Today is going to be a very busy day but before I get started and disappear off social media for the day (I can’t be distracted today) , I feel compelled to throw this out there for whoever it might help or give comfort to.
This morning I replied to a message from a student (not one of mine) I have been in dialogue with on social media (I have never physically met them). Without posting the entire dialogue, which I do not think is necessary, the main point of the dialogue was about self worth and confidence.
In all the years I have been teaching and viewing student portfolios and giving talks, it never fails to surprise and anger me to find incredibly talented individuals being knocked down by the very place that is supposed to be building them up, namely, art colleges, art tutors and schools.
I will not reveal identities in this post out of respect that those individuals may prefer that I don’t but if they read this , they will know who they are. Most of them already know how I feel about this.
I had one Leeds College Of Art student who came to my class because , at that time, they were not being offered any tuition in figure drawing or traditional drawing at all. I kept an eye on this students work development and was having difficulty in figuring how to progress his ability. Three or four weeks into the course, I noticed a sketchbook on the corner of their desk. I asked if I could look through it. The student offered me the book kind of sheepishly, as if it were not worthy to be held in my hands. At the front were some notes and doodles relating to the class I was teaching but hidden away at the back were some amazing drawings. I just stood there looking at this work and saying nothing. I asked if this was their own work and I found out that it was and the reason this work was hidden at the back, in some kind of secrecy , was because one of their tutors have told them to stop wasting their time and that this was not going to lead anywhere. I told the student that I wanted them to draw, like this hidden work, in my class. I told the student that this is the BEST work of theirs I have seen , and that they should continue with it. The look on the students face cut like a knife in my chest. It was like for the first time that the student experienced some form of validation of himself and his ability. That caused me a lot of pain and still does, because I still witness this with other students.
What I offered in my dialogue this morning and what I will offer to anyone who reads this who is studying drawing, comicbook art whether it be for a career path or just for their own pleasure and development, is this….
If you can, be honest with yourself about who you are and what it is you want to do. Draw to please yourself and not others, Often trying to please others with your work may end in disappointment and it is unlikely you will please everyone all the time or that you will get the response you had hoped for. Yes, if you are at college or university, there is a system in place that has hoops you will have to jump through in order to get the grades and graduate. I totally get that. You may well have to jump through those hoops but hang on to your passions and who you are as a creative person. I have found that drawing the things that interest me whether it be the style or the content, is what helps me develop because I am having fun and enjoying the process. I have found this to be true of my students. Life is too short to make life hard for yourself, trying to please others all the time. I am not saying be a narcissist but just be honest with your work.
All the artists that have inspired me or whose work I enjoy, whether that be drawing, music, film or the written word, are artists who have been true to who they are.
To the student I had dialogue with this morning, to my students, to those of you post your art on social media, YOU HAVE WORTH. You have worth as a human being and your creativity has worth. Where that creativity will find it’s place to thrive is not for me to decide, but you may have to make yourself open to possibilities. I totally get how this may not be that easy for some of you to grasp straight away. The crushing wall of self doubt,lack of self worth, created by years of negativity from those around you, will be a hard thing to overcome but please try. Negativity is a killer. Don’t feed it. Nothing much good comes out of negativity. Positivity often produces more positivity. It’s a ripple effect. You do something positive, throw it out there and someone somewhere will respond, hopefully, in a positive way. The positive response is not always immediate and you may never know who has responded and in what way because you do something good, whether it be writing, drawing , music or whatever, and it will have a life of it’s own. You have created something and it will be seen by those who it will touch and respond. Isn’t that exciting?
I like a lot of metal music and I am often asked how I can listen to that dark and negative noise. Some others think what I listen to is negative. I guess they have not considered how much positive energy and creativity goes into making that music. Sure it will not entertain and reach out and touch everyone but it will find it’s audience and inspire and energise those who can receive it.
What I am trying to say in a nutshell is this.
Have the courage to be true to yourself and be yourself, not what you think others want you to be, regardless of what others may think of you because you will only become counterfeit version of yourself.
Only then will you find your place and worth.
At least, that what I have found.
I hope this helps someone somewhere.
Ok, I am off to work.
Apologies for bad grammar etc