I am an artist. I always have been. But I haven’t always found it so easy to say so.
It’s the old cliché, I was drawing as soon as I could pick up a pen (or crayon), and without wanting to sound too up myself, I was always pretty good at it! To this day, I can’t figure out fractions and percentages to save my life, but I can draw.
And I love drawing. It’s the only thing in life that I can lose hours at a time doing consistently, non-stop. Even when I’m immersed in a Netflix binge I need to come up for air, but when I have a pencil in my hand and a sketchbook in front of me I can find myself so suspended in this anti-reality of creation, the spell is only broken when I realise that I can barely see the paper anymore, the sun’s going down and I’m sketching in the dark.
It’s my life! But for the longest time, I sort of denied that. I guess because, as a craft, it can be so love-hate and as a career it can be so win/lose.
“You really suffer for your art don’t you!” My mum always used to say when I’d come to her desperate for advice, guidance, inspiration for my coursework sketchbooks. Because art as a hobby was fun, but art as work…? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the point?
So even though consistently through primary school, I answered the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question with; ‘I want to write and illustrate children’s books’ (yeah, that was really my answer) as I got older, my career goals changed. First I wanted to be a forensic scientist (I watched a lot of CSI) but eventually I settled on wanting to be a translator. I love languages, I’m good at learning foreign vocab and grammar, I wanted to work at the UN, and I wanted my life to be as exciting as Nicole Kidman’s in the film ‘The Interpreter’.
I studied my languages; French, English, Spanish and even Japanese briefly, and I got good grades and I went to a good uni reading Spanish and English. I was being a proper person. At that point, I wasn’t even drawing for fun anymore. I was an adult. And I was going places.
But I dropped out of uni after 3 months. After 18 years of plodding through the education system, doing everything that was expected of me and more to get the grades and the career and the income that I thought I wanted, I had suddenly reached a point where none of it meant anything anymore. The little plan I had for myself; the apartment in New York with a cat and a whole room full of books and a separate study for my man where he could pursue whatever passion he might have and our lavish (if not at least comfortable) lifestyle. For what?
It wasn’t an easy decision and of course many people in my life- including myself- needed several tense months of convincing that I was making the right choice at all!
…But that’s a story for another day.
After that, I didn’t pick up my sketchbook right away. I spent a while drifting. Questioning everything, worrying about my future. Returning to art wasn’t an intentional next step for me. It just happened.
I was drawing for me again. And it finally occurred to me that art as work could… well… work! Art as life, art as a passion, can translate into work. I could do my own thing and put it out there for people to take it or leave it.
Anyway, I’m telling you all this as a sort of part one in the story of how I got to where I am today. And I know that when people say ‘where I am today’ you assume they must be in some place of esteem, and I’m fully aware that I’m not quite in that place yet, but where I am is a place of contentment. I chose art. I do what I love every day and while it only just about pays the bills, I have finally accepted that this is the only career I want for my future.
I wanted to share with you my journey to this place of contentment. Taking what was a consistent childhood hobby, to a passion and a constant solace through adolescence to what will inevitably be my career through adulthood.
And maybe one day I’ll have that apartment in New York with a whole room full of books and a separate study for my man and at the very least I’ll have my cat. But, in the meantime, at least I’m happy.
I’m an artist.