How the Bin Collectors changed my life!
Updated: Feb 1
Hi . Welcome to my first blog! You may already know me but you probably don't know my story of how I became an artist. When I was 18, I had high hopes of going to the Art school in Belfast. I had submitted my application and had received a date for interview. No digital folios then, I had a large A0 sized art holder made from a heavy duty cardboard like material and held together with a pale pink ribbon. I carefully carried it back and forward between home and school on a daily basis.
One day I arrived home to find I had forgotten my key and was locked out. So I stored it carefully in the little out building that was a type of shed for gardening tools, bins, and various artefacts that were too big to be stored in the house. No big drama, I decided to visit a friend and wait until my mum would get home from work later in the evening. Good plan!
The next morning, I was lying in bed listening to the usual sounds from the street, traffic noises of people going to work, dog walkers stopping for a chat, the bin men doing their weekly collections. Ah no! I threw myself out of bed and ran to the window just in time to see my entire folio being fed into the crusher!
To this day, there are no words to accurately describe how I felt - devastated, crushed, gutted! any of these adjectives don't even come close. Eventually, I applied to do a part-time course in art and photography to try and build up my folio again. I was really into music, modern art and the punk scene. I became a New Romantic, I repurposed clothes from charity shop finds, wore copious amounts of purple lipstick and experimented cutting and dying my already bright red hair every colour under the sun.
I needed a part-time job to fund my course. The only job I could find was working in the accounts department for an electricity provider and they only hired me because no one else applied for the job. Well guess what, I had an aptitude for it! Fast forward 25 years and I am a qualified accountant and bookkeeper, successfully running my own business, married with two teens, still dying her hair,
But then as time went on I could feel myself slowly shifting from being this bright colourful, lively, person who had wanted to explore the world though her art, to becoming grey and blending into a grey background. Not physically but within me as a human being. This was so gradual that it was barely noticeable. But it became that I didn't even feel grey anymore, I was disappearing, becoming invisible. Women talk about feeling invisible as they get older. There is some truth in this.
I will never forget the shock of losing my folio. Even throughout the time I spent in accountancy, I still
secretly yearned to go to Art School. I didn't do any artwork during this period. I don't like doing anything by halves. I threw myself into being an accountant and ran my own business, and juggled work and family. Not much left for art at the end of the day.
What never left me however, was the punky attitude, the feeling indignant about injustices in the world. I still had a determination to not be accepting of societal pressures to conform. One day on a whim, I applied to do a Portfolio prep course at Glasgow School of Art went on to a degree in Painting and Printmaking graduating in 2019.
And the punky attitude has manifested itself in my paintings. I have a bit of an obsession with The Three Graces in Greek Mythology, the three goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity. They have been painted and sculpted my many classical painters such as Peter Paul Rubens. Such as this etching of the Three Graces held at the British museum.
The Three Graces; standing in front of palm trees, putti beyond; after Peter Paul Rubens. c.1789-1807 Etching and engraving © The Trustees of the British Museum
I love the idea of the Three Graces, who are usually depicted from the front, the back and the side view. But they are typically portrayed by the male gaze, for the male gaze . I wanted to change the conversation and paint women with attitudes that are celebrating the female form in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Like in this painting I did called Grace, Grace, Grace. The women are nude except for jazzy hats or quirky footwear . Look closely and you will find body hair and tattoos, and look even closer and you will also find stitched in life lines. Puncturing the canvas in itself felt like an aggressive act of infuriation.
I have since made other work based on the Three Graces , Greek Mythology and women with attitude which you can see here .And sometimes the subject matter changes or the medium, but the common thread is attitude, and plenty of it!
I sometimes think the bin collectors did me a favour that day destroying my folio. Had I been accepted to Art School back then, who knows what direction my life may have taken, I might have been an artist who went on to become an accountant! I'd much rather it was the other way round, as I now hopefully will spend the rest of my life doing what I feel happiest at.
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