My childhood in Ayrshire was almost too protected. I grew up in a happy household and I was a happy kid, building dens, running around. Lots of kids are neglected, go to their room and self-harm or something, but art was never an escape like that for me. It’s not about losing negative feelings or even self-expression. I was just good at drawing.
Everyone’s good at something, but sometimes you can’t immediately see that, or your talent is something that’s not recognised at school. Art’s an easy one – other people can see your drawings as a kid and they praise you and then you realise you’ve got something you can do. Then, see, most people, they settle for the telly and beer and football or whatever. I used to do that, but then it didn’t satisfy me any more, I wanted to do something more interesting with myself.
I think if you’re creative, you often try lots of things. I’ve come full circle: at school, it was all drawing and football, they were the only things I enjoyed. I was ok at football, but I was good at art. Then I dropped it when I hit my teens – got into music, taught myself guitar. I knew I’d get a low scale job, minimum wage, I was failing at everything except art. After 8 years’ working as a signwriter, I went off travelling and that changed everything. I came back and learned to use a camera, a computer, did a film-making course in Greenock, worked on a few music videos – there was a scene around Paisley.
My Uncle Phil used to come up to Stevenston, he’d emigrated to Worthing years back. When I moved down here, he’d built me up to family and friends as this ‘artist’, see, and then I had to admit I’d not done any drawing for years. So I picked it up again and then over 5 years slowly shifted into painting.
My work takes me all over and they put me up in hotels. So I put down a huge sheet on the carpet, set up my easel and I paint at night. I mostly use acrylics cos they’re fast-drying and I can hide it all under the bed in the morning when I go out. I don’t want them to think I might do a Jackson Pollock or ruin their carpet or something. Then, when I leave, I carry the painting wrapped in that huge sheet and I wonder if they’re gonna stop me one day, thinking I’m stealing the TV – or their bedsheets or something?! I lived five years like that, when I first came to Worthing: I didn’t have anyone to hang out with, didn’t know anybody and I wasn’t in the art community. I was just working in the day and painting in the hotel room at night.
( Lewis Mclaughlin – FB page. Next instalment in 2 weeks: ).