“I’d sit alone and watch your light, my only friend through teenage nights and everything I had to know, I learned it on my radio.” When Freddie Mercury sang these words he may well have been speaking directly to me, telling me it’s ok to be impossibly shy, awkward, different, this magical little box holds all the answers – just follow the light.
Freddie Mercury Portrait by Kevin McHugh Art
The thing about being out of step with all your friends and classmates is that sooner or later you get left behind. At a time in my life that should have had me out experiencing the world, I found a different font of knowledge to draw from. I retreated to my room and pressed ‘play’. Music became my education. I discovered the wonders of AC/DC at full tilt, the ferocity of Guns N’ Roses, the 50’s inspired perpetual teenage universe described by Meat Loaf and the sheer power of Queen, where everything was turned up to 11.
“Sid Vicious is my only influence, coz he was the coolest bass player ever.”
So said Duff McKagan, not quite understanding that for me and tens of thousands like me, Duff was the coolest bass player ever. When I was young and I had a problem and no-one else could help, I didn’t call The A-Team (I couldn’t find them), I called Guns N’Roses.
Duff McKagan from Guns N Roses by Kevin McHugh Art
When I and three quarters of the planet discovered ‘Appetite For Destruction’ that was our Sex Pistols moment. That was Elvis shaking his hips on The Milton Berle Show, it was Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, it was a call to arms that said, “Your new life starts here, take what you can carry, leave the rest.”
What is art…and how can you tell the good from the bad? Well, I’m glad I asked but I haven’t a clue about the answer. It’s like asking what punk is, there’s no straight answer. We all have our own ideas of what art means to us – very different ideas.
The first thing 90% of people say to me when they hear I ‘do art’ is, “Oh that must be great, I can’t draw a straight line.” I haven’t had to draw too many straight lines in my life and I’m not sure just how vital that particular skill is. In fact, up until I painted the restored horse-drawn caravan I talked about last time, I had never needed to do anything even resembling a straight line. Yes, I did technical drawings at school but I had a handy little instrument called a ruler to help me with those.
“I can’t draw a straight line.” That conjures up images of school and maybe for a lot of people, that’s the last time they thought about art so when confronted with the notion again, they go right back there as their point of reference. We should think a little bigger though. Art can be anything, absolutely anything and just because you don’t like something, that doesn’t mean it’s not art. It’s just not for you.