Step-by Step


The other day I gave a lecture to the students on the BA Craft program at York College.  Ed Poxon, the Deputy Head of Division for Fine Art Design and Craft, had been encouraging me to deliver a talk for some time: the first one was planned in November (but was accidentally booked during exam time); the second one was planned for the start of February (but had to be cancelled because my computer was being repaired)…so it seems the third time was the charm. 

I was quite nervous about giving the talk – more nervous than I would usually be if I had to discuss my work – because I realized that I actually needed to say something relevant to the students’ own lives.  I needed to give them something meaningful, in exchange for their time.  So, rather than talk ad nauseum about my artwork’s meaning or techniques, I ultimately decided to talk about how I became a freelance graphic designer, and then a contemporary artist.  Learning how to make a living at art is something I personally would have liked to have known more about when I went to art school, back in Canada.  At that time, they told us nothing about what to expect, or what to do, once we graduated.  Partly as a result of this, I stopped practicing art and just got ‘real jobs’ for several years.  But if I could do it over again – if I knew then what I know now - I might very well have stuck with art.  I suppose that’s partly what the role of AA2A is: it gives students access to ‘real’ artists who can give some insight – good or bad – into life as a self-employed artist.  At the very least it shines some light into the otherwise very dark and mystical ‘art world’ that can discourage so many newly-graduated artists.  It’s important for new artists to hear about the struggle of finding work, and the constant hustle of applying for commissions…but equally it’s key for them to hear about the joy of getting selected for an exhibition, or of winning your first grant.  It’s important to know that the successes do become more frequent – but that you also have to start modestly and be willing to take things step-by-step in the hopes and ambition that, eventually, all of the hard work will pay off.

Three years ago, when I moved to York, I never would have thought that I would be creating artwork for the York Art Gallery’s re-opening.  I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to produce this new work, and to have the support of the YAG curators and especially Gaby Lees, Helen Walsh and Fiona Green who have been my contacts for this project.  I realize that I’m still just an emerging artist – unlike some of the established superstars such as Clare Twomey who is creating a large installation for the re-opening of the Gallery this summer.  So I take nothing for granted.  But I do allow myself the chance, every now and then, to be proud of the small, progressive steps I’ve taken since beginning my practice in 2008 – and the occasional big success that happens, often unexpectedly, as a result of all the hard work. 

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