Recently, I did something I never imagined would ever happen again.
I started to paint.
It took me a while to figure out what drove me to pick up a paintbrush after 20 years. It seems that something has been missing from my career for quite some time. It’s not a lack of creativity, I get to be creative designing and thinking up stuff every single day. It’s an underlying force much more powerful than the desire to “create things”. A force so powerful, that it predates my modern, technological brain and goes right back to the beginning. It’s all thanks to my sense of smell.
For those of you just getting into this line of business, you sadly missed a time where the art department of an ad agency (or design studio) had the warm, welcoming smell of various art supplies all mixed together in one room. Pencils, magic markers, thinners, paint, hot wax machines, glue…the smell of the creative department was unlike no other found in the workplace. There’s a reason I skipped the party of going away to University to attend 4 years at a local prestigious art college. It has always been an ingrained sense in me that was also a driving force behind my entering a career in the field of art. The smell of an art studio has always made me feel like I am in my proper element.
By the 2000s, this smell was replaced. I don’t know by what but if I were to guess, I would say it was by a hint of electricity. The smell of the creative department was no longer unique. Does it really smell any different than the IT or accounting department? The acrid, burning smell of a room full of computers, photocopiers and fax machines took over the sweet smell of rubber eraser dust and India ink. With today’s technology, this smell of supplied power to a room full of machines has also been nearly extinguished. If you are sitting in a creative office environment at this moment, please close your eyes and take it all in. What do you smell? Does it smell like a room full of creativity?
My 4 year old is in Junior Kindergarten. I love taking her to class every day. When the door opens, I can instantly smell (and almost taste) the paste and paint. I’m sure you know what I’m referring to. Many of us fondly remember it. Smells are so powerful they can unlock our deepest memories.
Finally realizing what was missing, I ended up at the nearest art supply store where this smell still exists. I dropped my credit card and walked out with a huge canvas, various sizes of paintbrushes, and dozens of different paint colours.
I quickly got home and set everything up.
Staring at the bright white emptiness in front of me, I pushed a pin into the first tube of paint to break the seal, and squeezed a large dollop onto the fresh, clean palette.
The aroma hit me instantly and I found my happy place once again.
I don’t plan to ever forget it.
Until next time, keep dreaming.