Become a… professional artist
Gareth J Wood, AKA Fuller, is a professional artist who draws beautifully detailed maps, all thanks to the love of navigation he developed in Scouts.
I was Patrol Leader at Ramsden Bellhouse Scouts in Essex when I was about 14. I was always a natural explorer: I’d go on long walks, play in the woods, build camps and go off for hours.
Quite often, on summer evenings, we’d be driven a few miles away from the Scout Hut and we’d have to navigate ourselves back before it got dark. We’d be using landmarks to navigate, rather than having a map and compass in our hands – that was the game.
It was quite challenging, but it’s such a good set of skills to have. I had a natural affinity for it as a youngster – it was a bit like learning a new language. I picked up a map at a young age and learned how to read it. When I developed my navigation skills, I was able to access the natural environment that I loved, and explore more confidently. It’s a survival tool, but I didn’t think of it like that as a kid. I just wanted to get lost.
Reading maps was an access point to making my own artwork. As an adult, I’ve climbed mountains and travelled the world. I wouldn’t have done that if I’d not learned to read maps. When I started to draw my own maps, it was a way to document my travels, using a map as a medium for storytelling. My maps are partly based on experiences, but there’s also a bit of fiction in them too.
Detail from Gareth's Purbeck map, showing Brownsea Island
I’ve always been very passionate about my art and wanted to make it my professional career, but I didn’t know if it was possible. I went professional a few years ago, and there’s so much more to it than making the art. You have to have confidence in your work, and then invest your time and your soul into a project. It’s like running a small business: you just have to balance it right and not allow it to affect your creativity.
Artwork is such a personal thing - it takes a lot of confidence to share your work, but over the years it becomes easier and extremely satisfying. There have been lots of milestones along the way. Recently, my major works have gone into national collections at The British Library and Museum of London. Sometimes they’re only small stepping stones, but they’re all taking me in the right direction. Being an artist is really exciting: you’re always ready to get to the next move, never quite able to rest.
My typical day
I usually wake up very early and draw. After lunch, I’ll go over to the fine art printing house I use, to collect work that has been printed for my clients. Then I’ll head off to the Post Office to arrange delivery.
In the afternoon I often have to chat with the media and press about my work, and I need to catch up with the galleries displaying my work, to see how things are going. I post on social media so people keep up to date with what I’m working on, and update my website.
If I’m organising a new exhibition then I’ll need to do the logistics for it and liaise with my suppliers. Planning new projects like this takes up a lot of time.
Want to follow in Fuller’s globetrotting footsteps and sell your artwork? Try focusing on some of these Scout and Explorer badges, which could help you develop your unique creative style, help you communicate to others about your art, and help you read maps and navigate during your adventures:
Get tips about how to talk about the skills you've learned through Scouting - in job interviews and on your CV - by downloading the Get Ahead Resource PDF.