For the last three years I have been entering some of my paintings into major competitions in the hope of making a living out of my art rather than just as a hobby.I have developed a style that is unique to me and maintains a conceptual theme about personal life experiences as a 2008 graduate from the worst economic recession in history.
My latest entry was ‘money talks’ for the 2014 exhibition but alas, again, out of over 2000 entries I didn’t get through stage 1. It does not dishearten me as one of the reasons I enter is to keep my creative/philosophical side of my brain active and to express myself in a way that I seldom do in any other way. In this blog post I discuss the concept behind my latest piece ‘money talks’
When I was 21 back in 2004 I was ambitious and enjoying the art foundation at Liverpool Community College. My works as a graphic designer and artist were quite appreciated and my tutors often commented about the works I was producing. One tutor’s comment had always stayed with me and that was ‘have you ever done a life drawing before? That is really good if you haven’t’ and another occasion when they asked me to explain a life-size drawing I did of myself that exposed all the chakras of the human soul and how they related to myself to the whole of the art foundation class.
It was a very proud ( but slightly embarrassing ) moment to be standing in front of over 100 other art students discussing my piece but obviously they were trying to encourage me into the right direction. Stupidly, instead , I applied for architecture because a) my father was a building contractor and I did occasional labouring for him and b) the prospect of lots of money when I graduate and my work standing the test of time when dead and gone rather than graphics that tend to change from day-to-day and you don’t earn as much.
Building a dream
Architecture was great fun, very tough but up my street (pardon the pun) as it allowed me to be conceptual and use my artistic skills in my family background of building maintenance.
I completed my degree with an extra course in Autocad & 3ds max in May 2008 but unfortunately, it was possibly the worst time to graduate as an architect in the history of the modern world and I was quite disappointed, actually…I was very disappointed by the lack of opportunity, particularly in the north-west of the UK, especially after trying so hard to have the skills required to do a good job as an architect.
At the time I was with a long-term gf who had a job in the area so couldn’t look anywhere else in the country for an opportunity and so in need of a wage and knowing you get a bursary to train as a teacher I tried that even though I never in my wildest dreams saw myself as a teacher but I needed the money.
Teaching me a lesson
As already stated I never really considered myself a teacher, even when I was doing the course I knew my heart wasn’t in it as much as it was when I was doing architecture but I needed a profession and I guess teaching didn’t seem a bad second choice on reflection.
Receiving a fairly good wage, a good pension and inspiring others to achieve their very best seemed quite beneficial but then I started teaching and found it to be a bitchy bullying environment…and that was just the staff room!
I had to attend three schools, the first an all girls school but I only taught maybe 10% of the time so it gave you a taste of what schools are like, the second school that I attended in 2009 I got sent to was a school that was shutting down due to an amalgamation proposed by the labour government so the tutors who were meant to help where loosing their jobs and firstly they admitted they didn’t want me there and secondly they really didn’t like me even though all I did was tried to do a good job for the children…
…they made my life very awkward, being unprofessional, informing me to tell lies to the children, shout at them, playing inappropriate music and didn’t want to help me learn when I was struggling with certain parts of teaching and then…behind my back, contacted my university saying i wasn’t coping even though I was doing three times as much as anyone else in my university!
These are just a few of the terrible things they did whilst I spent my time with them, there was a lot of mind games…
Eventually, towards the end of the placement, they made me feel worthless, I couldn’t pursue architecture, my first choice as a career and now they made me feel I couldn’t teach either… I couldn’t carry on, I had a bad break down…a very very bad one, so bad that when I had to return back to the school environment I was very low, lacking confidence and always very anxious, I didn’t want to be in that industry after what I had experienced but I pushed through to get the course finished as I wouldn’t let anyone stop me doing something I really wanted to achieve and maybe, just maybe I might use my teaching degree in another form or venture abroad to teach those with very little in the future.
The good news is that I completed it and thus beat those wicked women who tried to make me quit! I was finished!
Money holds the answers
A couple of weeks passed after graduation, relief fell over me but then I collapsed on the floor. I was mentally exhausted.
