I am both a painter and a teacher. I spent my first years teaching, at the elementary level, feeling that it hindered my creative work. Engulfed in my duties, I had no opportunity for intellectual discussions about art—in fact, the art around me only served as a part of children’s educational development. How, given my daily routine, could I find the stimulation and inspiration for my own artistic practice?
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches.”
Inspiration had to come from them, those young, so purely creative, minds. Therefore, I paid attention to my pupils’ first bursts of creativity when—in what our pedagogical jargon termed a basic exercise—they were simply attempting to get the knack of a new technique, try out different colours, or play with line using a new tool.
At the end of my teaching day, I was moved when I came upon the traces of their lively, sensitive work, forgotten as soon as it was completed, for it wasn’t important to my young artists. The children also entrusted me with a few finished drawings or paintings they deemed wanting, as I had asked them not to throw anything away. I affectionately dubbed my little collection of those The Castoffs.
Thanks to the children, I became a painter once again.
Now, twenty years later, I am teaching adults—and I also ask those students not to throw anything away. The new Castoffs prompt me to follow, with no preconceived ideas, the meanders of the medium. Combing through those precious scraps, tearing them up, sticking them together, superimposing them one upon the other, I once again delight in creative play and, as Pierre Soulages has said, “the involvement of one’s whole being. A state of expectation and openness in which one is complete. A state of receptiveness to the unknown, the unexpected, the unsettling.”