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  • Writer's pictureHeida Rafnsdottir

My crooked and long path to an art career - part 1

On being a promising student, a completionist and ignorant

Many artists have had a not so straight path toward their career and I am one of them. My path was both crooked and very long, although my journey started when I was very young.

I am a the youngest of three siblings in my family and I also have another older sister by my father. My father was a master blacksmith and my mother a bank clerk. Neither of them went to university but they encouraged us all to go to university and get a good education. In those days (80‘s and early 90‘s) a degree was still considered the best gateway toward job security. That had started changing at the time though.

My older siblings went to study pharmacology, structural engineering and a beautician. Like them, I was a very promising student and learning came easy to me at first. However, unlike them, I was in no way a committed student. Sitting down and doing homework was pure agony. I was a very slow reader which contributed to the said agony. I‘d much rather draw, paint or craft something instead of studying (unless it was biology). I did well up to high school because I had the talent of remembering everything I heard and saw in class. I was also resourceful in finding ways to manage projects without too much reading. I did whole book essays without actually reading the books!

I survived the long days of secondary and high school by drawing and doodling in my notebooks. At home I stayed in my room, experimenting with painting and crafting all kinds of stuff. When I was not doing that I immersed myself into the world 80‘s fantasy films and animated movies. I also found refuge in hours of recorded natural history documentaries, most of them featuring my hero, David Attenborough. It was the 80's and 90's, if you didn't get it recorded from TV you didn't get it at all.

When the dreaded moment came to pick a career study it seemed totally logical to pick biology. I've always loved animals and nature and I had always enjoyed studying biology. I did not give art school any thought at the time. I held fast to the belief that going to university and studying something sensible was the only sure way to a secure and sensible future. Besides, I had never heard of a viable career in art and I had very grim ideas about the „starving artist“ thing. I wanted to make art like I saw in the fantasy and Disney films. I just didn‘t know it was called entertainment art and that it could be a real career. Back then it also kind of wasn't, at least not in this part of the world.

I totally failed the first year in university! No wonder, as instead of committing to studies, I went "all in" at the university's theatre club and spent all of my remaining free time drawing, painting and crafting mini models and dolls. After this first and horrible university year I decided to apply to the single art school in Iceland and got in. However, there is a „but“. I still don’t know exactly why, but at the last minute I decided to finish my BS in biology instead. I‘ve always been a completionism and really like to finish what I start, almost to a fault. That is the only way I can make sense of my decision...and the fact that I really, really wanted to go to Malaysia for the third year student trip to see tropical rainforests and coral reefs! This might sound ridiculous but this was a huge thing for me. I told myself I would go to art school after earning my BS. I'll talk about how that went later.

Early twenties, a recently graduated biologist.

I finished my BS with emphasis on zoology and ecology. It was a lot of fun, very painful too and took a huge emotional tool on me. I‘ve never regretted it and still am very proud of what I achieved, despite everything. This education has indeed helped my work as an artist today.

In hindsight, I don’t regret not knowing what I wanted back then. Who knows that at twenty, seriously? What I really regret is not recognizing and understanding my natural strengths and real passions at the time. I regret searching for my path in other peoples paths instead of trusting my own instinct and judgement. I still struggle with this. On a lighter note, I also kind of regret not having had the access to the world through the internet. But not really, it was a bigger and much more mysterious world back then and I kind of miss that.....or perhaps I'm just feeling older and wiser😁

Thank you so much for visiting!

Until next time, be safe and carry on dreaming ❤


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