Journey to becoming an Artist
I was aged just three when I painted my very first watercolour, my mum went into the garden and said “choose a flower and let’s paint it”. I chose a purple flower, which for those who know me, I’m generally dressed in purple and turquoise, and my paintings are often of a similar palette. As a child, I made my colour feelings blatantly clear to my parents by pointing at the 1970’s orange wall in my bedroom of our brand-new home and saying “No!” when I was only one and a half years old. My mother, slightly exasperated and surrounded by boxes to unpack and no carpet on the floors, pointed at the orange walls and said “yes” in reply. My dislike for orange unfortunately turned into hysterical sobbing each morning when a ginger cat used to sit on the porch roof and look in at my bedroom window, which just about tipped me over the edge combined with the orange walls. Colour has always been important to me, and my loving parents speedily repainted my bedroom to a calming lilac… Ironically, I have grown to like orange (still not keen on yellow) and my lounge has been painted a Tuscan orange and I used to own a ginger cat! The colour orange to me must be like stilton cheese, Brussel sprouts and mushrooms, you grow to love it as you mature.
Before the computer revolution, which now appears to consume most of our lives, I spent my childhood painting and illustrating my own stories in the garden. I loved flowers and plants and most of all growing things. I think it was because I followed my father around the garden with my miniature wheelbarrow (which was bright orange)!? Needless to say, I didn’t like the colour, but I loved the fact I had a wheelbarrow; a happy compromise on my part. So, I helped out, and although I doubt I actually did much helping, I generally looked at the bugs, and grew mustard and cress from seed on the shed windowsill. This transpired into me growing Asters in a terracotta pot, and as I grew older, I now find that I have my own garden where I grow loads of flowers mostly those that are based on daisy formations. These include Rudbeckia’s, Helenium’s, Ox-Eye Daisies and of course a lot of wild flowers, Cornflowers, Corncockles, Geraniums and Teasel. Teasel is one of my favourites because of the wildlife it attracts, especially in Autumn where I like to see the Goldfinches feeding, pulling the Teasels over as the seeds pour out.
At school, we completed a careers assessment form which decided I should be working in horticulture, which, at the time I dismissed. I had already decided that I wanted to be an artist, to which my careers adviser told me that this was not a career and my grades in art were not that good. Well, of course my art grades were not that good throughout my education, mainly because I tended not to draw and paint what the tutor wanted me to or should be drawing and painting! I wanted to paint nature, and I remember manipulating my GCSE exam – which was design a piece of clothing – sigh, so not me! So I did a painting of a pair of boots with butterfly wings as the design over the surface tessellated to create a pattern, as I wanted to paint butterflies at the time… Not really fitting the GCSE brief, oops. My life is full of irony, as I now support GCSE students to get high grades as a private tutor by teaching them how to fulfil the requirements of the examining board – it’s quite easy really, don’t do what I did!
Looking back in retrospect, I can see where all my influences in my art work come from, the fascination with pattern, insects and flowers. They were all part of my childhood and what I loved to do.
During my second year of A level, I met a tutor that liked my single-minded crazy ideas and he helped me apply to art colleges. My Foundation Art tutor was supportive and then at degree my tutors and I parted ways once again, because I didn’t like the hoops I was expected to jump through! What I did love at university was the full-time 5 day a week in the studio, and your own dedicated space.
After graduating I realised that I needed a job to start eating away at the university debt, but I didn’t see the point of working hard at art for four years not to pursue my love of art as a graduate, but I also knew being a practising artist was tough, and not everyone made it. As my careers advisor at university informed me, they could get me an interview as a manager in a retail outlet because they liked graduates with lateral thinking abilities? Hmm, I had been working part-time in retail throughout my degree and although I found it fun, I couldn’t imagine doing it every day and not being in the studio 5 days a week. No, I had to give myself a “make or break” decision on my art career. So, I hired a local large gallery space without any completed art works. I had six months before my opening, I needed to make some work, and I decided if the exhibition went well then, I would work towards my art career as a priority. A loan from the bank and a course on self-employment later, I launched my career and made 40 works to exhibit. These were photographic and digitally manipulated works, as I didn’t have a studio, this didn’t of course stop me from filling my parents garage, utility room and kitchen floor with wet painted mounts for the photos… When my parents came home nothing could be moved, food couldn’t be prepared, and the car couldn’t be put away. This exasperated my mother who complained to the Director of the art centre at my private view, who in turn said, that they had a studio space I could have, only temporarily as that part of the building was due to be renovated as it was technically condemned. It was perfect and affordable, I had a studio and I have never looked back. I soon moved into a studio in the non-derelict part of the building and my art career was born. The exhibition was a success and I sold several pieces, as well as having some lovely write ups in the local press, and I was even interviewed on local radio!
For many years, I considered returning to education for an MA or PhD, but that nagging doubt in the back of my mind, of being guided or told what to do has meant that I instead spend my days painting, researching, reading about the nature around me and of course growing my inspiration from seed. I want to communicate to the world my love of nature and the peril it is in because of humanity taking a bit too much and not putting enough back. I’m not the “tie yourself to a tree” environmentalist, but I feel very strongly we need to notice nature more, be a part of the natural process notice; the stages of the moon, live by the seasons, where possible eat seasonally and work with nature, not against it.