How do you become an artist?

Any artist you ask will tell you some thing different. Some say you learn to be one, some say you become one, others will say you are born one. In all honesty I have no idea how they come about, and all I really know is my own story. So today I thought I might share that with you.

My Art Story

It has always seemed to me that I’ve been drawing, colouring in, making images my whole life. I don’t really remember a time in my life when I wasn’t being creative in some way. Though it was in my 6th class that we were given sketch books and encouraged to use them. Our teacher would mark them and give little tips. I filled three of those books over that year and knew that I wanted to draw forever.

Here are a couple of the drawings from those sketchbooks, I still have them.

When I got to high school I started to see the problems of going to a small country school. We had an art teacher, but she was primarily a ceramic art, so we did a lot of pottery. The second year we had another one, and she was great. I wanted to keep studying art, but then, at the end of the year, she left and we never had another one. I was left on my own to pursue drawing and painting, but I didn’t know what to do. My mum was great and would buy me sketch pads to draw in, but without any guidance I didn’t how to improve. I was lost. I continued trying to copy what others did.

Once I became an adult I tried to get painting lessons from a local who did them, but he ended up teaching me to be a signwriter instead. I came to Melbourne to continue that, but it wasn’t meant to be. Signwriting is or was a tough gig for a woman. I started working and while I always had a sketch book and pencils, I didn’t really pursue it too much.

I got into photography around 1993. That was great for my creative outlet. It gave me a different way to approach it. I learned how to develop my own images, and print them. We turned the bathroom in our old flat into a darkroom, and when we moved here I did it to the laundry. In the end I decided that photography was too frustrating, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do to my images. I started looking for different outlets, I did decoupage, folk art, you name it I was trying a lot of things. I even wrote a novel and a play, but neither were very good. It took me a long time to realise if I wasn’t being creative then I would be bored. I had to be creating something and if I wasn’t then I would get restless.

It was around 2002 that I decided enough, it was time to find out if I could, could I be an a real artist. I was going to go back to school. I applied for some art classes and was accepted into a Visual arts diploma. A two year full time course. Unfortunately, the major was photography, which is what I used to get into the course. It was good, but the photography was driving me crazy a bit. On the plus side, I got to do drawing, painting and printmaking as well. Loved them all.

At the end of 2003, after the first year, I decided to see if I could get into a fine arts degree and applied to a couple of places. I was accepted into one of the best places in Victoria, the VCA or Victorian College of the Arts. It had a long history in the Australian art world and some of the most famous artists went to it. though it is usually referred to as the Gallery School. I got in there to do printmaking, but I spent a great deal of time learning to draw a lot better and through it some painting. I also did a lot of conceptual work when I there. It was an amazing experience.

I graduated in 2007 and then continued with some conceptual work after that with a few exhibitions. I also spent time painting and learning how. I loved painting.

In 2009 I got back into photography through my daughters cycling. I would photograph the races and then my camera started turning away from them to the landscapes around me. I gave up the cycling in 2012 and since then have concentrated on my own thing. It was during that time that I made the decision that I would just do photography and give up all the other things I was doing. It wasn’t a hard decision. I have found that I never needed a lot of motivation to do it, but with painting, for example, I did. It took me a while to realise that I like how clean photography is. It is never hard to clean up after it, just press Ctrl S and away I go.

So over the last few years I’ve pushed myself to try new things and to experiment with what I know to find new ways. I really like where I am with my work right now. I’m really looking forward to seeing where I go from here. I have already shared that with you.

Do you have a similar story? How did get to your art practice? What would you like to do?

I have some images of my art. I think most of you have seen them already before, but it is nice to revisit them.

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  1. Hi
    Loved your article. In fact can relate to it. Not something in particular but article as a whole. You know what, you gave me hope and clarity about what I am doing is not odd. I need to brush off my writing skills a bit more and then there is line art I love doing…so I am on the right path. Till few minutes back I was confused but now thanks to you.

  2. Very interesting to read your story and how you became a photographer. ‘I never needed a lot of motivation to do it’ I found this phrase particularly interesting, and in a positive way. Sounds like it was never something you felt forced, but something you did because it came naturally to you. I hope it is that way, though of course there are some parts we all struggle with in anything that you do.

