British School alumna, Odette, has achieved her dream of becoming a professional artist. She paints mostly large murals—her favourite format—and has had the opportunity to travel and connect with different people for commissions. As a self-described nostalgic, Odette realised recently that her sought-after artistic style originated in an A Level Art project at Senior School Voorschoten (SSV), The British School in The Netherlands. The project was called Particular Places, and the brief was to develop an art piece based on a place that held special meaning. She chose Corsica.
Odette’s family is from Corsica and still has strong ties to the island, returning every year. Her parents and her two eldest siblings moved to the Netherlands about 35 years ago after her father received a job offer from the European Patent Office (EPO) that was too good to refuse. Initially, it was a shock for her mother, especially the weather, but she soon warmed to this cosy country and realised it was a great place to live, especially for children. They ended up staying. As the years went on, four more children joined the family, Odette is the second youngest.
Odette remained at the BSN for her entire schooling, starting Foundation 1 at Junior School Vlaskamp (JSV) and staying on to complete the Sixth Form at SSV. Only after she left in 2015 did she realise what a formative education it had been.
“I felt very lucky to have been able to access such high-quality education and make friends from all over the world in the process. BSN always valued this and created many special events for us to celebrate our different cultures and backgrounds, which I think helped bring us together”.
The most memorable events were: International Day; taking part in Drama performances in Years 5 and 6 with her friends; and school trips to Russia (History) and Spain (Spanish) in Senior School:
“The trip to Russia, in particular, is one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever been on. Our days were filled with so many enriching experiences, from visiting all the historic landmarks and incredible architecture, seeing the ballet, travelling on the night train and getting to spend time with students in St Petersburg. The Spanish trips always hold a special place in my heart, too, thanks to all the great times I had there with my friends.”
Her friends today are still her friends from school, a diverse group comprising different nationalities.
“I’ve noticed that since leaving BSN, I still seem to be drawn to people who share an international background. I feel like we have so much to learn from each other, and I immediately feel at home when spending time with them.”
Discovering a Passion
Artistic talent seems to run in the family; Odette’s mother is a keen painter and used to take Odette with her to art classes from the age of three. Odette was also inspired by her older siblings, seeing what they got up to in the Art Department at SSV. When she was finally old enough to take Art as a subject herself, she felt immediately at home and comfortable in the department. Odette could be shy, and schoolwork could be stressful, but she was always happy to do art; it didn’t even feel like work.
“My art lessons at BSN were always my happiest times at school; they shaped me and gave me so much confidence. I still often think of all the moments we had in the art department, and I am so grateful for everything [my art teachers] taught and shared with me.”
The BSN Art teachers greatly impacted Odette’s development as an artist through their support, encouragement and guidance. She describes the relationship as comfortable and relaxed, particularly in Sixth Form, where students were given a lot of freedom to pursue their own interests.
“The teachers would find a way to match those interests with the criteria of the exams. They could always find artists and references whose style or themes matched those a student wished to explore.”
Odette credits Mr Steyn in particular, with helping her discover the artistic style that came most naturally to her, which she later refined and perfected.
The BSN helped her develop a wide set of skills and provided the opportunity for her to become comfortable with different mediums. She also learned how to go about a project from start to finish and incorporate resources and references.
Life After The British School
Even though art was her passion, Odette thought it would be too difficult to make a living from it. So, she decided to study Architecture and use as much painting and drawing as possible in her designs. In Year 12, she was applying to study Architecture at university, and her Art Teachers helped guide her through a project to demonstrate her interest in this area and teach her some relevant skills. This preparation paid off, and Odette accepted a position at Manchester University to study Architecture. She then transferred to a university in Paris (l’École Spéciale d’Architecture) for her 3rd year and stayed on to do a Masters.
Throughout this time, Odette knew that her heart wasn’t really in Architecture, although it was still an interesting subject. She had become convinced that the only career she wanted to pursue was in Art.
“Since I can remember, I’ve just always been drawn to art in every way. I sometimes doubt myself and have trouble knowing what I want, but art is the one thing I’ve always been sure about and felt truly confident doing.”
Making the Dream a Reality
Odette was nervous about telling her parents, however, because she didn’t want them to think she was throwing away everything she’d studied for. In the end, her parents were the ones who suggested she give it a go. This gave her the push she needed, and with their support, Odette felt she could try and make a career from her Art.
During the first lockdown, Odette started dedicating more and more time to her Art and began to receive commissions. This started with a few family projects, then progressed naturally, reaching new clients through word of mouth and Instagram. Since moving back to the Netherlands a year ago, Odette has gradually been able to support herself through her art and couldn’t be happier:
“Since [leaving school in] 2015, I had constantly been trying to make my way back to art and cannot believe that I am now able to make a living from my passion.”