Friday, 9 October 2015

Confessions of a Botanical Fraud

This week saw the crowning of the new Great British Bake of champion, and the winning statement by Nadiya Hussain will go down in chez Squirrel as one of the best TV moments of any Bake Off Final.  Struggling to get her words out, Nadiya highlighted something that I am sure affects many people when nerves, shyness, lack of confidence and apprehension prevents them from following their dreams. It certainly did for me.  

When you think you can't

"I'm never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. 

I'm never going to say I can't do it.

I'm never going to say maybe. 

I'm never going to say I don't think I can. I CAN AND I WILL

Nadiya Hussain, Great British Bake Off Winner 2015

For all of you who think you can't

For all of you who think your work will never be important or worthy
For all of you who think you can't do it. 

If you have the passion, if you have the drive and you have the determination, you can and you will. We all have a starting point and a catalyst moment in our lives that brings forth a change, whatever that catalyst may be, it is up to the individual to recognise it as an opportunity and grasp it. Don't get me wrong here, I am not someone who has a clear understanding or belief in fate, just that we need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. The path less traveled by? Maybe.

My mum's curiosity in a small ad in a magazine was my starting point. "Now this is something you should consider". "It's a great idea mum, but I don't think I can, I'm not good enough..." Sound familiar? Eventually I sent off for the details and had a go.   

My very first attempt at a botanical watercolour.

Wrong paper, terribly old brushes and paints and with no knowledge of the historical botanical 'greats'
or Latin for that matter, I really felt like a fish out of water who didn't belong in the botanical art world. 

Veggie Trio 2009

After a stressful couple of days I thought my 'Veggie Trio' looked okay but knew it wouldn't be good enough to get me a place on the Society of Botanical Artists Diploma Course where precision and perfection was highly sought after. 

Well, I was wrong and so it all began for me. All through the course I still felt like a fraud, unable to compete with or match the knowledge or skill of some of my superb fellow students. Of course they are all, (mostly, all will become clear) lovely, and their support helped to bob me along. Their friendships through Facebook et al. has been incredible and I thank them all for being so loyal, cheery and patient. 

Nothing prepared me for the single piece of A4 paper that clearly stated 'Distinction'. For the briefest moment I did wonder if I had read it wrong in wishful thinking. Only a spiteful and devastatingly well placed comment by one individual (who will remain nameless) at my graduation, brought a crushing blow that ruined the rest of my evening and nearly stopped me from ever picking up a brush again. That took a while to get over, while to the rest of the world I was 'fine', in full possession of my 'shield of Normality'. Of course she wasn't to know that I operate best with a bit of anger in me, so once it was simmering nicely, her intentions had the adverse effect and I attacked new pieces with a vengeance. Awfully glad I did it.    

And my tulip work in progress

'Fade to Grey' 2015

It all seems like such a long time, ago but after five years and hours of practise, I feel I am getting there with it. Still a lot to learn though.

Post Script: And just to bring this one right up to date. My most humbling moment has been to have one of my paintings accepted by the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation for their next exhibition in 2019.  

See also:


Kathe Lewis said...

Well done! thank you for sharing your story, I hope unnamed person knows about your progress and is duely ashamed!

Liz Bahs said...

Thanks for this post Jarnie! It is truly amazing how one person's words can shape what we do and how we do it (I think first of your mum's comment to you about the course, then the person at graduation). Beautiful new piece! Liz

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Hi Kathe and thank you for your lovely comment. To be honest, I rarely think about that now but thought it would be helpful for others to know that it's never plain sailing and you have to persevere. x

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Hi Liz, It certainly is and you know yourself how powerful words can be. Sometimes both the supportive and the hurtful can actually become the fuel we need to succeed. x

shevaun said...

I'm proud of all your achievements Jarnie. You're a little fighter and a great artist!!!

Hedera said...

An excellent post Jarnie. Good on you for powering on regardless. Your hard work and committment shines!!!

Vicki Lee Johnston said...

Naysayers can upset and hurt but they certainly help with motivation to work even harder. Good on you for turning it into a positive! Your tulip is looking amazing.

Janene said...

Jarnie, Someone made a snide remark to me as well at graduation, I can't help but wonder if it was the same person but then again, I don't really want to know! I am glad that you didn't let someone's mean spirit diminish you or what you do--quite the contrary!

Your work is beautiful and growing more so with each piece. Best wishes from me to you!

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Better to let sleeping dogs lie on that one, but I can't imagine too many mean spirited types were around. Looks as if we have both conquered our critics!

Your work has been amazing to see and going from strength to strength. Long may it continue x