Let me start by saying that I have resented describing myself as an artist until very recently. I think that if I had to articulate why that is I would say it is because art has always come easily to me and I thought that calling myself an artist somehow depreciated the efforts of other artists.
Nowadays, I truly feel that art is so individual and all art is worthy of being created. All artists are virtuosi in their own right. I think that there’s an artist in everyone too. If you are creative in one way or another, and I can guarantee that you are, you’re an artist. I don’t want to hear anyone put themselves down saying they are not creative, I have seen builders create furniture so masterfully and thoughtfully crafted that it belongs in a gallery and scientists dream up experiments that are ingenious and beautiful. Even some of my clients, who have never pursued creative passions, have the most inspiring concepts for their projects! Everyone is an artist, some of us just stretch our creative muscles more often than others.
Growing up in a family that encouraged creativity, I got to stretch my creative muscles more than most. Some of my earliest memories are of my mum helping me and my sister to set up all kinds of painting, drawing, and crafting sessions and my dad taking me to local galleries where we’d spend hours staring at our favourite paintings and forgetting about the world outside. This is something I still do on occasion and it never feels any less magical than the first time I stepped into a gallery.
One of my favourite artists was, and still is, Bill Hammond. He was a local artist from Lyttelton, which is where I was born and raised. He was somewhat infamous in Lyttelton back then, sauntering about, he was easily recognisable by his long hair and greying moustache. To me he seemed to be reclusive, mysterious, everything I imaged an artist should be. Each time I caught a glimpse of him I studied his every move, as if he held some clue to my own path to becoming an artist.
One day I decided to write to Bill Hammound. I hand-delivered my letter into the mailbox of his towering studio in the town centre. I explained that I too would be an artist when I grew up and that I very much loved his work. I imagine he didn’t get a lot of fan mail from young children since his work is quite dark and haunting but he took the time to write back to me. He gave me a card with his painting The Fall of Icarus (after Bruegel) printed on the front and his swooping handwriting inside thanked me for my kind words and wished me the best for my artistic endeavours. This card is still one of my most prized possessions and my heart swells just thinking of it.
After receiving Bill’s card I was surer than ever that I would be an artist when I grew up. At the age of 8, I had a spell of good luck, a drawing of mine was selected to be part of an exhibition at the Christchurch Art Gallery showcasing young artists’ work. The thing I remember most was getting all dressed up and my parents taking me to the opening night where I was rewarded with a bag of M&Ms - and to think I had been told that art didn’t pay! Not long after that, a watercolour painting of mine was requested to be showcased in another gallery at The Arts Centre. Here I distinctly remember a small card being placed in the frame with the name of my painting “In the Garden” and “$ - Priceless”. The goal here wasn’t to sell the painting but to see what visitors to the gallery thought of my work and the feedback I received was lovely.
Another local artist who worked mainly in oil painting offered to take me under her wing but, I think my doubts about art were sneaking in by then and I never took her up on it.
In my final year of high school I decided to get back into art after my hiatus but the teacher wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up with the other students since I had been taking less creative subjects up until then. I drew her a portfolio over the summer to prove her wrong and, sure enough, she let me take the class which I passed with flying colours.
So, I suppose the takeaway is that, although I went against my better judgment and pursued a career in science, I think I’ve always been an artist at heart. I am so grateful to have amazing, supportive friends, family, and a partner who pushed me to finally turn my love of creating into the best job I could ever have. Get in touch if you need artwork created and I'll show you what I can do!