I’ve been incredibly lucky this past year to call art my job. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an artist. Blessed with supportive parents, I’ve been encouraged to do just that. I’m proud to say that my Dad is Channel 4’s The Autistic Gardener and an ambassador for the National Autistic Society. He has touched the lives of many autistic people across the world, letting them know they matter and that they have the ability to do what they love.
He has been a huge influence in my life by using his gift to help others and not just himself, something I have attempted in my own work over the past year. Hearing stories about how my work has helped people understand their own autism has been an experience; there are people out there in the world who have related to my paintings, and that’s a really weird feeling.
Unfortunately not everyone out there has a pink-haired supportive father in their lives and being autistic is considered a disadvantage by many. I have friends on the spectrum who tell me stories of being regarded as useless. They have a range of abilities and talents that many could only dream of only to be told by their loved ones to stop doing it because it won’t help them get a “proper job”. Not to mention I’ve had people feel sorry for me once they find out I have autism and it baffles me.
I live in a household where this negativity towards autism doesn’t exist and as a consequence we have been able to pursue our dreams and be successful one step at a time. This is because we know autism is just a different way of seeing the world. We shouldn’t be automatically considered disadvantaged because we work differently to the norm. Increasing awareness allows people to have the chance to live just as everybody else does.
I personally believe that everybody has the ability to do something great with their lives and this can be achieved by gradually reducing the stigma attached to autism as a whole. This is why spreading awareness is important to me and many others. My twitter feed is filled with people sharing their experiences with each other to help one another through hard times. I see autistic adults working on their own projects, learning to live independently, all succeeding in their own ways. They have the abilities to do so, despite what people may think of them.
So why am I writing this? A phone call I had on Friday morning inspired me to do so. It’s coming to the end of my first year as Messy Miscreation and I have to decide where I go from now. Since the business can’t provide for me financially (after barely a year of existing, mind) it’s seen as a failure. It’s been made clear that in their opinion what I’m doing is a waste of time. They’ve given me the option to hold up my hands and say “yes, I failed” and return back to jobseekers and get a full time job.
I understand this is how the world works. I understand that I am pursuing a career that is uncertain and hard to achieve, but there wasn’t even the slightest bit of understanding about how far I’ve come. A year ago I was an anxiety ridden individual trying to build a life for himself doing what he loves, while a majority of people told me it isn’t worth it. Only a few people I care about told me that I should go for it.
A number of people at the Job Centre said that going for self employed work was encouraged for autistic adults as it enabled them to care for themselves alongside earning a living. I was actively encouraged to pursue this, only to be asked a year later: “Why bother continuing?” (My autistic brain really doesn’t get this contradiction at all.)
In a year I’ve started a business selling my artwork. I have been part of four exhibitions, one of which was a solo show. I have sat in a cold garage painting monsters onto pieces of perspex expressing my life journey, my mental health and autism, and put a piece of myself out there with it. Right now as I write this I know some of those paintings are out there on people’s walls. Those paintings mean a lot to them.
Messy Miscreation is not a failure. I’m standing up for myself and saying No! I’ve worked really hard to make this work and I’ve learnt so much about myself, as well as progressing as an artist. Despite the difficulties, I’ve continued to get out into the world and share my work. That doesn’t sound like failing to me.
In June I’m moving to Manchester to live with my girlfriend where I’ll be getting part time work to support myself and the business. I will be continuing to create work and exhibiting it around the country. With the support of my family and especially my girlfriend, this is possible to achieve.
To everyone out there on the autistic spectrum I have a message for you. It’s important you try to take this on board. You will be told you’ve failed, that you can’t do something because you’re autistic. My Dad is proof that’s wrong. I’m proof that those statements don’t hold any weight. Work hard and stay determined and you will find a way. Role models on the autistic spectrum are coming and I’m determined to make it so that I can be one of them.
Autism Awareness Week is coming to a close and I’ve shared a range of posts on my website but in my opinion this is the most important one. I’ve seen a lot of misinformation regarding awareness and the spectrum, but the community has shared their own life experiences to help spread correct information. I want to give a huge thank you to everybody who read any of my posts this week and a even bigger thank you to anyone who has purchased any work from my store to help raise money for the NAS.
Any purchases following this week will still count towards raising money through my art store. I have a range of prints and original pieces for sale to help raise awareness and give something back to a cause that gives so much support for the UK.
Thank you so much for taking the time to engage with me and my work and I look forward to seeing what life brings next.