    For me, I always liked writing as a child. Paused that for a bit in university and now I am back at it, at least for the last five years. Along the way I’ve discovered photography – which has always been tempting me to spend more time with it πŸ˜€

    1. No, it was never forced, more like I had no control, I had to do it. Yes, there are always struggles, but that is part of it as well, working through the struggles. I think that is part of the learning process as well.

      I’m happy to hear you have got back into writing as well. I think you are only happy when you are being true to yourself. Photography is great and there is no reason why you can’t work it into your writing as well.
      Thank you Mabel.

  3. Like you, Leanne, I’ve always dabbled in some sort of creativity, but have never gotten far with anything, until I started submitting some stories and getting a few published. But what I enjoy the most is taking the pictures, something I was never very good at until the digital age. Now I’m experimenting more and learning. I’m happy that I’ve at least had some photos accepted at some stock sites.

    Loved reading your story, and love your photography.

    1. Thank you for sharing your journey Judy, it is so interesting to see what other peoples stories are. It is a great journey.
      Thank you so much.

  4. Maybe my story is a bit different. I am not a professional artist and I don’t intend to be either but something about creative mind fascinates me.I used to draw cartoons and super heroes when I was in school before I even took formal lessons. When that eventually happened in my 4-5 grade (I don’t remember exactly), I noticed that I was not learning anything new. All the techniques/ideas from the teacher, I was doing them already. It was mostly still art and landscape drawing from them. So to challenge myself, I moved to human sketch, focusing on facial structure and expressions. That is my earliest recollection of my experience with any form of art. Apart from drawing, I knowingly or unknowingly started getting drawn to activities that requires me to use my brain. Typical examples would be football and music among others. In football we say “player in the mid is the architect of the game” and it amazed me how creative certain players are, they can control the whole game just with their brain. So all this kind of thing has always attracted me. I even like changing the look of my room every so often, trying different things, different angles. Not too long ago I re-decorated my room completely with fallen woods, lichens, ferns, leaves and worn-out flowers. Somewhere in between I started photography. It was a new way for me to challenge my ability of seeing things differently, or to see the tiny bits of details of an object. Now I tell you again that I am not professional artist (in any form). My works are not at “that level” and I don’t even have a proper camera. All I have for now is my iphone (:D) which obviously has its limitations but I am trying to see what can be done with it. I have seen amazing photography just from an iphone so I am aware of its potentiality, I just have to keep practicing, keep experimenting. Bottom line, I don’t know exactly what an artist means but I am always drawn to people who thinks and sees things differently. Einstein is not known as an artist per se but he was a brilliant mind. So along the course of time, my definition of “an artist” has changed a bit (just my opinion) so I sometimes I notice that I lean more towards the “idea” rather than the “technique” (I am in NO WAY LIMITING THE IMPORTANCE OF TECHNIQUE ). So that is what I am trying to understand and develop in me. Now I am not sure if that will be called as “a journey in art” but for me it is. Talking in terms of photography, whenever I see an object of interest these days, I try to imagine if I can create and present a story from a single picture or if I can present it in a different way than how it is. Another aspect of my journey would be my laid back attitude (to some extent). My studies takes enough of my time and I will be lucky to get few hours in 2-3 week to try my “artistic skills”. And I am ok with it for obvious reason πŸ˜€ That’s why I am waaaaaaayyyyyyyy behind from being called “an artist” but maybe I am just going for “a creative person”. Nonetheless, the story of my life so far in terms of “an art” or “creativity” whichever one prefers to use. Important thing is despite my present situation, I know photography will be my creative outlet for many years to come. I am not sure how “being an artist” fits into all this but maybe it’s just my ignorance in the subject.

    Now as I think of my opinion on art and creativity, I don’t even qualify myself “as an artist” so why am I answering your question which clearly mentions “art practice”? Oh well, the damage is already done and it’s my bedtime already πŸ˜€

    Thanks for the nice post by the way. It was cool to know your background.

    1. You say you aren’t a professional artist, but that doesn’t matter, you need to love it, and that comes through so much. Sounds like you are on a great journey and thank you so much for sharing that with us.
      You’re welcome, it’s all good.

  5. Nice to read a few details I didn’t know. I remember your cycling photos but missed it was because of your daughter. πŸ™‚ For me, writing came about because I was given a job editing, then writing product tearsheets. Photography because I was hired to manage a camera department for a major retailer about 40 years ago. So I don’t think I’m artistic, more like interested. Btw, I’d be interested knowing more about how you use your Wacom tablet if you want to write about that sometime.

