To my daughter, the artist

Dear Tilly

When you were two years old you told me that you wanted to be an artist when you grew up. At the time you were undoubtedly naked and smothered in poster paint, so it wasn’t difficult to believe you. Your ability to spread paint over every surface known to man, including your own skin, was legendary.

Over the years you never wavered with regard to what you wanted to do. You never wanted to be ballerina or a nurse, or an astronaut or a scientist. It was always an artist (and a cleaning lady to supplement your income until you made it big). Even though you learned to keep your clothes on, you were still smothered in paint, glue, glitter and clay. Except on the days when you made films, or models, or jewellery or clothes.

We worried a bit. Jason’s dreams of you becoming the next Bill Gates had to be put aside. My concerns about you starving in a garrett had to be squashed. We all accepted that you knew what you were going to be, because it was apparent that you already were an artist.

I didn’t choose the art life. The art life chose me.

I told you this already today my love, but I want this somewhere permanent so that if you ever doubt yourself, you can read this and listen to it with my best ranting voice in your head.

You ARE already an artist. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be one. You don’t need a piece of paper to be one (well, drawing paper maybe). You don’t need to mount everything beautifully to be one. You are one. You have been an artist all your life. It’s who you are. You don’t need to write about it or explain it to anyone. Your art speaks for itself. And it is good.

Telling you that you might not have permission to be what you already are is ludicrous.

You are an artist because you are able to translate the world you see into things that show other people a new way of looking. Your way.

You are an artist because your first response to anything you need to work out for yourself is to pick up a sketchpad.

You are an artist because you make art all the time. You don’t make art because school have asked you to. You do that because you have to, and you often resent it because it gets in the way of your actual art, the things you make because you want to.

You are an artist because you have no choice. You have to make art like you have to breathe. It’s an itch you can’t scratch. It’s a compulsion and a need.

You are an artist because you make what you make for yourself. You don’t think about commerciality or fashion. You think about what you want to say and show and you do it.

In school they try to teach you what you already do. They try to teach you about making things like you already make them.

In school they try to teach you to find your own way of doing things, your own artistic vision and way of expressing yourself. You already do it.

Nobody else in the whole world makes art like you do. What you make is unique and it is valuable, maybe not in terms of money, but because you show us how you see. You share your world with us.

You don’t need them, my oil paint loving, ink splashing, carpet wrecking, pumpkin painting, wonderful artist of a daughter. You already have everything you need.

You are an artist. You will always be an artist. You are a wonderful artist and a better than wonderful daughter and I believe in you. I support you. I love you, and I will cut out and eat the still beating heart of anyone that tries to diminish the wonder that you are.

Love, mum.


18 responses to “To my daughter, the artist

  1. What a lovely thing to write for your daughter.

  2. Tilly and her mum enlighten us. Keep on keeping on! xx

  3. Beautiful sentiments, beautifully expressed.

    Substitute “actor” for “artist” and it is similar to something I wrote to my youngest son a few years ago. The Bill Gates/starving in a garrett issues occupied us too (and still do if I am honest) but unwavering commitment and determination deserves the same in return.

    Eldest son is about to need a garrett in which to starve whilst writing poetry, and I can tell you they are rather more expensive than they were in Keats’ day. Even affording a place for starving is a privilege.

    Glad I am not the only one who cuts out the beating heart of detractors, though I am more of a “roast ’em and feed ’em to my dog” kinda gal.

  4. You are a wonderful mum and a lovely human. I remember going to collect my little sister from infant school many moons ago and the teacher pulling me aside to show me a wonderful picture she had painted a jungle in blues and oranges and flaming reds and she said to me “but trees are green” I think it was one of the most soul destroying things i’ve ever heard. If we are going to teach we have to have learnt first. So onwards Tilly onwards you’re mum has your back xx

  5. Enough already, you have to stop making me cry with these posts 😀
    As someone who will have spent 30 years (30 YEARS? how is this even possible) in November, telling her beautiful, clever, talented and exceptionally wonderful daughters that they are all these things and never to believe anything or anyone that tells them different, I am now looking forward to doing it all again with my gorgeous granddaughter.
    They may not always accept what you say but the knowledge that you love, believe in and support them is always with them, like a cross between a security blanket and a suit of armour. It’s the greatest gift we mothers can give. Xxx

  6. This is a lovely post and your sentiments hit the spot with me!

  7. This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read!

  8. That’s beautiful.

  9. Tilly darling – I don’t know you, but I think you can take it that you are, always have been and always – irrevocably – will be, an artist. Even if you change your mind and become a train driver, you will, I am afraid to tell you, still be an artist underneath, and as inky, painty, charcoal-covered hands make driving trains quite difficult, it might be better if you just give in and keep on re-interpreting your vision of this wonderful world for us less gifted mortals.
    Thank you.

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