When Liam first messaged me and I looked at his artwork, so many red flags went through my mind considering Learn How To Walk tries to maintain a family-friendly environment. Regardless of his artwork, I went to meet up with him for an interview and was completely blown away by his kindness and tender heart. When I think about Liam and his personality, I think about the classic quote “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Although there is much controversy regarding his artwork, he is about as congenial and friendly as they come. In this interview, Liam guided me through his amazing testimony about growing up in England in a violent and abusive environment and eventually making a name for himself in the art community. Check out the incredible story below!
Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up/ Background?
I was born and raised in London England. My father was in a band and my mother was a gardener and they were only friends. There was never any relationship between them, it was more so of a “one night stand” sort of thing. When my mother became pregnant, my father went off and got a degree and became a doctor. My mother stayed at home, she didn’t have a job and came from a very poor background. Overall, living with my mother during childhood was quite difficult.
Would you say your childhood was a pleasant experience for the most part?
It was a very very confusing experience. Growing up, my mother had an addiction to alcohol and drugs and it was a very violent home life. My older sister lived with me for a little bit, however, she left between 15 with her partner so she could get out of our home. Having to go back to two homes (my mother and grandmas) my entire life left me really confused. I remember having to decide whether or not my mother would be drunk when she came home. I never wanted to be home whenever she was drunk so I would go to grandmothers house on those days. I just never really knew where home was or where I would be sleeping that night. I just had to live day to day like this, I was all over the place
What was the most traumatizing part of your childhood?
Really for a majority of my childhood, I was constantly confused and never really understood my mother. I didn’t understand why she was drinking or why she was taking drugs and I never understood why she was so violent towards me and my sister. During that period of my life, I really had no understanding of anything that she did.
What were your teenage years like? Did the abuse subside? What was high-school like?
I really didn’t go to high school at that time. I left the education system at the age of 15. When I went to school they tried to get social services tied in with my situation and family. It was getting to a point to where they were too involved, so I ended up dropping out of school. I never did any exams? In fact, I’ve never done an exam in my entire life. High school was exceptionally rough for me as well. I was bullied consistently and ended up having my nose broken three different times, so it was a terrible place for me. During that time it was never ending cycle that would happen everyday. I’d wake up and go to school where I would get severely bullied and beaten up, and then I’d go home to see my mother drunk on the sofa. The life I was living made me a very violent person. I myself turned into to a horrific bully, and I wasn’t able to handle things and I turned into an overall really horrible person who had no friends. It wasn’t until I moved out that I met my first love when things started to change.
What were you like as an artist during this time? What mediums did you express yourself through?
I was writing, but not painting as much. I had my own personal diary that I would write in a lot, and after that is when I started to paint about my home life, my mother, and my experiences and it let me truly express myself. My paintings came straight from the words in my diary and would provide a visual representation of what I felt. It’s been that way from a young age until now.
What I love about you, is that you paint what you feel. The public eye doesn’t see that side of you most of the time. Obviously, the media tends to bash you for painting provocative images, but you’re truly just painting what you had dealt with.
Exactly, yes. I remember when I was young and I had to lock myself in my room from my mother and shove my bed up against the door, I used to just write about what I felt on the back of books, and on random pieces of paper. I incorporate a lot of text in my paintings, and a lot of the words are notes that I would write out during those times. I think I get a lot of attention because of the provocative sides of my art. Most of the attention I get isn’t positive, but I believe it’s because my pieces tend to get people out of their comfort zones. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to express my self. Everything is meant to be raw, and real. It’s almost as if my life is a reality TV show.
What is your relationship with your mother like now?
I love my mother, she is my world. It’s a really hard thing not to love somebody when they have an addiction to anything. Overall I have a choice, I can do what the rest of my family did where I could ignore my mother and let her go on with her life, or I could stand beside her and be her friend and support her by getting her help. I’ve chosen to support her and even though I stand beside her, I can’t spend more than three days in that house hold, because it’s still violent. When I was younger I despited my mother, and I hated going home, I truly did. It wasn’t until I found my first love where I experienced life and got to travel to where I could come to finally forgive my mother.
It’s a really hard thing not to love somebody when they have an addiction to anything.
When did you first meet this partner of yours?
