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Peter Hannaford, Tutor (Art Skills). Member since 2011

Peter’s story
My childhood and early adult life were very difficult and included a lot of rejection and ridicule. This led to low self-esteem and poor educational outcomes. Some long stays in psychiatric hospitals came later on. (About 25 years ago I read with interest about a study by a professor of psychiatry at Melbourne University whose long-term interest in visual artists had led him to the conclusion that they have three to four times the amount of mental illness found in the general public. You only have to look in art history books to see that has probably always been the case.)

I left school at 14, joined the Navy at 19, and had a mostly unhappy ten-year marriage with someone who was at least as dysfunctional as I was.

My interest in art began as a 20-year-old sick berth attendant in the Navy, when I took up a sketching course by correspondence. I had never done art as a child or as a school subject, but here at last was something I was good at and felt a passion for! This in turn began to spark off an interest in gaining other knowledge, usually in a self-taught way. I left the Navy as soon as possible, partly because I disagreed with what I saw as the illegal and immoral Vietnam War (I had spent some time on the troop carrier that took the first Australian troops and Army equipment over in 1965). On leaving the Navy I joined in the anti-Vietnam war moratoriums and my political outlook became increasingly left-wing.

Eleven years of mostly self-taught art, and a couple of Year 12 subjects at night school, led to four years at art school in my early 30s. My choice of a fairly new, lesser known art school (though now part of RMIT) was deliberate, as it allowed a significant degree of experimentation and a self-reliant approach to a wide variety of art subjects. My later employment history included proofreading at the afternoon paper The Herald, ten years as a state enrolled nurse, and a few art jobs in industry, including some freelance commercial art. I also produced lots of voluntary art for the left-wing political and humanitarian groups I had become involved in.

Starting as a 3rd year undergraduate, I exhibited at some prestigious galleries on and off for fifteen years, but increasingly returned to art forms that are more accessible to everyday people with limited art education. With this outlook, and some experience of unpaid teaching in community settings, U3A seemed ideal to me. And so far my U3A tutoring seems to have been much appreciated, with a lot of demand for this type of beginner’s art course.

In return, my involvement in U3A has helped me maintain a more positive outlook. The feisty independent women that have been my students, together with like-minded people I have met when attending meetings and social events, have given so much back in knowledge and wisdom, they have inadvertently boosted me psychologically, while the necessary effort involved in teaching and learning new skills has enhanced my relationships with my modest group of deep-thinking, close friends. This is way more rewarding than earning a living from tutoring in less favourable circumstances.

Peter Hannaford, October 2011

Photograph supplied by Leader Community Newspapers