As a child, I would often ask my Mum to 'draw me a girl'.
This was my shorthand for getting her to sit down with a pencil or pen and conjure up a figure from her imagination.
Whilst doing the bittersweet task of sorting through hundreds of Mum's joyful sketches and paintings last month, I came across these figures of dancers which she must have cut out from a bigger piece she wasn't happy with.
I tucked them into the pocket of my sketchbook and brought them home with me.
Looking at them transports me back to my childhood.
How I longed to be able to do my own figure drawings with such flair.
I would spend hours in my bedroom, drawing figures over and over in the hope of achieving something like the same mastery.
Talent versus hard work
Mum's unfulfilled dream was to be a fashion designer and the enchanting drawings she made for me as a child were reminiscent of fashion illustrations from the forties.
Unfortunately, despite being a formidable business woman in her own right, my grandmother didn't share my mother's aspirations for herself and, between familial opposition and the outbreak of war, Mum never fulfilled that dream.
Eventually it was me who encouraged Mum to take up art again in her sixties, by buying her a whopping bagful of art materials.
Once she began to paint, she never stopped until the very end of her life more than 20 years later. I know it filled her with joy.
She even exhibited her art on one occasion, and the whole family became recipients of her prolific output on birthdays and other celebrations.
Someone had finally given her the permission to be the artist she really was.
Meanwhile I continued to think of Mum as the one who could draw 'naturally', whereas I thought of myself as untalented yet vocational.
I stuck at my art with a determined doggedness although I had to contend with my own share of familial opposition - especially on the part of my Dad, despite an artistic bent running in his family as well.
It was only years later that - as I delved further and further into my own imagination for my artistic imagery - that 'my' figures began to emerge.
Persistence trumps talent every time
In the studio the other day, looking from Mum's drawings to my sketches of dancing figures for my current series, the saying about apples Mum was so fond of, came forcefully back to me.
Perhaps I'd never realised how crucial those sketches she made for me in childhood, were in my desire to become an artist.
But I realised something else very important as well. As Carol Dweck says in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: talent is only a small part of the success equation. Practicing and making mistakes in order to improve, are in fact, the real foundations of success.
I've certainly done my fair share of both of those.
But unlike Mum, I didn't wait for anyone else to give me permission to live a life that honours my creativity.
And if talent is a part, and practice is another, I would also add doggedness.
Damned determined doggedness.
It's amazing where that can get you ;)
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