I graduated from Waynflete in 1989. At the time, my favourite subject was English. Classes like Creative Writing with Elizabeth Maiman and Essay with Ellie Dwight were where I discovered a talent for telling stories, and a way to explain the world as I saw it. I’m in no doubt that what I learned there was vital. But, funnily enough, it turns out that the classes I dreaded most were the ones that opened doors to my current career.
I went into the compulsory studio art classes kicking and screaming. Nothing seemed less pleasing than a mandatory lesson in humility. What the hell was I going to do with with refined skills in cutting and pasting? Why should I even bother to attempt a drawing when the person to one side of me can sketch like Matisse and the one on the other side can make a charcoal pencil dance in their hands? And for god’s sake, do I really need to put my work up on a board next to everyone else’s, just to hear how terrible it is?
Well, it’s been 25 years since I left Waynflete. Despite my determination to become a writer, I am now, through some sort of twisted plot, a professional artist. Of course I still use the writing skills I picked up. But I draw on the things I learned in that art studio every hour of everyday. Those teachers taught me to see, to interpret, and to convey. I now make animation using a computer. I lead small teams of artists as we try to make moving images that will tell stories for documentaries or encourage people to sign up for Amnesty International or (unfortunately) to buy something. In other words, I have to see, to interpret, to convey.
I remember the frustration I felt when I first started Major Art in Junior year. I look at schools where I live now (and where my children go) and see students and parents happily see art classes cut from the curriculum as though they’re a luxury. And I realize, as with so many things that you can only understand with hindsight, how wise my teachers were, how vital it was, and is, to keep things like Major Art going and to expose students to a full range of subjects. I’d only suggest they ditch the charcoal pencils. Nobody can really draw with those things. Not even Matisse.