Monday, February 12, 2007

The Luck of The DRAW!

At last we are promoting the arts as a valid career option.

The job I have, as a creative person, is a very privileged one. It enables one to meet and work with a great many talented and like-minded people. It also enables one to travel the world with work.

That said there is also the side with the egotists, but this is far outweighed by the people that are both talented and humble too.

Nowadays I am trying to link my career in the arts with that of my role as a lecturer on Fantasy Art and the arts in general. There are a great many talented people out there waiting to be discovered.

Back in the days when I was being educated at school we didn’t have the beauty of information technology and the Internet, created on the digital highways that we see today. The only way to obtain knowledge back then was through teachers at school, books and through Libraries and Museums.

Back then however, in my experience and that of many of my peers to which I have spoken many times on the subject, art was pretty much taught in a vacuum. In my case I was lucky enough to encounter two teachers with the passion and enthusiasm that one comes to expect from creative people.

Unfortunately one of them never really taught me, only acting occasionally as a stand in when the main teacher was off ill or some such. I was lucky, however and was taught, albeit only for a short period of time (maybe nine – twelve months in full total) in my third year at senior school, prior to studying for my GCE exams, as they were called back then, by one such teacher with a magnetic enthusiasm far beyond that, that I had become accustomed to.

The teacher in question was a gentleman called Mr. Richard Reeves, and I will be forever in his debt. I remember one sunny Wednesday morning in morning reception (Mr. Reeves was my registration teacher also) being asked to stay behind for a few moments after registration. I nervously wracked my brain, trying hard to think of what I may have done wrong.

He asked me what I wanted to do when I left school. I told him I wanted to become a commercial artist, as we were called back then, and draw comic books. From that moment on he strove to give me confidence and was the only teacher within school to sit down and show me how to do things and also what to be looking for…priceless.

I would not see this again until I entered art college a few years later, after my time spent in the sixth form. Up until Mr. Reeves coming on board at school (and this became the norm again following his leaving for pastures new) no one had done this.

My parents had gone along to the parents evenings, as do we all at some point if we have children of our own, to be politely told, “Don’t worry, Mr. And Mrs. Perkins Tim will grow up one day and get a real job!” My parents have always backed me to the hilt and the fact that they had to suffer this indignity was wrong, but it never phased their faith in me to follow my chosen career path.

I have never understood how an institution that is supposed to create an air of confidence and fulfilment can expect this to be the case with this kind of attitude towards a career that was not of the norm. Did they seriously think that the drawings just appeared on the page and that no human created this stuff, it was just printed?

I was often told that a guy from a small town in the north of England would never be able to draw comic books or indeed become an artist. Well I did grow up and I did get a real job…it was the one I had wanted since I first decided on my career path at the tender age of eight years old.

I have often been quoted in print as saying “What does it matter if a kid turns around and says - I want to be an astronaut?” If the kid does, then everyone will congratulate him or her for doing so…and if not then what the Ecch…it was bit of fun and did no harm. Not everyone will achieve their dream, we all know that, but what harm is therein trying, isn’t that what education and life is all about?

As I have said though, back then I think that art was taught, in the main, in a vacuum as something that just happened to be on the curriculum and that one could get exams in if one wanted. Art wasn’t a serious subject to be given any serious consideration as far as having a career in it, other than maybe getting a job in a textile company or Museum.

Thankfully those days are long gone and now in the UK at least there is a big move towards the arts and large amounts of funding are now being given to educational bodies and local government to both promote and create jobs within the creative sector.

You only need to open your eyes at any given time, on any given day, anywhere you would like to choose and you will see something that was either created by, conceptualised by, or made by an artist or a designer or both. In this era of designer clothing, great architectural achievements, branded goods, multimedia extravaganzas, SFX laden films, animations and video games, etc, etc, we see examples of this all the time.

The world has become aware of art and design, suddenly. Monies are being ploughed into artistic ventures and it has become acceptable within educational circles that art and design are not just required by society, but vital to it’s continued growth.

As such these new movements endorsed and funded by the government in the UK, whereby the arts are being promoted and used as a vehicle to raise, confidence, expectations, skill levels, achievements (either academic or practical) is a great thing to have happening presently. As such it has been noted that not everyone achieves the same A*s but all can attain results to the best of their abilities.

For some the arts will become a career, to others a pastime to enjoy either as a hobby sought out alone or else within a group situation. But what does it matter as long as the keywords are fun and enjoyment?

Schools are now finding that by closely working with local government agencies, local colleges and creatives, pupils expectations grow, following on from the same growth in their confidence, which leads to greater self respect, again leading this same respect being applied to their peers, teachers and environment – no mean feat, when one considers the nightmare world the media portrays to us all each day and night on the news on TV and in the newspapers.

They say you learn by example and I really believe this to be true. I feel that my career path and the educational one, which lead up to its beginnings in 1980, for me have served to strengthen my beliefs in both equality and in giving everyone the same respect and chance to follow their dreams.

If we suppress creativity and dreams, then would we have the wonderful things we have today? Without creativity and dreams we would not have science, we would not travel beyond our planet, we would not have the ability to look beyond the farthest horizon and wonder…

Tim Perkins…
February 9th 2007

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