When I was 17, I ended up living with them which was a beautiful thing because it taught me how to love, and how to forgive. It gave me clarity and answers to a lot of questions, which freed me from a bunch of bitterness and anger. It was the first place I was able to call home.
What was the change in your artwork during this time? What made your artwork as provocative as it is now.
Nothing has really changed in my paintings, they are all still the same. Painting for me is like going to a therapist, it calms the storms and nightmares in my mind, its my way of communicating my thoughts and feelings with the world. So overall my work has never really change, it just that it has mainly just focused on all the bad parts of my life, that I’ve wanted to deal with.
Painting for me is like going to a therapist, it calms the storms and nightmares in my mind, its my way of communicating my thoughts and feelings with the world.
What would you say was the rock bottom of your whole testimony?
After three years of dating my partner, I ended up cheating on them with another person. I ended up having to go back to mothers which absolutely destroyed me in every way possible. I went from this horrific emotion, to finding love and calmness and then having to go back to this horrible environment that I wasn’t even used to anymore. It was a very huge impact that left me destroyed. I ended up going to a form of college in the UK where I was able to receive help trying to get back into school because I didn’t have any grades. During this time, I started to do bigger paintings and I took these paintings to a university in London. I told them “I have no grades, I have no scores, I have nothing, but I need to get out of my home, this is what I can do.” Luckily they took me on and helped prepare me for all of this. When I look back on it if I had never broken up with this person, I would of never gone as far with my partings as I have today.
What prompted you to get out of your house, and go back to university? What was the catalyst
It was really just the feeling of wanting to experience the world. I’m obsessed with the world, and obsessed with countries, religions, people, etc. I was so locked up in my mind when I was younger, and I was never able to experience anything, but once I realized that there was a whole world out there, nothing topped me from traveling and experiencing it. That’s what made me want to get out.
When would you say was the definitive moment where you were able to gain control over your life?
When I got accepted into university, when they had taken my paintings on and gave me my acceptance I had a lot of control over my world at that point. In my first year I continued painting more and more, and during my second year I had received contacts from different galleries and I started showing my work and thats when people started taking notice. I was very lucky to have a bunch of people obsessing over my work wanting to look at piece after piece and getting to learn about my experiences. It was at that point where I realized I had a career, and that life was in my hands. It gave me purpose.
Do you try to provoke people with you art? Whats your overall goal?
I don’t try to provoke people, I just try to paint what I feel. My paintings are very raw and some people find it uncomfortable. Every family has their dark secret’s and flaws and I try to scream mine out through painting. I feel like that’s why a lot of people don’t like to look at them. Art critics called my art poison, and trash, and other horrible comments, yet that’s what made people want to look at them. I’m just painting what I know. I like to think that in some way I am kind of a spokesperson for people who grew up kind of rough. I want to let others know that they really can get out of their abusive homes and change their lives for the better.
Would you say you’re at a level of success that you’d like to be at as an artist?
I’d say I am, but I’s also like to be higher. It’s a dangerous game to play, but like any one, I’d love to have more and more success. Although more than anything I am shocked that I am at this stage of success. I would have never guessed it, and I have no idea how all of this has happened, but I am happy about it.
If you could go back in time to see yourself when you were locked inside your closet hiding from your mother knowing all that you know now, what would you say?
I would tell myself to get to school, and stay in school and to not look for the popular group or “the next thing.” I would tell myself to “get down, study hard, and really focus on the future.” As hard as that may have sounded. I was truly beyond lucky to get into university with no grades, I mean that just doesn’t happen. So I would personally tell myself to get it together.
Why is Liam Stonier McDonald’s life worth living?
Because I believe that I am truly a good person. I try my best to support the working class and those who need help. I believe my life is worth living because I want to help be a voice of peace to those who don’t have it.
What is Liam Stonier McDonalds purpose here on earth?
To be kind, to love others, and to fight for those who need to be fought for. That’s my purpose.
Liam has such an awesome heart. He’s been through so so much, and has had so much confusion in his life yet he still strives to be the best person he can be. What I love about Liam’s story is that he didn’t let his mother’s story become his own story. Regardless of all the terrible things that had happened to him, he didn’t let them get in the way of doing the things he wanted to do. Thank you, Liam, for being so courteous and sharing your truly inspiring testimony with me and everyone else who gets to read this article. I appreciate your genuineness.
“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” – Donovan Bailey