Not a real artist?
I am a self taught artist. Because of this I sometimes suffer from an inferiority complex about my art. 'I'm not really an artist', I think to myself. It seems like, because I didn't go to art school, I missed out on some important lesson, the one where they teach you to actually feel like an an artist, rather than just someone who is quite good at drawing or painting! I gave up art at school as soon as I could, aged about 14. I didn't enjoy art classes. I remember being given subjects to draw, but I don't remember any instructions about how to draw or paint. The final straw for me came when I was told to do a pencil drawing of a glass of water for homework. I just couldn't be bothered. I spent about 30 seconds drawing a glass in the same way that you draw a beaker in science - just 4 straight lines, two for the sides, one for the bottom and one for the surface of the water.
So, I gave up art and concentrated on the subjects which I preferred, eventually going on to study biology at university.
But I kept on with art, producing realistic pencil drawings of pop stars for my school friends, then at university trying (and failing) at landscapes in watercolour.
When I was in my early twenties a friend lent me a book that was a revelation. It was called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. Here was a book that actually taught people how to draw! I followed the exercises and at the end of it could do fairly good drawings from life. I'm not particularly interested in drawing people, but what the book did was prove to me that I could draw and gave me the confidence to move from people, to pets, to wildlife. I dabbled in acrylic and watercolour, and experimented with charcoal.
Then, I went on holiday to a friend's house, and her mum, the artist Annie Soudain, ran a silk painting workshop for us in her kitchen. I painted a gecko, a picture which I love and which still hangs in my living room today.
I was hooked! I bought all the gear for silk painting and painted more wildlife on silk. I also started doing watercolour illustrations, and over the years my technique in both improved.
Then I read another life changing book, The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. I was working full time when I first read that book, and it spurred me on to make changes in my life so I could work part time and be more creative.
So, although I describe myself as self taught I have had teachers. I've also kept going, just because I wanted to, not because I had to hand in an assignment or put on a student show. So maybe being a self taught artist is actually something to be proud of, because it takes time, dedication and commitment.
Having said all that, there are still times when I don't feel like a 'real' artist!