Like George Lucas I’m going to jump back to a time before my move to England with a couple stories that inspired me to travel across the pond. Enjoy!
I’m 18 years old and I’m sitting in line with other hopefuls at OCAD (then The Ontario College of Art). I’ve not decided entirely what I want to do with my life and my father is getting nervous that he’s going to have a live-in son until he shuffles off this mortal coil. I do know I want to stay in the art field but I had not decided exactly where I was going to take my talents. My portfolio, chock full of wildly coloured pastels of muscular torsos I had been drawing for months, sits on my bouncing knee. Compared to the rest of the hopefuls, my manner of dress is utterly “Sears” to their “Queen Street West”: one small girl is decked out entirely in leather in her shock Rough Trade look, her hair teased higher than my hopes. This is 1983, remember. I’m there to sign up for their Fine Arts program and let that take me wherever I wanted to go.
I enter the room and here is where my memory shatters up to a point: The room is narrow, almost another hallway. It’s dark, or I sort of recall that it was dark. There are three people at a desk and two look through my portfolio. I was so nervous that I didn’t catch who everyone behind that desk was. Only now, in my 40s, someone told me that one of the people looking at my work was a student and I assume the one not looking at my portfolio was a teacher or admissions officer. I do remember they asked all the questions.
What were my interests, favorite art period, method, incentives, history, my personal history, more personal history? Suddenly it was over. Fast. They breezed through my work and shut the portfolio. Not a good sign.
Then one of them laid it on the line (and I’m paraphrasing here): I was a privileged middle class white kid who had not experienced anything in life, certainly not enough to create any kind of meaningful art and that I should get out of Ontario and see real art. It was like a punch in the gut. The fact that I was living in my Dad’s basement and working nights at a hotel and had never travelled further than , made the OCAD’s assessment of me sting a little more.
They were right. If I wanted to be a serious artist I had to go see the real thing. Including all life’s little roadbumps that came up getting to those galleries. Of course, for weeks I was utterly crushed and moped around like my life was over.
Then my sister called. She asked how I was and offered words of encouragement and then suggested that I move to England under the Student Work Abroad Program. I can remember vividly how a light came on over my head. This is exactly what I needed to do.