I was ten when I decided I wanted to be a painter. I spent the eight years from that point till I left home, drawing and learning every painting in ‘the art book’. There was never any question that I would do anything else because, for one thing, the development of other skills had been treated with such consistent neglect that I was left with very little choice. I was fortunate to have parents who wholly supported my fairly singular outlook despite Fine Art’s fairly well-documented reputation for financial instability.
If I was starting Uni now though I think the decision to study Art / Illustration would be a far tougher one. Edinburgh College or Art has recently merged with Edinburgh University, whose fees are amongst the highest. There is simply no way I would have been able to afford to study there under the current government. The same applies for the majority of people I knew at Uni. That those experiences and that education would not have been afforded to us, or at least that we would have been urged to question the sense in following the paths we wanted, is so incredibly sad.
There seems an impossible weight placed on the career that follows after University and not the fact that students should be given, as adults, the opportunity to study exactly what they want, as obscure as that may be. I frequently make flippant remarks about my job being pointless and silly but the fact that it is my job should be totally my call. I suppose my wish to volunteer is born from that idea. If the government is urging people to avoid the arts in favour of something more sensible then I’m glad to know there are people who are highlighting the importance of not being sensible and of making your education something you do because you love it and not because another route might be more financially viable in the long run.
I help out now and again at my old secondary school talking to GCSE and A-Level students about studying art and always find them to be excited and curious. Most are unaware that studying art can lead to a job just as easily as business studies might. I think it is a misunderstanding that urgently needs levelling out.