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During my adventure on Sunday in the laneways of Melbourne, I came across something that looked like discarded drawings. In a laneway near the law district which was a weird combination of old and new, on the cobbled street next to a big blue skip, was a large, forlorn looking piece of paper. When I first saw it, I thought it was just rubbish, but then I realised it was very white.

As I walked up to the paper I saw, in the fold, a half-hidden charcoal sketch of a nude figure. I wanted to know why someone would have thrown it away, and looked around for other clues. Further down the laneway, where I assume the wind had taken them, were other pages of drawings. I couldn’t have told you exactly why, but these pages, lying dead in an alley, filled me with an intense feeling of melancholy. Someone out there had hated their own work so much that they’d discarded it. They had hated themselves so much that they couldn’t bear the reminder of what they saw as their own inadequacy.

Flanigan Lane - discarded art

Flanigan Lane – discarded art

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic. It’s just as likely that this artist didn’t care about the drawings. Maybe they were doing a life drawing class with their partner, or a friend, and didn’t have any room in their heart for the scribblings that they made. It’s almost as sad to think of people who don’t have room for art – people who are too busy, or who just aren’t paying attention. I suppose it reminds me of the person I used to be when I didn’t have time to work on my art, at time when I discarded my work, didn’t value it, or nurture it. I remember how sad I was, how there was a deep wound inside me that I didn’t even realise was there. Occasionally I look at my life now and think about how stressful it is, or how far away from my goals I am, or how I’m a bit lonely, or sad, or whatever, but sometimes I remember where I came from. How distant that person who started on this path seems. Now when I’m sad I know it. When I feel something I can really feel it. Before I didn’t even know I was unhappy, I thought that this was as good as it gets.

There is no way that an artist can keep everything that they produce, of course there will always be a selection process going on, there must be in order to grow. I do it with my writing all the time, get half way through some ill-formed concept and decide it’s never going to work, but it really reminded me that sometimes you can’t see the value in your own work and we have to be gentler with ourselves sometimes.