Never too old to become “Arty”
Apart from the highly successful and renowned Intake High School (now known as Leeds West Academy) which has seen singer Mel B, actors Angela Griffin and Laura Carter study there, West Leeds in the 1970s was a barren area when it came to Art in schools. I’m sure there were many teachers who would have promoted art with vigour had there been more funding and educational inclination available.
My art education in Primary School was cutting lemons in half, dipping the chosen half in to a saucer of paint and producing a poster of images of the inside structure of the said lemon. I do remember a boy called Sean who painted a wool vee-necked sweater, not on canvas or paper but on the shocked boy who was wearing it at the time, much to the horror of the teacher and the hilarity of the rest of the class. Art was considered elitist and for posh kids, not the inhabitants of the council estates surrounding our schools. One wonders at how much talent was never recognised, encouraged or nurtured over the years.
I find it constantly annoying how people from certain backgrounds and jobs are pigeon-holed as to what their interests are and what they “should” watch, read or listen to. For a number of years I was a high-impact sport and fitness coach and because of my chosen choice of employment it seemed logical to many people that I must spend all my “leisure hours” listening to the “Rocky” themes, heavy rock and watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, while in fact many hours were spent listening to some classical music (with some Abba and Queen thrown in for balance!) and reading photography or art books etc. My photography is still influenced at times by Claude Monet, Turner and Constable.
Poetry and the lives of poets were never taught or discussed as there were never any after-class groups such as chess-playing, poetry or writing. The only form of poetry were playground recitals starting “there was a young girl from Twickers” etc. However I was always intrigued about this area of the arts and recently my interest was intensified by accidentaly finding a three-part series featuring comedian and TV host Frank Skinner and Scottish crime writer Denise Mina. The series had the pair describing the friendship and lives of William Wordsworth (“I wandered lonely as a cloud” was the only line I knew of his!) and Richard Coleridge (who I had never even heard of!) including visits to specific areas where they had found inspiration. The passion and emotion of Frank Skinner as he read certain poems had me immersed in an experience I never expected poetry to take me to, but it had. I now have a couple of poetry books to enjoy and who knows I may even try to write some poems myself!
My passions are photography and writing and I never expected either to feature in an arts newsletter but amazingly they have. I had met the Arts & Minds newsletter contributor Fe at an art shop in Leeds Kirkgate Market and we kept in contact and she suggested I become involved with the Arts and Minds newsletter and invited me to a newsletter group meeting at a coffee shop in the Corn Exchange. I admit I was worried that I would be out of my depth amid so many inspiring and creative people and how they would accept someone with a non art-educated background. I had worried unnessaserally as everyone was so friendly and supportive and were very interested in how I use photography in mindfulness and stress-management. The confidence I have gained from being involved with the Arts & Minds team has enabled me to move forward with my photography to the point where some of my images have been used in periodicals and on websites and I’ve also sold some of my mounted pictures at local Arts & Crafts fairs!
I hope in the near future to be involved with collaborations with authors, artists, poets and musicians. Their talents coupled with my images could be an interesting mix.
My story is nothing special or unique but I hope that it may inspire people in some small way to follow their “Arty” dream either as a hobby or as a cottage industry. Passion is what art is all about and age or background should not be chains to hold you back.