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Alumni of the Month January 2007
Angela Lawrence (1980 English & Music)
1. How did you get to where you are now?
A Long and Winding Road…. Well, I suppose by following my musical career first. I did two postgraduate courses after Keele – at the Welsh College of Music and Drama to further my instrumental skills, and then at Goldsmiths, London University at the National Centre of Orchestral Studies. This led me to go abroad to Finland for more orchestral experience, but I stayed on there rather longer than I had intended! There I was able to take advantage of the Scandinavians’ quiet and more relaxed way of life (and sensible work schedules) by spending quite a lot of time painting alongside my orchestral career and teaching. I exhibited a lot, and had quite a lot of success there, despite it being more of a hobby and my professional qualifications being in other branches of the arts. When I returned to Britain after 20 years, initially into school teaching, I eventually met my new partner who happened to live here in Scotland… and I suddenly found myself living in “The Artists Town” of Kirkcudbright amidst all the beautiful Galloway scenery. I just threw myself completely into painting and actively exhibiting my work, and now it seems to be rolling along with gathering momentum!
2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I think the recent acceptance to have paintings shown with the RGI (Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts), which is no mean feat, and even more so for someone who hasn’t graduated from that institution, let alone for a non fine-arts graduate. However, it is possibly a bigger achievement to have made such a huge career change – I was very dedicated to my music, as you have to be to succeed in that field, and it was a real wrench to almost “give it up” (and I am still sad about not playing with the orchestra anymore), but I feel quite proud of myself for having been able to use the discipline of practising my violin in concentrating on my painting to such an extent that I have produced a very large quantity of work and have been able to earn a good living from it.
3. And your biggest mistake?
Difficult. There are always lots and lots of small mistakes, but how to decide on the biggest, and whether it is a mistake or a necessary step? If I take away any big element from my past, like not having left Finland sooner or perhaps studying Art instead of Music and English at university or whatever, I think it changes everything thereafter so much that I wouldn’t be in the position I’m now in to be able to see it as a mistake - so really I can’t wish not to have done any particular step. I think I could only have done what I have done as far as my career path went – and I enjoyed it. Maybe I wouldn’t be so happy with my painting anyway if I had not followed my music and literature interests. However, I think my biggest mistake has perhaps been a general one of not having more confidence in myself. I think if you are confident in yourself others will be too, and this encourages an upward spiral in what you do, rather than downwards, or staying on a level.
4. What are your ambitions now?
To keep developing and learning, in my painting but also many other aspects of life. Not to tread water.
5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Really look at a lot of art; try to learn a variety of techniques so that you have a repertoire of skills to use to express yourself. Paint what you feel you want to paint because it will be recognisably more authentic, but don’t neglect the basic skills of drawing - try to be disciplined in your work, not just dabbling when you ” feel inspired”. Even the days when you fell uninspired can be days in which you tackle a new skill or uncover a new idea – but you have to persevere. As musicians hear all their lives- “practice makes perfect”. The Painting is called Blue Moment 2.
6. What made you choose Keele University?
I liked the idea of doing a joint honours course; I wasn’t ready to choose between all three of the arts. I had taken A levels in Art and Art history, English and Music, and found it difficult to choose between Music College, Art College and an English degree. At least I could take two of my subjects this way. And I liked the countryside around Keele and the campus was so beautiful!
7. How has Keele influenced your life?
It confirmed my love of the countryside and grand old buildings! I have loved daffodils and rhododendrons ever since Keele days. It gave me a broader view of life. It gave me a calmness- I don’t know why
8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Can’t choose; laughing with Annette Majekodumni and walking by the lakes.
9. And your worst?
First day nerves.
10. Anything else you would like to add?
It seems such a long time ago, but it also seems just like last week. It always stays with you.