When I was 10 I wanted to be a famous flautist like James Gallway, but took the mercenary route and became a computer programmer. Always at the back of my mind was a dream to pursue art. This was usually filed under miscellaneous, along with running a marathon, but it did emerge for a couple of false starts (one defeated by debauchery, the other by floaty twentysomethingness). Now the opportunity presents itself again I am older, uglier, and bring a motley assortment of life experience to the table. Also a sense of accelerating time, and the urgent need to get on with it.
So how do you implement a dream? Do you 'walk the walk' and assume reality will follow? Do you just pronounce yourself to be the artist you want to be? Visualise? Exhibit? Build a website? Get some gongs? Sell? Work really really hard? Have angst? Unlike substantial professions such as accountancy or medicine, what I do know is there is no Yellow Brick Road to follow.
I romped through all sorts of night classes, and eventually went to art college for a post-grad diploma: Learnt more than I realised (some of it was even about art) but my figurative style wasn't terribly well received, and my lack of angst and message seemed to render me confined to the 'craft' bucket. The more I tried to wring out some meaning from my images the more pointless they seemed, and the more resentful I was of establishment judging. I comforted myself with a deeply disingenuous passive-aggressive scorn for the lack of craft shown by the foundation year students, and the empty seats at the free voluntary life-drawing classes. Some of the students on my course were an absolute inspiration though, and it was wonderful to have some time ringfenced to concentrate on printmaking.
Maybe, like becoming an adult, there's no fanfare moment when it happens. What is an artist anyway? Is it presumptious to call yourself an artist? Is it (like being a 'lady') a label that is assigned according to some value set beyond collective definition, which (if you could get inside the head of the person using the label) would make your toes curl?