I followed my dreams to become a successful artist

Ruth Mulvie is an artist based in Sussex. Her work has been exhibited by Saatchi Art in London, Los Angeles and in Sussex.

Ruth Mulvie, artist

What made you want to become an artist?

I don’t think I ever thought ‘I want to become an artist’, but I knew I loved making art.

I had an amazing art teacher at school called Mr Myles. He was a big bearded man with a booming voice and a massive character. He encouraged me to apply for Art School because he thought there might be a chance that I could get in.

My parents didn’t think this was the best option for me as I was academic as well as creative, so I actually started an English and Film degree at Glasgow University.

About half way into my first year at Uni I realised just how much I missed making my art, and so in the evenings managed to get a portfolio together and apply to college. 

I remember the interview really clearly. I was utterly terrified. At the time I was nowhere near as confident as I am now, but I had chosen an outfit that stood out; a vintage blue silk kimono coat with embroidery all over it.

I still have it now, even though it’s old and faded but it reminds me of the special day when my career changed direction for the first time as I was offered a place at art school. 

Working in the arts is highly competitive. How do you cope with the knockbacks?

This is something that has taken time and life experience to get to grips with. I remember applying for a place at the Royal College of Art and not getting in to do my masters.

I clearly remember opening the rejection letter. Being shortlisted was a big deal, but I hung onto the fact I had been rejected for ages.

Art is really subjective and down to individual taste. Just because I wasn’t right for that journey doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to find my own people.

Despite not getting in I have still managed to create a successful UK career. I’ve just got back from an incredibly successful exhibition of my paintings in Los Angeles.

Who have been your biggest supporters and influences? 

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Ever.

I try and stay close to people who are supportive and positive, and to my family members who have encouraged me along the way. Sometimes people can say mean things out of jealousy or envy. Don’t waste time on haters!

What are the best and worst things about being an artist? 

The best things are keeping your own hours and being your own boss.

The worst thing is spending a lot of time on your own and staying focussed.

Nowadays there are loads of opportunities for artists to network creatively, especially in Brighton & Hove and Sussex; Colonnade House and Sol Design collective in Brighton as well as Artists Open House Festival in May, and social media platforms like Instagram.

I listen to a lot of music and I’m really strict with myself nowadays about my work schedule. Painting takes a lot of time and I have to do a lot of juggling to fit everything in as I do my own marketing, sales, website etc.

I try to start early, but I’m always answering emails late into the evening too when my kids are asleep. 

What’s your advice for aspiring artists? 

I think my favourite quote is: “It’s the journey not the destination.”

I also think visualisation is a great tool to use if you know roughly what your dream is and where would you really, really like to be. Don’t be afraid to say it out loud. By manifesting positively I do think really exciting things can start to happen. 

Also, try not to compare yourself to others. This is really hard as I felt like some people were more successful than me along the way and I found it hard not to give up. I had a breakaway completely for a while from trying to make a living as an artist, but painting and making art will never go away. It always pulls me back, because I love doing it.

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