View Full Version : To Jackie Simmonds

12-20-2003, 02:33 PM

I was delighted to see you posting on this thread especially after having a video of yours. I read your article on composition and it stated that you entered college when you were older.
How old were you when you went to art school and what did you have to do to get accepted? Did you already have good drawing skills? Was it natural?

I live near a famous art school and have thought about enrolling, but I have no faith in my drawing skills, although oil paints are easy for me. I was just curious about your story. Can you tell us?


12-21-2003, 05:25 AM
Well, I decided to apply for art school in my thirties - not a lot "older", now I look back it seems quite young! However, this wasn't the sort of art school you "enrol" in..as in adult education.....it was one you had to apply to, with a portfolio of work, and if they felt you had some promise, they would accept you. Most of the students went there straight from secondary school, it was a course you did instead of a degree course at a university.

So..........I applied, and they sent me away, saying they needed to see some evidence of my drawing skills. All I could show them initially was some watercolour paintings I had been doing. I joined a life class, and went back again after several months, with a stack of life drawings. Funny - brings back memories. My then watercolour tutor told me that it was important to sell myself. She said I should not, for instance, apologise for the poor quality of my drawings,(which was exactly what I might well have done) but should instead, wax lyrical about how pleased I was to have achieved so much in such a short time! ( Kelly - when you apply, remember this. Don't worry about your existing skills, or lack of them. There would be no point in going to learn, if you all ready knew it all! Fear of making a fool of yourself, is what is going on here . That's daft. Go there, and learn. Think how I felt, years older than all the others, a young mum too. Many of my fellow students were far better than me. I felt really out of place a lot of the time ... but I got over it. I was there to learn. )

They accepted me, for a one year full time foundation course, and then I went on to do a further three years full time, an illustration course. I was much older than the other students, they sometimes called me Auntie Jackie, but I laughed it off, and enjoyed a lot of my time there. Not all of it...........there were aspects which I did not enjoy ...most of the non-existent teaching for instance....but it gave me a start, and when I had finished, I returned to my watercolour teacher, who then was doing pastel classes, and that got me started on pastels, and I have never looked back. I have to say that the college course I did was ONLY helpful for a) the discipline of working every day and b) drawing skills, taught by one brilliant man, the only decent tutor in the place, and I had to teach myself a great deal about painting AFTER I left college! I was taught nothing whatsoever, for instance, about composition and design, although we did have some good lessons on drawing and perspective and did a short period looking at colour and tone. I never touched an oil painting brush in the whole three years. The mistake, for me, was doing an illustration course, I probably should have chosen a fine art course ... but remember, this was in the early '70's, and art schools were going through a period of " let the student find out things for themselves", and the tutors did not believe in "teaching". I now rather wish I could have lived way way back, and been apprenticed to a famous artist...filling the gaps in ones education oneself is frustrating, I never really feel I have learned enough. I did a lot of teaching after leaving college, because of my frustration with the bad teaching I was subjected to and I felt I could do better, and I had to research and study so that I was always one step ahead of my students, and in the process, I learned a lot.

Hopefully, this is enough info for you!

12-21-2003, 06:02 AM

Thanks for sharing. Your experiences are as inspiring as your paintings.

To be honest, I've learned more from the teaching materials you have published and from my own experiences than I ever learned in college. The main thing I learned in college was how to get up in the morning regardless of the size of my hangover ;). Somewhere in my mid-thirties I even forgot that lesson. Fortunately, the hangover these days comes from too much painting all night rather than too much drinking.

12-21-2003, 08:22 AM
thanks Shane for the vote of confidence!

Sorry about the hangovers:( I can only tell you that painting doesn't get any easier - the more you know, the higher your expectations of yourself - so take it easy on yourself or you will end up with more hangovers than you can cope with!!

12-21-2003, 04:31 PM

Thanks so much for sharing. I am 33 so I'm in the same boat. I'm glad to hear you were in your 30's as well. I've heard alot of things about college courses and that apprenticing seems the best way to go, except that it's not easy finding the teachers to apprentice with. You would think in Laguna Beach it woud be easy, but it's not.

I can see where discipline would be a great lesson. I am the same with painting all night long as it seems a surge of creative energy comes then or painting when I 'feel' like it, but mainly I think it's because of lack of knowledge creating procrastination and that's where school would help.

Being classically trained in opera, I have expectations that there are 'rules' to the art of oils or pastels and not knowing them drives me nuts. I can understand how you would be fustrated in school if they were leaving you to your own devices to figure it out. Don't need school for that.

Thank you again for all the tips! It's always nice to hear the stories of successful artists.


Vegas Art Guy
12-22-2003, 02:07 PM
Don't worry, I started late as well. I was lucky in that the junior college I went to had some great teachers and I got a good foundation to work with. I even remember my life drawing teacher telling me about that period when the students were left to their own devices, not a good time for him either. Anyway you are never to old to start, in some ways it's an advantage because you have so many life experiences to draw from as well that some 18 year old does not.

12-23-2003, 12:00 PM
All of your posts are so inspirational....here I am, 42 yrs (young) and only just starting on my artistic path.....it's nice to know I'm not the only one.....thanks!