What would you say if you were to write a letter to a young artist (specifically, the younger you)?

I loved this question in the interview with Mary from Wonky Wheel of Finchingfield. The article introduces the Uncontained exhibition featuring my floral paintings and Stephie Butler’s wildlife paintings – and you can read the whole article here.

The question of what advice you would give to a younger you is a valuable one.  You have to put some real thought into what you have learned over your painting years, and what’s truly important in your art life (and the rest of your life).

Here are the pieces of advice we gave:

Letter to a young artist: Stephie Butler

To follow your passion:

My biggest regret is that I didn’t start younger. Being an artist wasn’t an option where I grew up, it was thought of as just a hobby. I often think of all the years I wasted in jobs I didn’t enjoy.

Create as much as you can:

Nothing will help you grow and develop as an artist more than practice. Create daily even something small. Bigger and more interesting things come out of small marks that you discover by sketching and playing.

Forget the rules:

In my early days of learning, I listened too often to those telling me you have to paint in certain ways. This will hold back the development of your style, along with the enjoyment of discovery. Paint what you feel and enjoy, you will learn as much from what doesn’t work as you will from those that do.


And here’s mine:

Letter to a Young Artist: Vandy Massey

Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts and don’t feel the need to rush your development as an artist. Enjoy every part of this process – it is all valuable, even the failures. So just paint, paint, paint and then paint some more. The more you paint, the better it gets. The more you paint, the more you know about yourself. The more you paint, the more you get to share your vision of the beauty of the world with everyone who sees one of your paintings.

Just paint without worrying about what other people think.


Letters to other young artists

And just for extra value, here are a few others taken from Mary’s interviews:

Susan Keeble:

I would definitely say work hard and listen to but don’t be put off by all the well-meaning advice. Only you can take your ideas in the direction you want to go, so make your decisions and don’t stop.

Angie Rains:

Try a different style. It might not work, but on the other hand…it might just look fantastic!

Lorraine Brown:

I think looking back, um, I’ve always sort of regretted I didn’t sort of go to art school earlier. But then again, I think, you can’t rely on that, as a career in Art can be quite a difficult one, it’s some reliable, but I think even if you have to have your plan B, to earn a living, and so on, you can always have art as your interest on the side.

Your work is more authentic because you’re not making work to make, to sort of please somebody else. And I think that could be quite a big thing. If you were reliant on your artwork, as your main income, you’d probably have to do very different work, because you’d have to paint what other people wanted, or might work a certain way, and I think you can be totally authentic. If you’re not relying on earning a living out of it, you can do exactly what you want. What makes you tick, what makes you happy? Yeah. Do what makes you happy is important and not to be influenced by any other factor then.

The common theme in all of these is to take the leap and follow your chosen direction fearlessly.

Going back to the Uncontained Exhibition, here’s a short video of the painting that started it all:

And if you’re in Essex at the beginning of August, why not join us for a glass of wine at our preview evening.