I remember what I wanted to be when I set out as a young man. Originally, I wanted to be an architect; when I didn’t get the grades, and that fell through I choose to be a designer. En route, unintentionally I stumbled onto an art degree; Ba Illustration. It wasn’t the right course for me, but the good thing about it, was that I learned from it what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to be a commercial artist. This knowledge has helped me throughout my life.
In my eyes, a commercial artist is held to a brief. There is an element of freedom but only as long as it fits the project brief. During the course I found myself simplifying as many project outlines as possible to have more freedom. I didn’t like predicting what work I was going to make. I felt the strong urge to have freedom and be in control of my creative and artistic output.
When I became aware of this I began to question whether I should continue on the Illustration course. I wasn’t happy and felt I needed a complete change. I went to the office of the University of Wolverhampton and announced I wanted to leave the university and change courses. I was unprepared for the response. I was given one night to decide whether I would accept a transfer to Illinois State University near Chicago.
At the time it was a difficult decision. It was a long night talking to my family and thinking things through. The next day I went in, I said yes. It was a life-changing decision and experience. My time in America wasn’t always easy, but nothing of value ever is. I developed in so many ways, especially by learning what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Through taking studio classes in painting, drawing, and photography I realised I wanted to be a painter.
Over the next couple of years, I had to figure out how I was going to make a living. I thought it was impossible as a painter. I concluded that if I could choose a job where I would always paint, I could be happy. I know that I wanted to be with someone to share my life and have children. I wanted the usual things like owning a house, a car and to be comfortable while continuing to be an artist. I figured out where I wanted to be. So where am I? Is it where I wanted to be?
This week I have made an another big decision. I am giving up my studio. I have rented a studio a few miles from where I live since completing my masters degree in Fine Art in 2006. This wasn’t an easy decision. Now that I have a house, a car, a good job and someone to spend my life with, I realise I need to think carefully about my long-term future. I need to make running a studio financially sustainable in the long term. By buying a bigger house and converting part of it to have a studio at home will give me more time to paint and I will be able to work towards being more self-sufficient in my retirement.
So far I have grown up thinking what will make me happy is just ahead of me. I recognise and acknowledge I am lucky to be able to maintain my passion for creativity for the rest of my life. I am forty years old next year; most artists have a breakthrough in their careers in their forties. I am ambitious and want to be successful as an artist beyond making my painting sustainable but I also want to be grateful and happy with what I have achieved. I want to stop thinking I will be satisfied in the future. Instead I want to be satisfied and enjoy the present more. I will be soon on to the next chapter in my life. It feels an exciting time. Hopefully the beginning of something special. I hope can learn to be content and appreciate what I have already achieved. I am where I hoped I would be.