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Marlene Kimber

Invited to write about my inner self I anticipated having to dredge up deep thoughts and write them down with an esoteric turn of phrase.

Being a realist I see there is no mystery and my inner self is just the sum total of all the things that have ever happened to me over the years as a sentient being. Everything taken in and rendered into an immensely individual kind of soup.

It is all there every important event - every chance remark - the kindest of actions received and a chilling rebuttal perceived - added like a pinch of salt or a spicy flavour. All very fascinating and mind blowing particularly which considering that it is the same for absolutely everybody. I.e. what you see is what you get.

Work ideas:

I have been very lucky in art really mostly because I have the freedom to do what I like - not having to earn a living at it or pass any exams.

When I was in my teens what attracted me to art was the fact that that it always seemed to be connected with fun and glamour. It was the time of the annual outrageous Chelsea Arts Ball and I would love to have been a student then, but I had to go to work in an office: quite boring.

Another side of the glamour was that living in a cramped bed-sit in central London to go to the National Gallery with space and chandeliers - who could resist? I do not remember anything about the pictures or say that I was bowled over by any particular works.

My earliest memory of being at all creative was four years old in infants' school and drawing with my finger in a sand tray. It always seemed to be the same picture in a narrative form. First a tiger then the cage it was in and last the cage was on fire! I think that I must have had a lot of inner rage!

A lucky opportunity came to me through the small ads in the Church Times, which happened to be in the sitting room of the place where I was doing domestic work. It offered a year's non-vocational residential study in a sort of workers' return to study. I applied and was asked to do a years' postal course first. I loved having a purpose to all my reading and writing and after a year obtained a grant.

Living and studying in the college in Surbiton with a mixture of about forty other women from varied backgrounds made me feel at twenty five that at last I might be on track but still dazed as to how it all happened. Sitting in a beautiful room on a Tuesday morning. Looking out into a lovely garden and having someone play the piano to us I kept thinking: I should be at work!

Art was a recreational subject and there through the skill and encouragement of the glamorous tutor I started painting. No nervousness? Because we were painting on an old newspaper which could easily be discarded.

I was happy, happy, and happy doing something I loved in a place where I was supposed to be. No interloper, hanger on or fraud! I had been selected to do this! My interest in painting really began there but until I retired from work I could not indulge myself.

Working eventually as a primary school teacher meant that some form of art was always at hand and quite literally for me as I had specialised in puppetry at training and college in particular (hand glove) puppets.

My tutor had been a professional puppeteer and I sort of drifted into being Mr. Punch and Judy which seemed to suit my personality. After retiring from teaching through ill health I did take advantage of every avenue of art workshops or lecture or gallery visits on offer to the disabled. Best of all was the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Every time there was a new exhibition a workshop for people with disabilities was put on. A group of us would have a day when in the morning we looked at the exhibits and after lunch went into the education room with the artists who were helping us and after a discussion we were presented with loads of relevant materials and set to do our thing. It was such a creative time for me and I was never at a loss wondering what to do.

In 2005 I was lucky enough to get a millennium grant to do art work and I suppose that I have been doing my own thing ever since. I just follow my own ideas. Of course I have been influenced by all the wonderful artists whose work I have seen or read about. Such a rich wonderfully fascinating study and no exams!

The only thing that I can say about my art is that I do like it to have a definite shape, preferring Hopper to the Impressionists.

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