Friday, 6 May 2011

An art class memory

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I never chose to pursue art after finishing secondary school. All of my childhood was spent creating, dreaming of being an artist, being totally immersed for hours and hours in my creations. Yet somehow by the time I had left school it wasn’t even an option anymore. It really took some digging but the conclusion I came to was that my GCSE art teacher, and the curriculum at the time, played huge factors in extinguishing that fire within in me for years and years. The idea of not being good enough to succeed was planted most firmly, and so I took the academic route instead, knowing that I could excel at this. Exploring my creative path could well have been an opportunity for expression and release of emotions, which I so badly needed to do during some pretty dark times.

The memory that has risen to the surface is not an earth shattering moment when all fell apart, but rather a lingering infusion of feeling second rate. Each piece that I attempted was met with criticism, not constructive criticism, which I could develop and grow with, but comments that let me know that my style, my imagination, did not fit in with achieving a high grade. Every time I created I had this thought of ‘Will it be good enough this time?’ endlessly circling in my mind, and subconsciously I began to turn my artwork into what I believed my teacher wanted to see. I began to please her rather than expressing myself. Not detailed enough. Too much colour. The perspective is all wrong. You can’t paint in that way. Look at your friend’s work as she has done what I have asked. All these  horrid comments over and over again, and I am sure there were many more. I do admit I was a sensitive child, therefor everything was very much taken to heart. But shouldn’t a good teacher have recognised this? She was a voice I trusted, whose voice I didn’t doubt in the slightest because of the faith I had in teachers. Examining her motives in retrospect, I believe she must have had self esteem issues of her own, a real need to have that position of power  in order to voice such harsh words, to make an unsure teen feel even more inadequate.
The memory mad me think in a lot of detail about my own teaching style, how I hope with all my heart that I never make the children I work with feel that way. Encouragement, warmth and connection are vital. Only when a child feels safe and welcome can constructive criticism take place. I want my children to become confident in their expression, to become independent learners, who are not afraid of what their teacher might say.

It sounds a bit silly now that I am adult, but even today the idea of doing an art qualification fills me with such dread, even though I really want to develop my skills. I am creating lots and lots and have found a safe arena for my creations on this blog, on blogs of other creatives and in the e courses of some amazing mentors. But as for physically going to a class and learning, I shake my head in doubt. Lis of Dandelion Seeds and Dreams posted a wonderful video recently, in which she stated that from quite early on in her life she had this thought of ‘I should know all this’ and how this then had a negative impact on her asking to learn something new, however much she loved the subject. I am rather a lot like that, I feel like I should know so much more about art tools, techniques and styles. Be it painting, mixed media or even photography,  the fear of asking in case I get told again that I am not good enough is still so raw. However, if I am brave, I do have the knowledge to ask what ‘good enough’ constitutes! Surely art is one creative rainbow learning journey, and it is so subjective that one person’s ‘wrong’ is another person’s favourite piece of art. If someone creates something to express themselves then it is art, whether you can connect with it is each individual's choice. I would love to time travel back to that unquestioning teenager and whisper that question in her ear.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I can't pinpoint who told me I couldn't draw, but that's why I love stamping so much. I can paint and colour without worrying about anyone judging my drawing skills. A bit of positive teacher talk goes a very long way. Have a great weekend x

  2. Hi Milena, You'e changed your Blog's look again - I like it! A teacher who squelches creativity and needs to "put down" rather than "raise up" does much harm which often lingers. Because of your experience, you are more sensitive to your own students' needs. I love all you wonderful photos. PS It's never too late...

  3. i love that photo
    from childhood
    so so much!
    sending love
    to you & the girl
    who knows what
    she knows!