Ask the Artist #2

I have been sent two fantastic questions.

I’ll save one of them for next week’s ATA.  This week:
Q: Was there a particular moment or event involved in you deciding to become an artist? Not in the “we’re all born artists” kind of way, but where you decided yes, it is your life’s calling?

Excellent question. Tough one, too.

As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never answered, “I want to be an artist”. Unfailingly I would say, “I’m going to be a vet or I’m just going to marry a farmer”. I loved animals…and how else was I going to get myself that pony? Duh!

Though art was one of my favourite subjects in school – and I could draw and paint like a mofo – it was just something I was good at, like baseball or academics. It never crossed my mind to pursue art as a vocation. Until I met my grade 11 art teacher, Mrs. Elliot. There was something about the way she taught the class that flipped my creative switch on.  This was quite a feat, as my previous art teacher turned me so completely off art, I almost didn’t bother signing up for it in grade 11.

Mrs. Elliot was by far the coolest teacher I had met in the history of my education. I wanted to be just like her. One day in class she mentioned her training as a commercial artist. I asked her how she had become a commercial artist. She told me she had attended a specialized art program at downtown, inner-city H.B. Beal Technical and Vocation School: bealart.  So, I guess the event in deciding I wanted to pursue art was coming into contact with Mrs. Elliot. The defining factor in choosing to be an artist was the bealart program itself.

I can’t recall a precise moment or exact event while I was in the program, but from the first term I knew I had found something amazing. It didn’t take long for me to discover I liked commercial design w-a-a-a-y less than I liked all the other mind-blowing things I was learning: etching, textiles, filmmaking, photography, etc, etc. And it wasn’t just what we were learning, it was who we were learning it from. Most staff had been through the bealart program themselves (the program has been going strong for almost 100 years now!) and returned as instructors, each one passionate and dedicated to their program area.

Bealart felt right. It felt like home. I’m not sure if I can say, “being an artist is my life’s calling” without giggling, but I do know that when I was participating in the bealart program, making art all day, every day, I felt the most like me that I’d ever felt. I was surrounded by other people who were being the most “them” they’d ever been. I spent as much time in the studios outside of class as I did during class hours. There really aren’t words to adequately describe it. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about bealart.

To be honest, I think I became an artist during the three years I spent there. By the time I graduated from the program, in my mind, there was no other life option for me.

Thanks for the question – I can’t wait to answer next week’s.  Bet you’re all curious now, aren’tcha?

Please, dear readers, don’t be shy – click on the CONTACT tab and zap me a query. If your question doesn’t get answered in the following Tuesday post, do not despair, it is only because there are questions in the queue ahead of yours.

Oh, and feel free to send a comment answering the weekly question yourself. 😉

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