It’s tough going back to college in your forties. You know that most of your co-students will be half your age, or even younger. They’ll remind you of your children and you’ll have to remember not to treat them like they are! And they’re used to learning, the poor souls only just having finished up their Leaving Certs. And your rusty old cogs may need quite the oiling to get going again. But this is what I decided to do, in a moment of madness, last summer. I applied to Ballyfermot College of Further Education to do an Art Portfolio Preparation course – Arts, Graphics and Printmaking.
First day nerves were made even worse by the fact that it was an Art course. No matter how much you tell yourself that you can draw, maybe you’ve been kidding yourself all these years? And what about the wonderfully talented young people… won’t they laugh at your pathetic efforts? But, that first day I drew a boot, and it wasn’t the worst drawing of a boot ever done. And the next day I think it was a pineapple. Not the worse pineapple either.
My classmates turned out to be a great bunch. There was a range of ages and experience but we all bonded and it wasn’t long before I didn’t feel out of place. Of course there were moments when the 1980’s music references were met with blank faces and I probably occasionally gave out to them for not having done their homework, but otherwise I was surprised at how easy it was to fit in.
The course itself has been a joy. The three main tutors, Brian Walsh, Serena Kelly and Barbara Dunne are three of the hardest working, most committed teachers I have ever met. You can tell how important it is to them that we all learnt as much as we could and did as well as possible. I am amazed at how much I have developed as an artist and how much I now know about the various subjects we covered. I never thought I would be developing my own black and white photographs. And learning how to use a pinhole camera to take photos – it felt like witchcraft to begin with! My painting and drawing skills amaze me every day. Over the year having learnt and practiced techniques, learnt rules and theory, I now feel I can call myself an artist and not feel like a fraud.
The portfolio scores from the various art colleges have begun to arrive in now. Everyone has done really well. With only a few exceptions, all my classmates have gotten the Fine Art or Visual Communications course they wanted. Myself included. When the letter came from NCAD telling me that my portfolio had scored well and I would be expecting an offer from the CAO in due course, it was a dream I never thought would happen.
It has been a demanding year. The cogs had needed some oil to get going alright, but now, as the end draws near, I’m going to miss pulling into the Arts building in Ballyfermot every day. And, despite the wonderful letter from NCAD, I’ve come to realise that it is a course right back in BCFE that I hope to get a place on next year.
Triona’s artwork here includes pieces depicting her husband and youngest child. Time found to do her homework while her family slept!