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Choosing to be an artist

Is it a choice?

I’ve been asked recently, a few times, to have students or young teenagers for work experience. This is always as much of an experience for me as I imagine it is for them, as I see my younger self reflected in their faces, and their dreams. I wonder if I had spent any serious time with an artist in my teens whether I would have taken fright at the path I was choosing!
I didn’t stumble into being an artist, it is what I wanted to do from a very young age. I knew, with out doubt, that there was no other path that would give me the same satisfaction and happiness. That is not to say it was a choice without hurdles, my art foundation year at E.C.V. in Paris was at an art school largely geared towards graphic design and advertising, and I saw that this would be a more lucrative path. Luckily, I was hopeless at graphic design, and remained on my road. I then studied at Durham University, and watched my peers go on to quickly earn decent salaries in the city, and buy houses. I wondered if I should maybe get the ‘proper job’ that my mother kept hinting at. A brief detour into portraiture taught me a huge amount (the main lesson being that I was not a portrait artist).

‘Ivy Leaping’ Oil on canvas

Why I do what I do.

I think, it was clear in my head that I was unable ‘not’ to be an artist, that being prevented from painting and drawing makes me unhappy and frustrated.  I constantly have ideas and plans buzzing around in my brain, I see inspiration in the every day routine of life, be it winter light though the hedge on the school run or watching a wildlife programme on late night TV.
I realise I am fortunate to have known what I wanted to do, and to have had the support to achieve it, but it is both a blessing and a curse. People often say to me ‘Why don’t you paint such and such?’ or ‘Why don’t you draw only charcoals?’ The answer is that I can’t. I have to stay to true to what I want to paint, to my vision as an artist. If I try to paint to please other people I feel I end up pleasing no one, and in the end my art deteriorates.

 

‘Blaze of Glory’ Charcoal on paper

Advice for artists starting out

One of the bloggers I read regularly, Making a Mark by Katherine Tyrell, posted this great link to the 2103  BP Portrait  winner Susanne du Toit’s Top Ten Tips for being an artist. They resonate with me, and I think I will pass them onto the work experience students.
The other piece of advice that I read somewhere recently was “Learn to live on less” and it struck a chord. Most artists will never earn a fortune, or get serious recognition, but they will be an artist, and that is reward in itself.

‘Up, up and away’. Charcoal on paper

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