I went to college 10 years after leaving school, having annihilated any chance of continuing with my career as a horse riding instructor by having 5 vertebrae in my spine smashed in a motorbike accident.
After one year of a 2 year art and design course I was offered an unconditional offer by Hudderfield University (UK) to their Fine Art degree course. Two weeks into the course I knew it wasn’t right for me. Nobody wanted art that looked like the thing it was supposed to be ie a nude life model, the lecturers were all encouraging the students to simply fill a canvas with one color then put a circle in the middle in a contrasting color.
After yet another life model drawing session where my accurate anatomically correct pencil drawings of the entire body of the lovely nude male model were failed and a simple one line muppet hand wobbly ink drawing drawn in the same session by another student was given the highest marks in the class, I rebelled, big time.
I got as much red acrylic paint as I could find and threw it on the wall of my tiny studio space. I then cut my arm and smeared the blood around, too. Then for good measure, I pouring blood into the middle of the mess I’d made and let it drip down the wall onto the floor. Next I retreated to the other side of the studio, put on my mp3 disc player and started playing with my lock knife.
After five minutes one of the lecturers appeared and stood staring at the bloody gore I had created on my studio wall. Without really thinking about it, I threw the lock knife so it hit the wall and stuck in it, in the middle of the red bloody splodge, directly above the dripping ‘blood’. Then I walked out of class.
After 3 days lying in a field, only returning to the halls of residence to eat and sleep, I stopped weeping with frustration about how disillusioned I was about the Fine Art degree course and returned to my studio to tell the lecturers I was going to drop out. They were delighted to see me and waxed lyrical about how amazing my ‘performance art’ had been. They wouldn’t hear of me quitting the course. I decided maybe I had the wrong perspective of all this and decided to persevere with the course.
Seven months later, after spending 42 hours on a large canvas painting depicting the four horsemen of the apocalypse leaving an on fire planet earth I was pulled into the lecturers office for a meeting. They gave me a pitiful 42% for my beloved painting, which I had considered the best I had ever done, snidely told me I was an illustrator, not an artist and suggested I find a different career path to pursue. I asked if the credits I had passed so far would count if I changed courses onto an Illustration course at a different University They said that they would only sign the release forms if i promised to never, ever pick up a paintbrush again.
And that’s how I ended up getting a combined honors degree in Environmental Illustration and Graphic Design at Sunderland University. It’s also how I became a digital abstract artist: no paint brushes required. I kept my promise to Huddersfield University.