When Childhood Proves The Best Education

For the artist, Guggi, the idea of a formal education in the arts always seemed stifling and even a bit scary; luckily for him, all of the instinct he’s ever needed comes straight from childhood.
  • Transcript


Question: Has your lack of training helped you as an artist?

Guggi: Yeah. I think there is no doubt about the fact that it has. I think formal training is absolutely correct for some people and for other people I don't think it's correct, and I felt when I was very young -- I mean, my mom would have gone out on a limb to send me to Art College, but I didn't want to go. I think it might have been partly fear of something; I don't know what. Or I think it might have been some touch of wisdom that was planted in me, that steered me away from that and maybe manifested itself in some kind of a fearful manner. I don't know which of those it was or what it was, but I did strongly feel that I didn't want that.

My mom sent me to a drawing class off Grafton Street in Dublin when I was about 11 or 12 years old and it was a still life, it had been set up on the table, there was a group of people sitting around the table drawing it from their angle. My style was still developing as a child and I think technical ability I think is important for an abstract artist because it's a toolbox you can then do with what you want. And I very much had my own style. I delicately drew this in. I was very pleased with it. It was exactly right. I was shading it and the teacher came along, took a big heavy pencil and re-drew it a very different style and said, "That's how it should be done." I think that was the time when I said I am never going to let this happen to me again. I think that's when I decided I don't want anybody telling me how to make my mark and I don't want that to be influenced and I think by not being formally taught protected that and, for me, I wholly believe it was right.

Question: What role has childhood played in your art?

Guggi: I think it's very powerful for any artist. I think people's childhood is a huge mark on their lives. They may realize it, they may not. But I just have this thing about shapes; I've always had this thing about people's faces and I say when I draw a jog in a very awkward child-like way, I almost see it as a person with a really awkward nose or something. You know it comes from childhood but it's painted by a man. So I mean it's a mixture of all of these things. But some of the early marks that have now, I think, basically turned into my vocabulary as a painter I think come from childhood. But it's difficult to -- I don't even try to analyze these things. I just try to walk in faith, trust my instincts.

 Recorded on October 7, 2009