    1. I love the way you have come to photography, it is wonderful. I don’t think you have to be artistic to be a photographer, and I think there are a lot of photographers who aren’t, they just want to take photos because they love it. Perhaps it is one of the things that is nice, there is a mixture. Thank you for sharing your story.
      I will have see what I can do, though I have written a review of them that will be published soon and I will let you all know when it is.

  6. It was interesting to read your story of moving between art and photography to end up where you are, as a very artistic photographer. Like you, I find it very difficult when I am not being creative. I need a creative outlet in my life in order to feel balanced, in order to feel truly myself. My creative outlet is art, particularly drawing. In weeks when I am too busy to find time for art, I really feel its absence keenly.

    1. Thank you Laura, glad you enjoyed the story. How hard is it when you can’t be doing anything creative. I see your drawings a lot, they are great. I hope you don’t have too many absences from it.

  7. This post was an eye opener for me. I always thought you to be a photographer first and an artist second. Now you art work above tells me that it is the other way around. I believe you have chosen the right path, Leanne.

    1. That’s interesting Peter, but yes photography came after. I think also when I was growing photography was way too expensive to pursue and drawing was much easier. I’m so glad you think I’m on the right path Peter, thank you.

  8. You have some lovely drawings here. I like the cup and towel, the girl in black and white with her hair pulled back, the various cups and saucer drawings and the little birds. I appreciate your photography even if I don’t always send a message. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Carolyn, so glad to hear you like my drawings, they were done quite some time ago. that’s okay, I don’t expect people to comment all the time, nice to know you are there.

  9. I really enjoyed reading about your journey to becoming an artist, Leanne (although it seems to me that you *have been* an artist right from the beginning, when you started drawing and sketching). So perhaps ‘becoming’ isn’t quite the correct verb to use – perhaps ‘is/are’ is more applicable…?

    I think it’s amazing how many different modalities you have explored thus far – and even though you are focusing on photography right now, it may be that you will experiment with other approaches and other creative outlets in the coming years. From what I’ve seen by following your blog over the years is that your style of photography is evolving all the time. Now you seem to do a lot of post-processing, and in a way, you are turning ‘straight-from-the-camera’ photos into a kind of ‘light-painting’, for want of a better word.

    Your new approach to your blog is also really interesting, as we can hear your own voice and self-reflection very clearly, and I think that makes it interesting. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, I think so too Reggie, I believe I was born an artist, that it is part of my nature.

      I think my experimenting is done, I really love photography the most, and can’t see myself changing now, I really love what I can do with the camera. Yes, I love that, I do try to take a photo and do a lot more to it, and it is good to know that others see that as well.

      Thank you Reggie, that is great to hear.

  10. Hello Leanne,
    I really enjoyed this post – firstly seeing/hearing how talented you are, but secondly hearing more of your creative journey in life – and the need that you feel to create. And of course as well as everything else you do this amazing blog which in itself I see as a very creative thing to do – though here several friends secretly ( and sometimes openly) softly mock a blog as a self indulgent activity.
    For myself, as a vet, there was no scope for creativity in work, and I had little energy/time for creative stuff really until I decided to jump off the wheel early, just a bit of wood turning/art. But I always enjoyed gardening and photography. Since stopping, and developing our current garden, over the last several years and opening it to the public, and photographing it ad nauseam and writing about it, and learning to write simple piano music, creativity fills our lives. I’m fortunate that my wife can paint and draw and we kick around creative ideas together, and now produce silk scarves from garden photos. None of this makes very much money, but we’re fortunate to live in a very special place, and be able to share it with complete strangers when we open the garden and get hugely positive feed back from people by doing this. As well as remote folk through the blog. I recently wrote a bit about why we do this – its a lot of hard work, but as you touch on, I think some people are driven to be creative, and find life boring or less satisfying without these challenges. So long as one’s work gets appreciated in some small way, and you can keep the wolf from the door, I suspect creative folk will always look forward to the next form of expressing something of what makes them tick and inspires them,
    best wishes

    1. Thank you Julian, glad you liked the post. Also thank you so much for sharing your creative journey as well. I love the idea of your garden, I have to admit I’ve been trying to work more on my own and get it so that it is a good to photograph. I love the idea having a beautiful garden, we might have to compare notes.
      I think you are right, we do always have to look forward. Thank you so much.

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