As a self-taught artist I sometimes felt disadvantaged and lost in my attempts to improve my knowledge and techniques in producing art. Disadvantaged in that there was neither opportunity nor financial support to embark upon structured academic learning. My parents could not afford to send me to university or art college. I married young and had four daughters during my twenties. Work and family filled most of my days, with creative time being limited to making art with my children. It was only as I edged towards the end of my forties that I could indulge the dormant Muse within. But I felt so lost to the art world and learning.
I started to buy some art materials, things that I remember using when I was at school sitting Scottish Highers. Trying to pick up the threads of enthusiasm and remembered lessons was difficult. I stumbled a lot in those days trying to find a way to improve the untutored skills within me. I had the time once my daughters had grown up and one by one left home. I had been writing stories and poetry, some of which were published, but now I wanted to indulge in my greatest passion of all – painting. How could I begin to make ‘proper art’ after such a long time away from education? Finance and time were still limited but I plucked up the courage to commit to a six week certificated course on watercolours. Little did I know then that watercolours are quite unforgiving and need to be worked from light to dark. Nevertheless, I stuck at it and learned from the (many) mistakes I made. I still shy away from watercolours at times, preferring to use the creamy, buttery oils which can be manipulated on the canvas or panel and worked dark to light if so desired.
It has been almost twenty years ago now since I started encouraging my inner artist to come out. I’ve worked at trying to develop my skills by attending a variety of short courses on a variety of mediums and techniques. I bought books, and have quite a substantial collection now, subscribed to various artist periodicals, joined numerous art groups and involved myself in Open Studio events both in Suffolk where I lived until 2014 and in Angus after returning to Scotland. All of these things contributed to my learning, and still do although not always in the same proportion plus Angus Open Studios no longer exists.
It has been a tremendous journey so far, with lots of ups and downs. I’ve met some really interesting people, discovered lots of new ways to make art and above all I have enjoyed myself along the way. It takes courage to let go of ‘old ways’, determination to learn new skills and above all confidence to believe in oneself as a person and an artist.
Being an artist without a degree in some instances can carry a sense of disadvantage, but it is possible to ‘find a voice’ in the art world. The self-taught artist just needs to shout louder.