My journey to becoming an artist
Leonardo da Vinci said:
"The young painter must first learn perspective; then the mass of all things; then he must apprentice himself to a good master, in order to accustom himself to good bodily forms; then to nature, in order to memorise the grounds of what he has learnt; then to contemplate for a time the works from the hands of different masters; then to accustom himself to put everything into practice and to practise the art himself.... The painter's mind must ceaselessly pursue as many trains of thought as there are forms of visible life which appear before his eyes, and these he must record and draw down to himself, and gain rules from them, taking into account the place and circumstances, light and shade. "
I want to tell you a little bit about my journey to becoming an artist. When I was at school I knew I loved art, however, I had a somewhat uninspiring teacher. He preferred to paint scenery for the school play to teaching his only A level pupil art. After some pushing I was given a short introduction into perspective. I asked my brother’s art teacher for extra curricula lessons, but I still failed my art A level. But this didn’t stop me and I went on to study Textile Design & Design Management at UMIST (now @manchesteruniversity). New to the UK and Swiss immigrants I didn’t know about foundation courses until this possibility was mentioned during my university interviews. As I didn’t speak English when I started school, I was a year older than my colleagues, so I thought taking 2 years out (I had missed the application period) would be too much. Now at 51, I would advise my younger self to do the foundation year if possible. But it hasn’t stopped me. For my final year project I focused on printed textiles. It’s been wonderful to rediscover the joy of printing – and fight with perspective again thanks to @royaldrawingschool courses. You are never too old to rediscover old skills and learn new ones!
After studying BSC (Hons) Textile Design & Design Management I worked for a fashion company in Germany (and painted a mural in the local pub). I moved back to London, where besides working I made and sold greetings cards. I relocated to Vienna for work. There I started going to art classes again and organised my first exhibition. As a result I was the first living artist to draw a picture for Schönbrunn Palace (previously only prints from the print cabinet used). From Vienna we moved to Switzerland where I finally had my own studio. Here I found the Kunstmalschule Rabe (now closed) and spent three years studying fine art - a classical education: I painted in monochrome only for a year to understand light! Martin Rabe was an excellent master, I have been studying art theory and philosophy with him ever since. It was also Martin who introduced me to the idea of abstraction... I was resistant at first, but having studied movement, the body, space, light and colour I finally spent 5 years discovering the delights of working from my innermost being. Now I can’t imagine not painting an abstract to balance my studies of nature.
Putting everything into practice occupies all my time. I see potential paintings wherever I look. I think “I need to paint that” “I need to paint this” “I want to delve into this...” Moving to Switzerland 16 years ago finally gave me the space to work at my art. However, I then had kids, so though I had the physical space, I didn’t have the mental space to focus 100%. I always painted, but kids leave you with short spaces of time to work in – not conducive to long in-depth art exploring sessions. Plus to create art you need money – Vincent Van Gogh often included a plea for money to buy paint in his letters to his brother. So I ran a B&B and a shop for artisan products in my studio. As soon as my daughter went to Kindergarten I enrolled in an art school. Every year has taken me further down the road to being an artist. I spent 6 years painting dancers in a ballet school to study movement and the body. I have spent three years up a mountain to study light, sky and natural forms. I finally decided I was a real artist about 3 years ago...
My mind is over active. I know. I can’t help it. And I am deeply affected by beauty. This applies in the opposite too. By reading, studying art theory and philosophy texts as well as the life happening before my eyes I have built myself a deep well of information. I see it as a tuning into the world. Creativity happens where our senses (from our innermost being) clash with the impressions sent back to us by the world. That is why my artwork covers a wide range of subjects, from the figurative to the abstract, from the nature study to the cityscape. From print to delicate water colours. I cannot put all my art on my website, you would be overwhelmed. I am always pushing myself to reach new heights, depict new ways of seeing...of feeling.
I have been recording happenings around me for just about as long as I can remember. I have a stash of sketchbooks filled over the years. One of my first joyful experiences of recording what I can see happened when I was still living in London and travelling in to work from Epsom, where I grew up. I was sketching a man on the train. When I finished, put my sketchbook away, he got up and came over. He told me he had just missed his stop, but couldn’t let me ruin my sketch of him, so had stayed on the train for me! So lovely! Thirty years later and I still get a warm feeling when I remember this!
I am deadly serious about being an artist. It is a world still governed by men. My art is female. I am a woman. However, is it any less valuable for that? The pressure to conform to life as a woman - concentrate on your home, your children - is huge and comes from women just as much as from men. Especially in rural Switzerland. To want to succeed as a female artist is not really something anyone would gladly own up to - the first question I am always posed is, "can you make a living from it?" Would you ask a male artist this? Can I as a female artist paint flowers? Or am I then conforming to being a woman?
So thank you for reading this, thank you for supporting a female artist.