I listened with a great deal of interest to Jack Dee discussing his life on Radio Four’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ on Sunday. I love this show: the simple format of it, and the fascination it holds for me to just listen to people, from whatever walk of life they exist in, talk about their lives, which I also love. I found I had a great deal of empathy for certain key things he discussed, one of them being education and his experience at school, and how he just had a massive problem with just sitting in a classroom being asked to listen and write about stuff. This is something I now realise I have a problem with even now, and which emerged during my time at high school as I became increasingly bored and lost with what school was all about, what it could offer me and what I had to offer. I gradually got worse and only just scraped my O levels , and completely failed my A levels, lacking any motivation between the ages of 17 to 18 other than music, with art being the only subject I was remotely interested in. It was only when I started studying on a Foundation Course in Art and Design, having managed to secure a place based on my portfolio only (one of the reasons I failed my A levels-once I realised I didn’t need them anymore for the Foundation Course, I was gone), that this whole world of painting and art slowly opened up in front of me, and, with some key encouragement (a massively important thing!) I found a passion and a purpose. Ever since then, through two degrees and a long and disciplined painting practice, I have been a model student.
'Factory', oil on canvas, 120 x 80cms, 2014
Despite now standing at the front of the class as a lecturer, I still feel very uncomfortable as a student in most situations that are more classroom based, such as the continued professional training sessions that one is expected to go to at work. I’m truly terrible sometimes, easily reverting to my teenage self: sitting at the back if I can, out of the way, fidgeting uncomfortably: easily bored or distracted; daydreaming, reluctant to join in the group activities. I’m very aware of these feelings of education when I’m teaching, and work hard to subtly manage the students and the studio so they are all comfortable, which can cause me a headache at times when things get a bit chaotic, but I think that is all part of trying to deliver a creative subject.
Dee also discussed how performing is not a problem in his life, but non-performing is. When he is not doing that, or working towards it, he feels completely deprived of something he needs. I completely understood this in relation to my painting, and it picks up on points I made in a recent blog post. If you’re in any way creative you need an outlet, and as Dee further stated, ‘you ignore this at your peril. And it’s a pain’. It is a pain. And it can be a pain for those around you too, but it is just something you need to do. I’ve been thinking a lot about these issues lately, reflecting on the difficulties I encountered in Norway, and putting my family through that because of my painting. I found Jack Dee’s insights really affirming.