Some of the earliest memories I have from my life involve drawing and colouring in. Seems to me that it was something I was born with and it definitely stuck with me all through my school years!
From very early on I realised I had a soft spot for drawing people and I just wanted to re-create the world around me on paper, in as much detail as I possibly could. I loved the idea of capturing a moment and creating permanence with subject matters that would inevitably change in time.
When I was in high school I studied under two different art teachers at the same time. They couldn’t have been more different if they tried!
One of them nurtured my natural ability for realism and told me I could do anything I wanted with my art. She told me I had a natural eye for composition and would give me constructive feedback on the way that I created my drawings. She always told us in class that:
“there was no right or wrong when it comes to art, there is just art!”
…I even started studying photography under her wing and she helped me learn more about how to take a great photo that I could then use as references for my own drawings.
The other teacher told me outright that I wasn’t a real artist because I didn’t like drawing landscapes and that because I relied heavily on photo reference when creating the drawings, I wasn’t really creative enough to make it as an artist.
Both these women got into my head during high school and their words have stuck with me for the past 20 years.
What happened in my next chapter makes sense, when I look back on it now that is, with the beauty of hindsight on my side.
QUITTING ART SCHOOL
High school came to an end and I had to make the decision that all 18-year-olds are faced with… what was I going to do with the REST of my life?!?
I had no idea. I just knew that I liked drawing. I was also incredibly shy and introverted (still am!!) and that made me nervous about heading out into the adult world! University seemed to be the socially acceptable thing to do after school so I figured an art degree is what made sense and off I went.
As someone who loved learning and reading and had genuinely enjoyed school over the years, I was actually excited to get to university but as a shy, introverted young adult who had been told I wasn’t a real artist, I was never really able to find my feet there.
Art school was an interesting place. Full of creative people… and me. Well, that’s how it felt anyway! It wasn’t just drawing and painting and art history, which were all things I was excited to learn more about. We had to study all kinds of things like ceramics, printmaking, stencil art, graphic design, even drama classes!! These were all things that I had never done before and which quite simply terrified me at the time.
And so instead of embracing it all, learning new things, stepping outside my comfort zone and finding out what I did and didn’t like in the world of art, I allowed myself to become consumed by the words of that art teacher… “you aren’t creative enough”… and I made a decision that would change my path for years to come.
I quit art school.
At the time I convinced myself that it was because I wasn’t sure of what I would be able to do for work after spending four years studying art. I know now that it was because I let the judgement of someone else interfere with something I had been passionate about since I was a kid.
And despite the nurturing words of one teacher, the harmful words of another managed to drown them out for a long time.
FROM RETAIL INDUSTRY TO TATTOO INDUSTRY
So I went to work. For almost 10 years I worked in various roles in the retail industry and during that time I became really good at ignoring this little flame that still lived inside me that wanted to draw. I just worked and existed.
Then tattooing happened. And once again in my life, I had teachers and mentors who told me I could. So I did… and I started to find my feet once again as a person in this world.
And with that newfound sense of belonging, I started to finally realise my dreams of being an artist. For me, over the years, this has meant not just tattooing but also chasing that deep-seated passion that has been there all along… to re-create the world around me on paper and share it with others.
TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY
This year marks my tenth year working as a professional artist and what a journey it has been!
Do I still sometimes compare myself to other artists from time to time and think that I’m not good enough to be in this space? I sure do. Do I sometimes wonder if I have what it takes to keep going? Yes, but with time, experience and maturity there come a new level of self-awareness…
And that is to say that none of that actually matters. It never did. The words and opinions of one teacher in high school shouldn’t have shaped how my twenties played out but they did. They shouldn’t have made myself doubt something that felt so natural to me but they did. They shouldn’t have made me turn my back on creating art for so many years but they did. Words can be so very powerful, especially to the mind of a young and impressionable person.
And so here I am, about to turn forty and feeling like I am in the midst of this incredible journey called life. I have no regrets. I have no hard feelings. I have only clarity and gratitude for all the things that life has taught me so far and excitement for all that is yet to come!
I am an artist in my own way. I am creative in my own way. I am an artist because I say that I’m an artist. Like someone wonderful once said to me, “there is no right or wrong, there is only art”
At the end of it all, nothing other than your happiness will matter and happiness comes from following your passion. So for every single day that you are lucky enough to have air in your lungs, do something that lights you up inside. Be the artist of your own life.