I tell my children, as often as I can, that it is good to be different. I want them to make decisions that are right for them, rather than following the crowd.
To do that, I'm learning you need to identify what's important to you and prioritise that above what others may think about what you're doing. Easier said than done but definitely doable.
My aim is that they will never feel pressured into anything that doesn't feel right for them and they will carve out a happy path in life that suits them, whatever that may be.
It is how I have tried to live my life and how I am trying to live my life. And I'm very grateful to be in a position where I've not only uncovered my passions but can indulge them too.
At the risk of sounding a bit bohemian or pretentious, painting feels like it comes from a true place in me. I know what I want to look at, I interpret what I see and I only produce paintings that I love. And at the risk of sounding selfish or arrogant, I am on this art adventure for my own happiness. If other people get pleasure from my paintings too then that is out of this world and far beyond anything I imagined. But, fundamentally, I am following my passion because it makes me happy.
Getting an email to say I hadn't been selected as a finalist in a local art competition, I saw it for what it was. I hadn't really expected anything to come of it. I have, after all, only been at this for five minutes compared to others out there. But to say I wasn't a little disappointed at not making the cut would be a lie. I want to succeed at everything I do, it's only natural.
It gave me food for thought. Is it the right art competition for me? Did I submit the right picture? Is that how I want to get my art out to a wider audience? But, after getting over the initial disappointment, I'm pleased to say, it didn't trigger a spiral of negative thought and self-doubt. It was the first 'rejection' and it won't be the last by a long shot. And, reassuringly, I'm totally fine with that. The hardest part was having the courage to put myself out there in the first place. And that is done.
I am passionate about my painting journey. It is exciting, refreshing and life-affirming. I have no expectations and no idea where I'm going with it. I'm just enjoying the ride, learning and growing along the way. I'm feeling my way. And, for as long as it makes me feel like this, there's no way I'm stopping. I'll continue making it up as I go along based on what sits right with me.
The way people can go about realising their dreams these days is ever-changing and tried-and-tested ways of doing things are being forced to adjust at an alarming rate. How it has happened in the past is being ravaged by a rapidly-mutating future. So, I have a sense that this is a prime time to be an artist trying to get noticed. I'm just not sure yet how it relates to me.
And that is why I won't be questioning or altering what I do to try to please anyone else or to second-guess what others want to see. I believe I would be on a hiding to nothing. I'm on my own path, even if I'm unsure what that is. As this experience evolves, I will try to change and grow as it suits me and what is important to me, not in a vain attempt to tick the boxes of others.
With every new painting I produce my style is emerging a little bit more and I'm confident it's original because it comes from the heart, my heart. I know little about the art world and how it works really. I am open-minded and willing to learn. But what I do know is I love to paint, it makes me happy, and that is more than enough right now.
Looking at a painting is such a subjective experience after all. You may not like it, but, in my opinion, you can tell if it's born from a sincere place.
Just as my children are beginning to find their way in the world, I am wondering how to go about navigating a course through this great expanse called art.
Think I'm starting to appreciate why so many artists I studied at school died penniless!
Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.