It was summer 2011 and I had given everything I had to give, I was hugely in debt after two degrees and no opportunity or understanding what I was to do, my relationship was not good either and aiming to make lots of money had actually put me in a large negative spiral in the hope of a good profession on graduation and now I knew I didn’t want to teach and I hadn’t done any architecture for over 2 years so I didn’t feel that wasn’t an option and even worse now with my qualifications taking smaller jobs was virtually impossible as I was over qualified…
what was I going to do? How was I going to repay my financial mistakes and begin my career so much older than I expected?
Feeling totally lost and extremely low I drew away from the world, hardly going out. All my dreams of a fulfilling career and happy life had crashed and burned in my 20s’ and mostly due to things out of my control, I didn’t want to be here any more. I’d been so driven by money and dreams of high positions that I had lost my health in the pursuit. Due to how a bad state I was in I phoned my family and told them how terrible I was feeling and how I want to end it all…thus they came around to my flat and took me the doctors.
I got asked a questionnaire by a doctor, a standard questions sheet that they ask everyone who is ‘depressed’ or ‘low’ and if I was playing bingo I would have surely won the main prize!Instead I was informed I was at high risk of suicide, the only thing that stopped me considering it as a viable option was the fact I have my family who care for me otherwise I may have taken the next step, I felt so hopeless…
I was put on a very high dose of Citalopram, offered cognitive behavioural therapy and was looked after by family rather than live with my ex…I wanted to be back where I felt safe, in my childhood home with my parents and my relationship was one of the reasons I felt pressure into trying a profession I didn’t really want to do.
Back at my parents I was sleeping a lot, even if I wanted to be awake my body didn’t want me to, my mind needed rest. When I was awake I wrote in a journal to keep my thoughts in. It was a suggestion of my family so in time, as I improved, I could see how I got better.
A technique I chose for myself was flipping coins…
From a very young age I had been interested in the unexplained, spirituality & more recently I studied the basic theories of quantum psychics and alternative universes. At the time I believed that if everything was connected to each other as ‘one energy’ and if alternative dimensions existed where there are other possible outcomes dependent on the decisions made in the mind then it is possible to predict the future through flipping a coin to receive the answer to my dilemma as the coin would connect to my thought to the correct reality of thought, a scientific ‘theory’ gone mad.
Looking back now with a healthy mind of course it seemed a strange thing to do but that is how ill and desperate I had become, I had reached the lowest point in my life and I needed answers or a helping hand from someone or somewhere, quite ironic really considering that the reason I chose Architecture over Graphics was to earn more money and here I was flipping a coin with no money in my bank account!
Getting well again, lesson learned
Eventually after 6 months rest, my ex left me and I started trying to enjoy life again and I found the will to start going out again by walking our new family dog around the locality and studying something with all my free time that I knew I loved doing, web and graphic design.
My hometown unfortunately didn’t seem to have opportunity for me ( later I found out the area was one of the worst effected in the country) so I applied for jobs all over the country. If I didn’t get a job in the UK I was preparing to apply abroad, I had to start my career somehow, I was ageing and I had already lost too many years stupidly wasting my money and time in further education training to teach.
Working on improving myself
After applying for jobs all around the country the response was much better than before and I found a job the other side of the country. It was the best thing that could have happened to me!
I still wasn’t 100% well, I was still taking Citalopram on full dosage but I knew working was one thing that would help me find my confidence again as well as begin my career long over due!
Things continued to improve when I found this job opportunity and a year after moving away from my hometown I was off Citalopram as well as meeting a woman who helped changed my life even further, so really I am already a rich man, maybe not in monetary terms but I have a lot of love in both my family and my wife as well as a job I love doing.
The painting measuring 2 metres x 1.5 metres, is painted entirely by hand/finger. I don’t paint my paintings with brushes as I want my emotions to come across on the painting and by using a paintbrush the accuracy would obviously be there but my technique and concept is to express emotion of the experience I have had and without the direct contact I feel I can achieve this.
