My Creative Life

Art Education, Beaches and Childhood Creativity: Tom Curtis Explores Inspiration, Advocacy and Hope

EssenceMediacom's ECD reflects on the power of art education, Trevone's tranquil shores, and the magic of children's drawings

By Tom Curtis

Bob and Roberta Smith

I love the artist Bob and Roberta Smith. One person, despite his name (a legacy from a time when he partnered with his sister), Bob is a passionate campaigner for the arts in education.

When I was a kid, I was a prolific drawer and painter, with a particular love of letters and fonts. Even when I studied art at university, my paintings had words all over them. “What the hell does Tom think he’s playing at?” was a typical example – created when I perceived my work to be the absolute opposite to what the tutors wanted me to be doing. But Bob and Roberta Smith’s paintings are a lot more profound than my self-referential nonsense ever was.

“All schools should be art schools.”

“Art makes people powerful.”

“Art is your human right.”

Bob’s is art with meaning at a time when art education is on its knees. With chronic under-funding over many years, 40 per cent fewer pupils in 2022 took GCSE arts subjects than in 2010.

I have retired art teachers on both sides of my family (my mum and two of my uncles) so this really hits home. And I’ve got prints of Bob’s artwork on the walls of both EssenceMediacom and my office at home, so almost certainly see, and read, those powerful messages nearly every day.

Trevone Beach, Cornwall

It’s a bit cheaty, picking a holiday destination, but I’m doing so nonetheless. I’ve been visiting Cornwall with my wife for years, but only really discovered the joys of Trevone, near Padstow, when our boys were young.

It’s got a bit of everything. A decent beach, cliffs to shelter from the breeze, a great café, and a huge expanse of rocks for the kids (and me) to explore. But it’s on Trevone where I have memories of coming up with many of my best ideas, stories I’ve written in my head, and bumping into Dino Myers-Lamptey on holiday - although that was real, not a story.

The thing about Trevone is that it always seems to offer me the best opportunity to let my mind wander into random places where weird things I’m going to create one day emerge. Plus, I’ve made a lot of cool stuff with my kids in the sand.

Kids’ Drawings

An obvious one, given what I do with my Instagram account, @thingsihavdrawn.

Most children don’t need encouragement to draw. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give them as many opportunities as possible to do so. (It won’t be long before screentime – or AI - take over.) Their unabashed willingness to let their imaginations run riot is something to behold. I’ve come to find studying their pictures fascinating - trying to understand why they’ve chosen the subject matter, the decisions they’ve made throughout the process, and especially how their drawings progress over time. It always a bit sad when their animal pictures start to replicate the cartoons they’ve seen on YouTube though.

And as an ambassador for kids’ charity Rays of Sunshine, I’ve seen loads of wonderful drawings by the wish children they help. And those pictures in particular have even more meaning given the fact that they depict the hopes and dreams of an incredible and inspirational bunch of seriously poorly kids. Wonderful stuff.

Tom Curtis is an executive creative director at EssenceMediacom


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