Recently I was scrolling through an email by one of my favourite art stores, Art Shed in Brisbane. As I read through the message I was quite moved by what is sadly not an unusual situation.
"My daughter doodles on every empty spot on whatever paper she can get her little hands on. While the cello is her "has to", drawing, painting and craft are, as they have always been, her passion.
She cherishes every moment of art class, even when the demands of the art teachers are too constrictive.
At school, she was told she is not particularly good at art and has never received a grade higher than a B. There have been times where she has said: "I suck at art, I can't draw very well so what's the use"!
It's at these times I have to remind her that art comes from your heart and soul. There are no mistakes or rules that need to be followed. I believe art is a creative outlet for emotion, beautiful and raw. Art is an expression; it's losing yourself for moments in time where all that exists is you and your artwork."
It brought me back to my own youth. A teacher telling me that I should not pursue art as a career, as I had no real talent for it. I remember being quite shocked and crushed. Art was already hugely important to me and if this authority didn't have any faith in me what chance did I have?
I can also remember other children teasing my work. At that age I often became quite fixated on one particular detail and got carried away (nothing has changed really!). For example I would draw hills, behind hills, behind hills. Till the page was completely filled. I'd spend hours drawing tiny perfect circles all over the place. I look back at what was obviously an early indication for what was to come, but why didn't others see that?
I had better luck in high school where some teachers saw potential. Although many still did not and were happily vocal on the matter. I could draw 'The Lion King' characters perfectly but was constantly accused of tracing since the work was so accurate. Another thing I experienced was that not everyone valued a creative project like I did and my partners would often loose interest and give up. Some teachers would award better grades to those that needed "encouragement" and others would take out their bad day/frustrations on you.
I painted animals constantly, despite the best efforts of my college teachers to drive me towards more traditional subjects. My poor teacher cried when we were finally given free reign of subject in the final semester and I decided I wanted to branch out after fighting her for two years. Wherever you are, I still paint animals almost constantly, I wasn't trying to be difficult! You were one of the good ones.
Finding someone that supported my passion was a very rare commodity. From being told I had no talent, to my work being destroyed or stolen, teachers that encouraged others to literally trace my work, there is a long list of negative. My work was simply grown through hard work and constant practise. I consider myself supremely lucky to have a mother that was there at the end of each day to wipe away any tears, offer me a pencil and tell me to try just one more time.
My success can be chalked up to one thing, stubbornness. A refusal to give up. Both my own and my mothers in encouraging me to practise every day regardless.
The truth is, art is extremely subjective and in situations like classrooms where a student is expected to be the stock standard model of human, those in charge can completely miss the spark in a child's eye.
There have been some truly talented artists out there who will never be recognised. They weren't any less talented, and they weren't any less in love with art. They just didn't last through all the negativity thats out there.
So if I can leave one message out there for those trying to "make it" or those who have children who are experiencing the heart breaking doubt of their teachers. Its this, don't give up on your dreams. Those teachers/bullies/unsupportive friends or family do NOT know what they are talking about. They can't foresee the future. They can't know how much heart and soul you put in to your work or how hard you will work at it. There have been some great people in history that, if they had of listened to the naysayers would never have left their profound print on the world.
Hang in there. Try just one more time. Do it because you love it. You can do this.
Much love to those out there struggling.