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You're going to fail GCSE Art

This is what my GCSE art teacher said to me just before I was due to sit my exams in 2002. As I remember it, it was pretty blunt. And it’s not what a 16 year old wants to hear. But sometimes your face just doesn’t fit. So, off I went to do the practical side of the exam disheartened. A few months later, it’s time to pick up my results. I don’t want to look. I’ve already been told I’m going to fail, and the art teacher, well she marks the coursework. Game over. I open the envelope. I’ve only gone and got a blinking A!!

Skip forwards a couple of years, and I’m finishing my A Levels. By this point, I’m falling out of love with art. Or, more, that I’m falling out of love with being taught art. This culminates in me having a full meltdown in the middle of the art class during my exams and being sent for counselling. I mean, it wasn’t just about art. I had other stuff going on.

It wasn’t long after this, I just stopped. I didn’t draw. I didn’t paint. My joie de vivre had left me. Even going to an art shop couldn’t ignite a passion in me. Before, I’d hoard pencils, pastels, paints and pads. I put them away in a drawer and didn't touch them for another 18 years.

Then in 2019 I started doing a lot of night shifts in my day job (I'm a prison officer for those who don't know). I barely watch the TV, so after getting my jobs for the night done, I needed something to fill the other ten hours. Heidi, a good friend of mine, is also an artist ( and I thought maybe now is the time to have another go at painting again. I dug out an old set of acrylics, bought a canvas and took it to work. Mr Fox was staring back at me by the end of the night.. (now sold)

Since then I haven't stopped. I opened an Etsy page and sold my first coloured pencil drawing of a red squirrel to Texas. I realised Etsy's fees were ridiculous so I built my own website. I'm now trying to focus more on the coloured pencil portrait style of drawing, but I still love throwing paint around when the mood takes me. More than anything, I'm so keen to not fall out of love with art again. I've even started learning from other people, Bonny Snowdon being a particular favourite. Even in the last 3 years I can see how far my drawing has come along.

So. Time to get rid of the little voice in your head that says you can't do it. If I'd listened to that art teacher, I would probably have never picked up a pencil again. Just because you're not drawing what someone else likes, doesn't mean that no-one will like it. As a small business owner, I am pushing myself all the time. There's just me doing all this (and Effie helping), so I am trying to learn the business side of this at the same time. Luckily, there is stuff out there to help you. Olivia at is amazing and she posts so much free advice.

Am I where I want to be yet with my art? No. But I will be. My goal is to be able to go part time at the prison, it's a ridiculously stressful job. This is my therapy. And I'm really glad that sometimes, I don't listen.

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And who's been telling you for years that you have an exceptional talent? Former A level economics teacher bumped into me in a resto some yrs after I left school, and said that I was the last person he expected to be a failure. I did pretty well as failure, successful modelling career followed by working and writing for ministers and the Prime Minister, part of small team setting up new govt agency and doing investigations for the Parliamentary Ombudsman. He was obviously too thick to realise lol. You know if someone's putting you down that you are doing really well and much better than they😊.

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