Flipping coin on hand
The hand is my own and represents the stage when my mind was at its deepest darkest lowest point. Within the groove of the hand is lacking any form of detail for a reason. I did not want to show anything inside to represent the feelings of emptiness that I had during that time due to the pursuit of money and graduating at the recession…I reached a point where I felt nothing but despondency.
The technique of painting shows the sweeping of the paint across the hand representing the scars and wounds of bad past decisions and that although you heal the pains of the past they always remain regardless of new circumstances.
The thumbnail is a different colour to the rest of the fingernails to represent looking for answers in the coin I was flipping as though the coin/money was going to give me the answers to my problems.
The coin is not recognisable as any currency in the world, the reason for this is that sometimes when we focus too much on money as the main objective for all our decisions we begin to lose our identity and thus the coin itself is loosing its recognition and its purpose in the reality that is created by focusing solely on monetary gains.
The background is half red and half green. The red side for the negative thoughts, actions and decisions that money can persuade us to make and the green side for growth, positivity & enhancing actions that money can also have the power to give.
It could be said that money has been one of the main reasons to blame for lots of the plights of humanity. For example, removing funding from the north in the 1980s in the industrial sectors of the north UK destroyed many generations of families stability as there was no replacement just a cut to jobs in the north and most new investments going into the south that still can be seen having a ripple effect in the north/south divide to this very day.
The recent war in Iraq was without question to gain the oil reserves of the country and financial gains for the west. China’s supremacy as an economic super power allowed them to invade Tibet without any interference from the West as they knew interference would result in less investment and trade would have been impacted so vastly it could have destroyed our way of living so humanity was forced to watch as many native Tibetans had to flee their land, those who stayed suffered greatly and still do.
Others want quick financial gains and those who travel to South America may be tempted to try to smuggle large amounts of drugs from one continent to another in the pursuit of vast amounts of money but no regard for where the product is going to go or ruin the lives of the consumer and the family that care for them when it reaches these shores and some of the super rich avoid paying taxes to the respected countries they trade in exploiting the lower working classes in the process.
This is just a few examples of the power the coin has in a negative stance of the human psyche…
But thankfully money can also be a force for the positive.
Money when invested into the right places can alter the lives of normal people quite drastically so much so that it bring about bliss.
For example when humanity is faced with natural disasters the world comes together and gives what it can to help others give what they can to charities to help those they have never met.
Taxes are paid by the majority so a free health service and benefit system to those struggling can be provided to everyone who lives in the UK. Others may invest in great business ideas generating work and careers for normal people benefiting society as a whole.
New buildings can be built and fantastic carnivals can be created. Money can create great changes in our lives and can help us make good decisions as well as bad ones, it is whether we think with greed and selfishness or love and morales that is what makes the difference on whether its one side of the coin or the other.
At the base of the hand is water, the water represents the unsettled mind of decisions based around money. Money can quite easily flow in or out depending upon the thoughts and actions of the person holding it so whether the negative or positive energy falls into the pool it will continue to have a ripple effect and either increase in size or pull the owner into a pit of despair.
We should never let the pursuit of money come into our big decisions of life such as choosing a career for the sole purpose of monetary gains.
When I was 21 I was much better at fine art and graphic design than I was at 3d and spatial design but regardless I pursued Architecture mainly for the purpose of money ( as I knew Graphics wouldn’t earn as much ) even though I’d never really made models and my artwork was not technical, I was more expressive than Architecture appears to be.
Be driven by the love of things
What should drive every decision we make is…
It may sound cliche but John Lennon got it right, all you need is love! If you love a subject or topic then usually you become a master at that topic. Thinking with the heart makes life experience a lot more positive, having money and lots of it is of course great but as long as it isn’t your main goal in life otherwise it is likely that you will not enjoy life and possibly destroy yourself in the process.
This painting is a reminder to me and anyone who views it that I/you must always choose the love of something rather than love of material gains as love will always bring more joy and satisfaction in life than the pursuit of financial wealth…this does not mean that financial wealth is not achievable but…
Love what you do and everything else will flow to you.
This painting will be available as prints on society6 and various other products, if you are interested in buying the original please contact me directly for details.