“Hold On” : Acrylic on my old secondary school door by JA Wilson

Entered into the John Moores Painting Prize 2012

We all have dreams as a child. We dream of becoming super heroes like Superman, Batman or other characters of fantasy realms. We are told to dream as a child, both from the media on the television to, as we grow older, schools and establishments telling you that you can achieve anything your heart desires and the way to do it is to get a really good education, progress with good grades, go to university, get a degree and that is bound to help you get a better future. Put £20,000 of your future “possible” earnings into an education  ..surely, that would help you get the perfect job…wouldn’t it?

Dreams crashed and burned

That isn’t what I found after graduating in 2008! I had been in further education for over half a decade when I graduated in Architecture. I had to resit one year of my education due to my ex’s mother falling severely ill and eventually dying that May when I was meant to graduate, so that meant that I graduated the year that the recession of doom was in full flow.

Some say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one

As a child, teachers help develop your dreams of a profession. If a good teacher then they’ll identify your strengths and try and push you forward in that direction feeding your dream and ambition of doing something incredible with your life. To be fair, you can’t blame teachers for allowing children to dream big, it has been the governments incentive to make people dream big, regardless of background, whether working class, middle class or upper class. There is a huge difference in the ability to meet your dream or how easy it will be depending on your background. If you are from a working class family its not going to be the easiest journey, you will need grit and determination as money will still prove to be tight, but if you are from a middle class or upper class family then investing in your dreams is not as risky for you financially and is probably easier to achieve as you may already know people in the business you are trying to be qualified to do.

I don’t need this!

As a trainee teacher, when I spoke to children about what they wanted to do when they eventually left school it was evident that quite a few had been brainwashed into thinking its easy to achieve their dream vocation. I often heard “i don’t need this subject to do what I want to do”… programs like X factor and such like make it look easy to achieve whatever you want in life with ease. It is simply not true! You have to be extremely lucky to fall into a position with ease.Most great success take great pain, sweat and tears.

I don’t need no education! I don’t need no thought control!

Schools put too much emphasis on achieving good grades to move up the league tables. What this does is firstly put unnecessary stress on young people when they should be enjoying their life and secondly it makes qualifications worthless. If everyone qualifies with the same qualifications at roughly the same grades as each other then that is not an education that is a factory, creating mass produced work force with no direct talent and I am sure you are well aware, we all have different skills and talents so is school education really the solution to creating a fairer society with opportunity for all?

Different talents

It may not be the answer to a fair society, actually the answer may be to focus on what each child is gifted at and give them ALL A DIFFERENT EDUCATION, remove government league tables and even removing the governments influence on what is expected as a minimum!

So how does all this relate to “Hold on”?

Dreams are nurtured in all schools, the belief we are all able to achieve the best possible life, the ability to achieve vast wealth and comfort, a job we can really feel happy doing and appreciated if only we got a good education! The truth is, i got a really good education, I got 2 qualifications when I first qualified in architecture. I had 3ds Max 9 skills qualification as well as my BA in Architecture, more than most architecture graduates, yet I couldn’t find work. I was distraught and my partner at the time was not supportive not believing i was trying hard enough to find work in my locality. She suggested I try teaching as she was a teacher and she had sacrificed her dreams in order to work but the problem is, I am a stubborn f***er, I will never give up on my dreams!

Invisible man

At times, when you can’t find that job you have always wanted ( and please note, qualified to do sp ) you feel invisible and would it really matter if you weren’t here? What if I was dead, would it really make a difference? That is why the man holding on to the door is invisible, he has no face. That man is me, this man is me when my mind was very disturbed by the hand the world had dealt me. I used to wear big clothes and a hat because I was fed up of the world and didn’t want to be around or see it anymore, the world had let me down, i felt like I had been lied to and had 16,000 stolen from me, even though I’d tried so hard.

Old school, old memories, new home

At the time my old school had shut down and they wanted people to live in it for a very small fee of £170 including bills! So here i was, living in my school! I went to the technology room that I used to study graphics in, where all my dreams began…it was quite an emotional experience really..i could remember how i used to feel when i first did those lessons, i loved it! One of the doors was off the hinges and as the door is representative of signifying opportunity, (open new doors)and that is why i painted myself holding on to it, I am holding onto the opportunity of the dream.

Blocked view of the future

Through the window location in the middle, it was bordered up, blocking the view of the future, blocking the opportunity that education should give; instead it was replaced by keys hanging in the shape of an eagle. Why an eagle , watch this  video and it may give you an idea why.


The keys were also from the school and as an eagle removes its damaged feathers I too chose to take my dirty feathers (keys) and remold what I had learnt at school into another new me in order to achieve a new dream, take what I had learnt, the pains experienced, the new skills from each and every corner of my life that had developed me into what I have decided to become today, even my darkest hour helped get me to where I am today, I am being creative and i feel privileged to be getting paid for doing such, the dream of comfort and wealth…I am still holding on..waiting to achieve this dream.


In conclusion, the painting represents the importance of holding fast to your dreams and having an unwavering determination to achieve what you want in life regardless of what people say to you, regardless of what is happening that is out of your power, regardless of your self doubt, you must always believe in yourself and your dream because no one else will believe in you more than yourself. So don’t stop believing!


hold on painting by ja wilson design


P.S. And even keep holding on even if your father cuts your door in half, DAD! lol. He did ask me, he likes to keep things tidy as its his way so wanted to free up space in the garage..still, im holding onto my dreams. haha.