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The art of learning: Geraldine's journey from student to self-employed

Geraldine Crimmins won the WAES learner of the year award for sensational progress in 2015, she is now a self-employed artist, an achievement she never would have imagined possible when she began her studies.

Geraldine attributes much of her success to guidance and advice from other professionals sharing their stories and now Geraldine shares her story with us.


So you are now officially Self-employed as an artist?

Yes, I just signed off on it yesterday. I am officially self-employed as part of National Enterprise Scheme.

I have been working towards being self-employed for the last 5 years. It’s slowly started happening for me now, I mean people have started to hear my story, from the big issue and the channel 4 piece, so more people are noticing me and there are more opportunities opening up. It's about getting yourself out there making contacts, it all adds up.


When you started studying could you have imagined becoming self-employed as an artist?

In the beginning art was just a dream, I never thought by any stretch of the imagination that I would be a self-employed artist.

One day someone offered me £200 pounds for a picture and I was shocked, then I sold a painting for £400 and then another for £500 and this gave me encouragement so I thought maybe this is something and I started selling my paintings for £200-£400. Actually at my most recent exhibition two people wanted to buy my £500 painting and I got to say; 'sorry it’s already been sold', so that was a nice feeling.


What do you attribute your success to?

I think my volunteer work and getting out there has led to most of my connections. My voluntary work led to my work with café art which has opened up other doors for me.

I also used to send my portrait to the big issue every month, that’s how I got on channel 4, one of the producers read the issue and saw my profile which had been published with my artwork and got in touch with me.  

It turns out that I am quite good at networking and social media so that came naturally but it's all about getting yourself out there you are not going to get anything sitting at home.


How has WAES helped prepared you for the industry?

Well Inigo was great, he went above and beyond for us and gave us practical advice about the industry. He would also often have professional artists and different types of experts come in and speak to us about things like the reality of the industry, or their success stories or ways to find opportunities. They were practical people giving practical advice such as tips on how to develop your own practice and set up your own studio.


What made you decide to study? Why did you choose WAES?

I took a life drawing class at the Pimlico College. Then I did a flat-swap and moved to Lisson Grove and I started studying here. It all started with classes that I took through the charity; Crisis, but they don’t do accredited courses so I had to move on from there and WAES offered the course funded, otherwise I would not have been able to afford to study.


What would you say is unique about studying at WAES/what did you find most helpful?

I think the structure and the learning styles and techniques, my tutor Inigo was an exceptional tutor, with so much experience, and he took my work to another level and then again to the next level.

There was also a lot of aftercare, after I completed my studies Inigo would follow up to check on my progression to make sure I was still working.

I do more work when I am here in the studio than my studio at home, it’s the atmosphere and motivation around you, there is always someone pushing you.


What advice would you give to WAES students just starting their studies?

I would say just keep asking, keep looking for opportunities and resources. They don’t realise how much is available and to take advantage of the things that are available to them. I just keep asking for what I want and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.

I have also recommended sending your work into the Big Issue, I have recommended 3 people from café art to send their work in and they have all been published.


What are your future plans?

I am working with Cafe Art, so I am essentially a vendor for 6 weeks, selling my work at one of their stalls and this is enough to live off for a while. Then balancing this with my studies and selling pieces of work here and there. If I can just make the same amount of money as what I would get in benefits doing my art, I'll be happy.


Watch Geraldine tell her story on Channel 4 here.






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