My best teacher - Dave Myers

18th September 2009 at 01:00
This hairy biker suffered from alopecia as a teen and appreciated the attention of a teacher who also stood out

Philip Eaton changed my life. Without him, I'm pretty sure I'd have been in the shit.

I went to Barrow-in-Furness Grammar School for Boys in Cumbria and Mr Eaton was my art teacher. I was from a working-class background and was lucky to pass the 11-plus and get a good start in life, but without Mr Eaton, who knows where I'd be.

He was more flamboyant than all the other teachers. I remember he had a sports car. Back in the 1960s grammar school, teachers really did still wear mortar boards and gowns, but Mr Eaton would only wear his for speech day and the like. Instead, he'd wear a sharp suit and matching tie and shirt. He was funkier than the other teachers and stood out from the crowd.

He was a graduate from the Royal College of Art and was a very fine artist in his own right. My dad worked in a paper mill, so I always had lots of paper to hand and I was quite good and interested in art.

I loved his lessons. He was kind to me. My mum had MS and I had alopecia as a kid so I was a bit of an oddity at school, not least because of my appearance. You don't want to be the only bald kid in a northern school, but Mr Eaton looked out for me.

He encouraged me, especially in art club, which we had once or twice a week. I'd do some painting and he'd give me advice and put them up on the wall. He had an incredible imagination and would always broaden my ambition, never stifle it.

He taught me to be myself and to be enthusiastic. I remember one occasion when a pair of us pupils built a Zeppelin in the art room - it was 38 feet long and 12 feet in diameter. We inflated it outside but the wind caught hold of it and it blew across the playing fields. It made a real mess and all the other teachers complained, but Mr Eaton kind of got away with things like that.

I applied to get a job as a photographer after O-levels but I didn't get it. It's just as well because I stayed on and got qualifications in general studies and art.

I went on to get a fine art degree at Goldsmiths, plus a masters in art history, which I can only put down to Mr Eaton's passion and belief in me. I went on to become a trainee make-up artist at the BBC.

He lives in Cumbria and I bumped into him in the street about a year ago. I was with my Romanian partner and he said he could tell she wasn't from round here with that fine bone structure. He wanted to paint her and I still wish he had.

He hadn't changed at all. Perhaps because of that, I couldn't bring myself to call him Phil. He said he didn't think I'd end up on TV because I was a quiet boy - that surprised me. I didn't consider myself as quiet.

I often think about where I'd be if it wasn't for him. There were three of us in Mr Eaton's art school gang, and we've all done alright for ourselves. One became a professional artist and the third is a successful photographer in Hollywood.

As for me, he got me into the industry I'm in now. I've got him to thank for opening the door to art school, the BBC and for allowing me to do all the bonkers stuff I do now. I'm a very lucky man.


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today