciting things people do with their leisure time.

23 thoughts on “Art – Can You Paint More Than Just Your Toe Nails?”

  1. Pingback: Fun with art is possible at any age - just get stuck in.

  2. Can I just say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the vibrancy of your art and the Royal Academy should be bloody honoured to have it in their gallery. Secondly, we were living in the UK when Tracy Emmen won the Turner Prize for her soiled bed, imaginatively named “My Bed”. I kept looking at the pictures thinking all I had to do was not clean my bedroom for a month and I could do that. Then earlier this year there was a massive furore in the art world (here in Aus anyway) because Saatchi sold the unmade soiled bed, now over a decade old, for 2 million pounds (or something) and she only got 100,000 when he bought it. I read up on it and am all for supporting young British art, but it does beg the question who decides what is art and what isn’t. Who decides an installation of toilet roll buildings (at the Tate Modern in 2005 when we were last in the UK) is worth paying for whilst my mountain of toilet rolls next to my loo isn’t. Keep painting Gilly, your work is brilliant!! I on the other hand cannot draw or paint for toffee, so I will stick to writing xx

    1. Thanks Sarah! I swear if you spent a morning slopping paint around with me and saw my ‘techniques’ you would produce a painting you would LOVE. You don’t need to be ‘able’ to paint, you just need the confidence to get right into it and splosh! I can’t draw for toffees and knowing that about myself stopped me trying. I became a photographer because I was a frustrated ‘artist’ but I am so glad I did let loose with paint in the end. Just try it – get a canvas and some acrylics and start squeezing them out in pools. It’s fun! You will be shocked at what you can produce. OMG – the soiled bed! 2 million?!!!!!! I’ve only ever seen pictures of that and I don’t get why anyone would want to own it let alone pay a massive sum to do so. The story behind it is interesting but as with most stuff like that, very self-absorbed and full of misery. I really appreciate your comments and am off to photograph the installation I have done in my kitchen. It’s called ‘Dirty Dishes’.

    1. Thank you Linda – bubbles bring me joy! I secretly play with the bubble wand even when the granchildren aren’t here 🙂 OMG – yes! Aerosmith – dig them out! I just went to a CD sale in a church hall in Woodbridge and found four aerosmith albums I didnt have for £1 each. All spectacular – not one bad track on any of them. Excellent painting music for toe nails or curtains. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    1. Thank you Wendy – I appreciate your time. Ha Ha – people wouldnt even notice! You’d have to be naked to get noticed in London and even THAT is debatable with everyone glued to Smartphone screens! I would really love to show other people’s dabblings over on my facebook page called
      If you have anything you would like to show the world – please post on there. Let’s be PROUD of our art! Thanks again.

  3. I think your paintings are lovely. I’m very excited about your upcoming exhibit. Your walking installation is going make a huge impact on the art world. If you don’t get the attention you want you could always take off the art and become an art exhibitionist. I am sure you would portray a much more beautiful picture than the one dimensional version of the willies.

  4. Hello Gilly, I think we must be very sympatico. I was just contemplating about writing a blog about art and I read yours and see that you are quite accomplished as an artist. Your work is vibrant, creative and very easy to enjoy. I have seen some weird installations in my time. And I don’t want to be mean, (which what people say when they are about to be mean), but really I suspected the artists of pulling some kind of prank. Trash in the middle of the floor, cordoned off, one would think it was for the cleaner to take away, but no, it is art. Some art appreciation reminds me of the children’s story, the Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone is pretending to see what is not there. Maybe I am too old and too wise to be fooled. I hope so.
    I like that you are following your passion, and that shows in your work. Beautiful!

    1. Hi Judith – thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. And after reading it I would say totally sympatico! I really appreciate your kind words about my stuff. It’s so hit and miss with me though! I hope you go ahead with your art blog, I would love to read it. It’s strange that you mention The Emperor’s New Clothes because that is what I always say when I see a pile of crap roped off in a posh London Gallery. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of you work.

    1. Hi Fran – thanks for that! Three reasons why it won’t be an official exhibition – I don’t have the right look, the right accent or the talent. If there is an abundance of the last one, the first two are forgiven (and even celebrated!) There is some seriously amazing work exhibited there, as you will know. I can only dream and wear my paper jewellery when I step through the doors! :-).

  5. Oh you said it, Gilly! It made me think of a cousin who quite fancies herself, telling us that her three year old’s painting showed his talent to be a future abstract artist! I now carry an air-sickness bag when I’m around her, in case of an accident!
    At the start of this year, I was introducted to creative journalling and I’ve been dabbling in paints and loving it.
    Who cares what they call me, I’ll continue to enjoy!

    1. This made me laugh Corinne! The fastest way to put a child off art. Air sickness bag – so funny! I would be really happy to put any dabblings you have done on to my arty Facebook Page.Thanks for coming by.x

    1. Thank you my friend! Appreciate your time. Great idea for a walking exhibition. The willies were by Tracey Emin by the way – I do like some of her work but the willies was not one of them. I expect I was missing something profound. 🙂

  6. First, I think the person who painted the willies is laughing his ass off as he deposits the checks and the over-turned chair was just trying to see what he could get away and probably was surprised when the RA agreed. Painters paint. Whether you are one of the lucky few who sell a painting is a completely different issue. (I think you should get a bunch of friends to join you, each wearing a different item from your collection, then you can be a walking exhibition!)

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