You may not know this about me but in high school, Math, Biology and Chemistry were my thing. In my graduating year I had top marks in Biology and Chemistry, and even won a science award. But really, I wanted the Art Award. My heart sunk into my guts when my well deserving friend Keith Leinweber received it. Looking back on it, I remember I was completely shocked I received the Science award. Even though I chose to focus on the sciences, and took very few art classes, I still identified as an artist.
I had a hard time deciding what to do at university and ended up taking a year off after high school to continue to work at the Goats on the Roof and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. My lovely Art Teacher, Mr. Moore, had inadvertently bumped me off track. With a cheeky grin, he told me artists don’t make any money and with my science skills, I should aim to be a plastic surgeon. I am sure this was just his sweet humor and cautionary advice with good intentions, but instead I twisted it in my mind to mean my art was inferior and to forget it.
When I moved from my small town to Victoria to go to University, I halfheartedly pursued the sciences again. I could be found at the back of the large lecture halls doodling, absent minded, and insecure. I was terrified to ask questions so didn’t. I couldn’t keep up. Before too long, I had dropped out of Physics, then Biology, and flunked my first course, Chemistry. I still managed an A- in Math, but that was the end of my budding dreams to study and draw the cells beneath microscopes.
My social life got interesting fast, and I landed myself a boyfriend and friends who loved art, music, dancing, and partying. I just couldn’t go home for the summer. I had to find a job. The night before my job hunt, I cried my face off wondering who the hell was going to hire me. I marched down Oak Bay Avenue, feeling somehow deflated and determined at the same time. The first place I went into was Prestige Picture Framing, an upper end gallery specializing in custom and conservation framing. I had a nice chat with their employee Lisa Canzi and then left to go into Oak Bay village to try my resume at the Florist there. Due my lack of experience with flowers, I was not well received and left embarrassed that I had tried. Fortunately, on my way back home, Lisa caught up to me on the sidewalk and offered me a job at Prestige.
Lisa became a dear friend and mentor who saved my butt on many occasions, taking in my ridiculously reckless and broken-hearted self, and twice letting me stay at her apartment when my boyfriend’s dumped me. She is an incredible artist, and she gave me the encouragement I needed to pursue my artistic dreams. I had to try twice to get in but was finally accepted into the Visual Arts program at UVic in 1999. That year, I used student loan money to go to Italy with Lisa, because ya, I make good choices. It was worth every penny. I did graduate in 2003 with a fancy BFA, but you don't need a degree to make art or to be an artist.
Sometimes I regret not sticking with Science. Being creative is an asset to any career, and IF I was just a little more confident, IF I had asked for help or tried again, maybe I could have been making a real difference in the world… but wait… that isn’t really how things work, is it? I am making a difference in this world. So are you.
My son Francis has been drawing since he could hold a pencil. His ability to express emotions and capture movement and proportions is incredible for his age, or even for my age! He’s 10 almost 11, and now he gets caught up with comparison and disappointment in himself, feeling like nothing he does is good enough. It is utterly heartbreaking to see these fits of insecurity from the other side. I hear myself try and articulate the path out of these sorrowful places. I say to him and myself, “Even if you couldn’t draw your existence is still worthy. Your friends and family need you. You add something unique and special to the world. You provide a particular colour and essence that only you can give to your community. You will always belong here. You are worthy of love, no matter what you can or cannot do.”
No matter what career or passion you choose or didn’t choose, your path has brought you here now. If you close your eyes, do you see yourself continuing the same path forward, or is there a Y in the road?
Recently I took an online ink making course through Maiwa School of Textiles. Suddenly, my heart raced with realization that my love of science and my art world are colliding. Biology, the chemistry of color, and the magic of art are swirling together right before my eyes. There is no way to choose the wrong path. Without a doubt, staying true to yourself will pay off eventually, and you will find yourself exactly where you need to be.