A Kirkbymoorside woman has had an art book published at the age of 85 despite failing the subject at O Level in school.
June Emerson has insisted that you’re never too old to learn new skills having enrolled at York College in her 60s to study a BTEC course and then Fine Art as an adult learner at the turn of the Millennium.
She admits that the course “opened up her brain” and she has subsequently sold some pieces of her work for as much as £400.
It is described as a painting journey through Britain, with June chronicling in images and words her travels north along the line of Longitude 2º West, which arrives in this country on the Dorset coast after travelling through Africa, Spain and France and continues up to Berwick-upon-Tweed before dropping into the North Sea, covering “a bit of Scotland” and heading for the North Pole.
The concept for the book started when June was a York College student in 2000.
She then briefly revisited the project five years later before eventually seeing it through to completion after the Covid pandemic restrictions were lifted and people were permitted to travel for work reasons in April 2021.
It is an achievement that she is reticent about making a fuss over and she also still recommends York College for anybody, like herself, born in the 1930s, who wants to broaden their educational horizons.
“I went to College in my 60s, but I’ve never taken much notice of age,” June declared. “If you don’t worry about it yourself, then other people don’t tend to notice either but, if you describe yourself as an old lady, then that’s what people will think you are.
“I’d advise anybody my age to go to college if it’s something you want to do. Forget about numbers – they are irrelevant!
“I know people in their 30s who are older than me. It’s all about your outlook.
“You’re never too old to do anything unless it’s physically or mentally impossible.”
Despite leaving school without her qualification in art, June continued to show an interest in and passion for the subject.
Living close to an art teacher, she “did a bit with her” in young adulthood and, when she started her music publishing and distribution mail order company from home in 1971, began designing printed music covers.
In the 1990s, she then attended a course in France, run by The Painting School of Montmiral in a hilltop town.
That “quite intensive” experience subsequently gave June the encouragement to enrol at York College – a place she quickly grew to love.
Her latest tome sees June stumble across poignant locations from her past, while following the line also takes her to Alderton Village Store, where a Collection Box that customers must contribute to if they complain about the weather had raised £800.
It goes on to dissect a Tesco superstore and the second-highest pub in the UK and, towards the end of her pilgrimage, June even finds herself sharing the dining room of another hostelry with “a cheerful gathering of men with shaven heads, tight black T-shirts, black trackie-bottoms and tough-looking necks”.
She concludes her journey shortly afterwards, talking to a bunch of dandelions that mark the end of the line at Kinnaird Head in Aberdeenshire before it heads for the Arctic Ocean.