I am 67 and retired and have a loving husband and have little enthusiasm for anything but you wouldn’t know it as I’m very entertaining when with other people.

I went to art school in the 60’s, from age 13-18 which were the best years of my life in many ways and tried over the years to qualify but 2 attempts at degrees (one 4 years ago) failed due to problems with grants. I ended up working in the NHS for over 20 years.

I could join an art group but so many paint kittens and harbour scenes – not for me! I have good art knowledge and intellectual understanding of much of it and volunteer at a nationally recognized Gallery as a room steward once a week. I also have Fibromyalgia which can be limiting and wear hearing aids which make me feel quite isolated at times, especially in groups as I can’t hear accurately then. I have so much more than others but still guiltily feel totally lacking in purpose and direction.


Well that’s just not good enough is it? I’m delighted you’ve written and I suspect you’ve chosen me precisely because you know that the judgmental tone you employ when dismissing art you feel inferior will infuriate me.

As every critic knows the easiest thing to do is to pick holes in other peoples artistic endeavour and the hardest is to actually create something yourself. If I had a pound for every person I’ve passed at an exhibition saying, “Anyone could have done that”,  I’d be opening the Mariella Modern on London’s Southbank. Having the ability to copy someone else’s idea, rather than imagine a piece in the first place is the difference between a workman and an inventor-and it’s a huge gap. There are plenty of art groups out there, in fact ever increasing numbers, many run by inspirational teachers and artists. If you were to shop around I’m sure you’d find plenty that don’t focus on kittens and harbour views. Your dismissal of the entire amateur art oeuvre is typical of your state of mind though. I suspect you’re a little depressed and rather than tackle it you’ve decided to attack the world beyond and in particular take swipes at anything that actually matters to you. It’s far easier not to get on with what you should be doing if you’ve decided that whatever it is isn’t worthy of your attention. You sound to me like you are desperate to create but have spent way too long making excuses for not doing it. Grants may once have been a problem but as a mature student there are plenty of affordable courses to choose from. As for not having a degree – why should that stop you from being an artist – last time I looked it didn’t come with a qualification requirement other than skill and hopefully talent.

Most of the excuses you are making smack to me of fear. I think you’re afraid to commit to the thing you love most because you’re afraid your work isn’t worthy. Yet even that’s no reason to hold back There isn’t a creative person in any discipline who sits back when they’ve finished their work, whether book, film, canvas, or ode and congratulates themselves on a piece of personal perfection. For most people expressing themselves creatively means life is an eternal struggle between the voices that citizen and diminish and the sheer need to carry on. I think what you’re wrestling with are issues around confidence and like so many of us who struggle to summon self belief you’ve found the easiest thing to do is find fault with others. Having a good art knowledge and working in a space that exhibits great art may be enjoyable but if your ambitions are to be making your own work that’s what you need to set your mind to. It’s possible you won’t even be able to conjure a kitten but it’s high time you threw caution to the winds, stopped letting those inner voices hold you back and started doing what you most desire. Who cares whether you’ve passed a degree, or failed to pass three?

Instead of expending your emotional energy on trying to convince others that you are happy, propel that internal angst onto your canvas. When the going gets tough just think of Phyllida Barlow the artist and mother of five who spent an entire career teaching the likes of Rachel Whiteread and Conrad Shawcross, both RA’s before being discovered by Hauser and Wirth in her very early sixties. The honour of the debut show in their fabulous new Somerset art gallery follows swiftly on from her Tate exhibition! If her story doesn’t enhance your determination I don’t know what would. As for feeling isolated by your hearing aid, most of us these days are driven to wearing earplugs to defend ourselves from the noisy modern world. Try to see that sense of isolation as a blissful escape from the cacophony, not another barrier to fulfilment.