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  • David Denton

How I Gave Up A Perfectly Well Paid Job And Became A Professional Artist Instead: Part 3


So far I've dealt with leaving teaching and how I can afford to become an artist, but I haven't looked into what has led me into a career in art. Let's do that now...

My first memory of drawing is from when I was five. I obviously drew before then but this has stuck in my mind ever since. I had been to see a certain film set in a galaxy far, far away and at that tender age I didn't know the full extent of how revolutionary Star Wars was but I was well aware that it was special. I came straight home and started drawing TIE fighters. My mum was amazed at how well I could remember the details. I don’t think that’s down to my powers of observation, more to the quality and originality of the designs. At the time video and DVD didn’t exist - and it took a good few years for films to appear on television - so there was no way to relive the film experience other than through books, comics or seeing the film again - while it was still showing.

Unlike now, children’s television started at about 3:45pm and went on until 5:30pm. And that was it, apart from a little slot midday when Rainbow and Mr Benn etc. would be shown. So for most of the time children had to fill their own time. I loved making things with cardboard boxes or drawing things on any spare scrap of paper I could find. My gran and granddad, in an early form of recycling, used to save odd bits of card in a drawer. I was forever in there using these precious pieces of card for drawing and making models with. (That’s when I wasn’t playing crib with my granddad.)

In ‘The Numbers Game’ by Chris Anderson and David Sally - a book about football statistics (or alternatively, how to take all of the fun and entertainment out of football) - the authors argue that talent is something that develops through practice. I would agree with that to a certain extent although physical attributes obviously contribute to some sports as with Michael Phelp’s swimming. But I think that I’m not too bad at art because I’ve practised so much. There are certain aspects of art that I consider myself to be a bit duff at. When I think about why, it’s because it’s something that I haven’t done often. There is no quick fix. I need to bear this in mind with figure drawing and stop moaning about it and get on with actually doing it.

Education can help as well as loads of practice although my education in art was mixed to say the least. Some of my teachers were good and some weren’t. I made the strange A-level choice of doing Maths, Further Maths and Art and initially I wanted to do Art at university. Eventually, after much cajoling by teachers who convinced me that my job prospects were much better doing maths, I swapped to do a degree in Pure Maths. (Strangely, Pure Maths is more of an art form than Applied Maths. It’s all about finding elegant, beautiful solutions to problems. Often there aren’t any real world uses. I still think I should have a BA rather than a BSc.) It’s a good job I didn’t go for the Art option because I only got an E. My whole year group did badly, with most failing, and at that time having it remarked was a costly undertaking that we couldn’t afford. So I got on with it and enjoyed the fantastic job prospects afforded by my Maths degree. Basically, if you didn’t want to be an accountant or actuary you went into teaching. Great.

Over the years I’ve kept painting as a hobby, spending precious days in the summer holidays painting. Due to a lack of time it would take me two or three years to actually complete a painting. I mainly worked with gouache, but I also dabbled with acrylic and digital art. I also painted many Warhammer miniatures that developed my detailing skills. After leaving teaching I was able to put a lot more time into painting. I joined a few evening classes to force myself to give up some of my spare time to focus on painting and I found that I was enjoying it more and more. The practice was starting to pay off with results that I was happy with. And now that I’m doing it full time, I love it. I said when I started this whole escapade that I wouldn’t paint at weekends. That hasn’t quite worked out. But at least that shows I’m enjoying it. Next time we’ll have a look at one of my influences. See you then.

#Biography #Teaching