I trust you have read my previous blog on my early childhood experience with art. If you haven’t you can find it here.
I want to continue with my journey, starting in high school.
Whoever says school days were the best days of their life… what a load of poop. Well, maybe they were the popular kids in school, but I certainly wasn’t. The only time I was popular in school was if it was group project time in art class.
I survived because of art classes!
My art teacher was the best – quirky and someone I could get on with. Her clothes were bright and her jewellery eccentric. Every time she walked past she would make a peculiar noise – the clanging of her jewellery, the swooshing whip of her long suede skirt, or the clip clop of her pointy toe boots.
The other classes were dull in comparison – rules suffocating the classrooms and hallways. Weekly, or even daily, I was asked to wash off makeup, told to stop colouring my hair in with different felt tip colours, take my earrings out, or was escorted to the toilets to be watched while I washed off my tattoos I had impressively drawn on myself and whoever sat beside me (this is when I learnt all about permanent markers lol) or was made to sit at the front for not paying attention and doodling on whatever file sat in front of me.
I was a drifter. Imagining and creating a life inside my head, while some teacher talked for 35 minutes, it was my coping mechanism. I was smart in the sense that my grades were good - to this day I still don’t know how I got an A in my GSCE French - but really, I was just good at holding information for test day and by the next day it was gone; I didn’t have a clue!
I remember one turning moment in my school life that made me totally shut down. In English class in third year we were asked to write the most imaginative story we could think of. Well, I took him at his word and got excited to put my imagination and personality to good use for a class other than art. I went into English proud of my story and handed it over. Days passed and when the teacher handed our papers back he kept mine and he read it – to our whole class.
It was wild, vibrant and imaginative compared to what my friends had written. I felt proud until he started picking holes in my creativeness, laughing and twisting his face in disgust at what my brain had told me to write. He got the class laughing at me too, until the point where he looked at me and told me it was a load of C.R.A.P, tore it up in front of my face, and walked to the front and put it in the bin. That was the day my confidence died. I have spent every day since rebuilding it and protecting it.
Art class was different. I felt encouraged and safe, surrounded by people with similar creativity. We could experiment with whatever we could dream of – or manage to carry into school! We got loads of class trips to museums and galleries, we could work with the radio on, we could go back and forth between our class and the other art class (with the cute looking older boy) and chat, so long as the work was done. I was in the generation that thought you needed to go to university to get a job. So, off I went to art college to the disgust and laughter of certain people who thought It wasn’t going to get me a real job and university students just get high all the time. Well, I soon learnt that one of those statements was true!
My first few years were good although I didn’t mix with many students because I wasn’t really into the party and drinking scene. I learnt what days my teacher showed up and how to get his advice on my work while holding my breath, so I didn’t have to smell the mixture of alcohol and cigarettes. The rest of the time I worked from home.
My final year was a different story; my teacher changed.
That final year was like holding onto a cliff by your finger nails. Every time I went in I braced myself for another mental confidence attack. I worked so hard to please that man, but never could. The student who was always high and knocked out 6 pieces in 30 minutes, the half hour before the teacher came around, was the reference I was to look to and be like. Every week, at my review, he would literally tell me it was rubbish and he didn’t know what I was doing here, in varying degrees of hostility.
The month before my final show he told me I was going to fail.
Two weeks from the final show he told me he didn’t have any more suggestions for me, there was nothing more he could do, and to just do whatever I wanted.
So, I did.
I didn’t turn up until evening on the designated day to hang stuff on the wall in preparation for the examiner’s visit the following day. I kept everything hidden so there wouldn’t be any conflict because now it was too late. And you know what? I passed and with flying colours. So much so that I won the award of 'graduate of the year', got given a nice healthy cheque, my work was on TV (it went on an exhibition around Ireland too) and my work even made it onto calendars with previous years’ winners.
When the final exhibition was open to the public, I had no idea that people and businesses would want to meet me, let alone write me numerous cheques for 400 quid without batting an eye lid. Inside I was still feeling the no-good useless person I had been told I was.
When I was getting all this attention my teacher came around in his loud gaudy voice, taking over the conversation, telling them how hard I’d worked and that I listened well to his concerns about my previous work to create such a good final show. At this point I just wanted to kick him in the balls! (sorry, not sorry lol)
When the wine and cheese had disappeared, and the day had come to clear my exhibition space, his last words to me were, ‘’if you haven’t made it in 10 years you never will’’. That was the last punch in the gut I took – I never got a well done.
For the next nine years I never lifted a paint brush. My creativity had been bashed so hard the thought of it almost made me vomit.
But on the ninth year a fire was lit under my feet. I had a lovely little daughter who looked at me with such admiration that I knew I had to be the influence in her life that would fill her bucket with so much confidence, that if everyone bored holes in it, she would still have enough confidence to rise above them.
On year nine I started AMor Rustic Arts and have never looked back.
I am now an author and have my own art business!
Who would have thought? Certainly not those two men.
The point of this story is...
Please don’t listen to your critics. Don’t let them take your power. It is mathematically impossible to please everyone; I’ve tried and am now a recovering people pleaser.
I understand that it’s hard. Our brains are wired to focus on the bad – that’s what kept us alive back in the day - looking for venomous snakes instead of looking at the pretty patterns on the butterflies, but it no longer serves us.
Your critics’ words will fade.
Don’t let the opinions of others get in the way of your dreams.
If you can’t tolerate critics, then don't do anything new or interesting!
I told you this one was going to be juicy. Bet you didn’t expect to read all that?! The final part in this intro, to how I began my business, is funny. I had no clue what I was doing and it will definitely give you a giggle. So, if you want to get the next part in your inbox just sign up here _____and I will keep you entertained!