We all probably have a million and one things we wish we could tell the younger versions of ourselves to prepare them for the big bad world. I would personally tell myself to relax and be kind to myself, something so simple that would have made the transition through my teen years into my twenties SO much easier. But what about our favourite art girls? Even the most successful women in the world probably have a word or two of advice that they’d like to give their younger self. We reached out to some of our art girl gang, and here’s what they’d tell their teenage selves.
Anouska Beckwith, Artist @anouskabeckwith
I would tell my sixteen year old self to be kind to yourself and love your imperfections. Don’t try to conform to what you think you should be but embrace your own uniqueness. Over the next ten years you will discover the right path in life for you and you will understand yourself much better than you do during these difficult times as a teenager. Have more gratitude for being alive and stop looking towards the darkness for answers you will never find there. Have faith in the unknown.
Rebecca Anne Proctor, Editor-in-Chief Harper’s Bazaar Arabia Art & Harper’s Bazaar Arabia Interiors @rebeccaanneproctor
Let things flow and don’t take setbacks too seriously as everything is part of a greater journey. Let go of perfectionism and see that even a mistake offers new avenues for discovery. Most importantly, listen intently to the artists when they are speaking and showing you their work and don’t get caught up with preconceived notions gained through hefty prior research. I’ve learned that it is from the artists themselves that we can learn the most about the world around us as well as the particular culture of a certain area or city. Ultimately, I’d say to a 16-year old Rebecca, listen more and slow down!
Miranda Chance, Researcher, Hauser & Wirth @mirandachance1
My advice would be: ‘Accept love and be kind. Don’t take gestures of good will for granted. Remember those who help you. Speak out when you see injustice. Be strong and cultivate self-belief. Don’t compromise for anyone at cost to yourself. You are responsible for your own happiness – empower yourself! Fuck the rules. Seek advice but trust your gut. Stay curious, follow-up and follow through – ideas are like seeds that need nurturing. Read, read, then read some more. Work hard, be self-disciplined, push yourself: it will reward you with a sense of purpose. Be compassionate to yourself – you deserve it. Share problems with your friends, that’s what they’re there for. Value your memories, good and bad, they are a part of you. Exercise. Make choices based on love, not fear disguised as practicality. Be brave – everything is possible. Dance. Above all, enjoy yourself, “it’s later than you think”. In the words of Maude (from ‘Harold and Maude’ (1971)) “A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, Go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE!”
Ferren Gipson, Art Historian and Host of Art Matters Podcast @ferrengipson
The interesting thing is that I would give my 16-year-old self the same advice that I should probably be taking now. I would say to be less self-conscious and lean into my own perspectives and ideas. I think my vision was sometimes so clouded by worries on how I might be received that I couldn’t see the meaningful connections that people were trying to forge with me.
Serena Morton, Founder Serena Morton Gallery @serenamorton
My advice to my teenage self would be to work in something you love, with people you like and admire. Remember too that every experience (good or bad) makes sense in time. Enjoy the journey and don’t worry about the destination!
Johanna Stickland, Artist @johannastickland
If I could give advice to teenage me, it would be this; treat yourself with more kindness, be gentle to yourself. Sometimes it can be isolating if you’re a shy person and more introverted. You have to see these things as great strengths, harness them and hold power in being quiet, in being different. Owning who you are is challenging at any age, especially as a 16 year old when you’re navigating so much physically and emotionally. This too shall pass. Also, comparison truly is the thief of joy. Everyone is on their own path, being an oddball makes you unique and that is beautiful. Treat yourself with care and tenderness.
Janet Rady, Gallery Director and Curator, Janet Rady Fine Art @janetrady
I have always been interested in art and archaeology (from the age of 3 when I came across my great aunt’s photos of Pompeii) and was fortunate to have visited Iran when I was 13, which became a life-long interest. However I was still unclear about how I wanted to channel this passion for many years following this. In hindsight, I would advise my 16 year old self to “Research, research, research and don’t to be frightened to contact people who work in a field in which you are interested and ask them if they would meet you briefly (remember they have a busy schedule) to share their knowledge and experiences about their profession.”’
Anna Kamay, Curator and Founder Artsakh Fest @artsakhfest
Even though I am mostly proud of the choices I made in my life and would do it all over again if I could go back in time, I would like to tell to my 16 y.o. self to be (more) selective about who I invite into my life and to make myself a priority. When I was younger I would give my time, love, energy and whatever resources I had to whatever/whoever came my way, taking it as a responsibility, putting others first. I’d help my classmates with assignments at school before doing my own, never being able to say “No” to an opportunity. Becoming a mother helped me realize that I need to prioritize to get things done, and I need to learn to say “No” to some things in order to succeed in others.
Mariana Guber-Gogova, Founder Artwin Gallery @marianagogova
I was never a troubled teenager with a bunch of typical problems, I was a happy girl, loved by my parents and spent weekends in Tretyakov Gallery. But maybe those teenage frustrations are not that bad after all, sometimes they fuel success, I would advise myself to take risks and maybe instead of admiring Russian avant-garde in the Tretyakov Gallery, to leave home for a US school, go to San Francisco and start working for Google 🙂
LE Brown, Communications Director of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation and Independent Curator @descentofman
Take your time. You don’t need to figure our what you want to do or who you want to be now (or ever! – I’m 26 and am still learning every day). Find things you’re passionate about and ask questions. Actively remain curious. Explore! And most important – be kind to yourself. Give yourself room to make mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Camilla FarmanFarmaian, Co-Founder Nouvelle Vague Marbella @arainbowgirl
It is never about pleasing, it’s about connecting to your true self. No stereotypes, opening your spirit. Support people and causes you respect : great things always come from true love and passion.
Daria Sabelnikova, Founder of Between windows gallery and senior project manager at Phillips Auction House @betweenwindows
Not everything you do has to be the best, profitable, noticed. Enjoy the process!
Text Lizzy Vartanian