Polarbear: The Count Of Monte Cristo

In the first of a series of blogs by Polarbear, we hear about his journey from school and self-doubt to his career as the artist he his today. 

The school machine chews people up and spits them out.

If they’re lucky, they find something along the way that sparks their interest enough to pursue in further study or a vocation, but for me, and a lot of other people I have met and still meet, you come out the other end with a head full of stuff that has no discernible use (beyond vomiting it onto an exam paper) and a heart heavy with self doubt and disillusionment.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have that one special teacher. The lady in English who slips you The Count Of Monte Cristo after lesson because she thinks you’ll like it. The guy in French who lends you Les Apprentices on DVD because he’s noticed your affinity with stories. Maybe those teachers did exist in my secondary school. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe the general air of bland apathy I had adopted just to get through the workplace atmosphere of school led them to believe that I didn’t have any fledgling interests or germinating passions that might respond to that one off lunchtime chat or stolen after school exchange. Who knows?

I do.

I’ve thought about it a lot over the last decade and I’m pretty positive that none of my creative passion or the origins of what I now do for a living was sparked during my time in secondary school. In fact, quite the opposite. I believe that it took me nearly ten years after leaving, to shake off the beige factory mentality school had instilled in me.

I am now an artist.

For the last twelve years I have made art, for a living.

I make enough money to live in London, eat reasonably well, and share the task of raising two children. I have travelled the world through my work and been involved with collaborations and creative processes that have led me to a place where I feel sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. And I want to share.

Not everyone wants to be an artist. Not every young person is excited by making stuff up. I don’t think that we should be encouraging every secondary student to pursue careers in the creative industries, or even give a toss about art. What I do think, is that a career in the arts should be on the same shelf of prospective professions as Doctor, or Lawyer, or Footballer, or Journalist, for anyone who likes the idea of it to choose for themselves without doubting it’s validity. I also think that elements of creative practice are ridiculously beneficial for all human beings, whatever their interest.

My life is a constant juggle of indefinites and epiphanies. Opportunities and compromise. Subsidy, rejection, collaboration, mistakes, discovery and adventure. And I love it.

I have built a career around my own personality and ideas and, through my work, I am an example. An example for anyone who, like I did, has ideas that don’t seem to fit the presented career paths that are encouraged and as a result starts to doubt their own potential. I am the example I wish I had encountered when I was at school.

> Polarbear’s new show Dark Corners runs from 5 – 22 April, find out more or book tickets.

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