Natasha from Addicted to Art recently interviewed me.
It was a great opportunity for me to share how far I’ve come and some of my motivations, inspirations and processes.
How did you start making art (background)?
I’ve always been drawn to finding creative outlets for my very busy mind. I started playing with clay when I was about 2! And won a sculpture contest by the time I was 6 against 16 and 17year olds. I think the judges just couldn’t not award me the win seeing what this tiny little kid was making.
My mother, Donvé Lee, is an artist and as I was growing up was regarded as one of the top watercolor portrait painters in South Africa. This of course had a huge influence on me in my childhood.
In general I guess I had an interesting childhood and being a bit more of a sensitive character and deeper thinker I found art as my way dealing with life and living.
I went to the National School of the Arts for 3 years in high school, which helped my skills but not my confidence. I also studied Fine Art majoring in Illustration and Graphic Design and Stellenbosch University.
Since then I’ve really experimented with almost every medium, doing paid professional work in most as well. I’ve painted oils, made ceramic and bronze sculptures, digital paintings, illustration for published story books and school books all across Africa. I’ve built websites and designed 3D models for artistic structures to be interpreted by engineers. There’s really not a lot of visual creative media I haven’t in some way played with at some time.
Why do you make art and what inspires you?
I make art because I love it. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. I just feel good when I’m drawing/sculpting/designing/digitally painting something. I love writing too! I think it’s about just communicating to people. I just enjoy it. I like getting into interesting conversations and art is a good way to do that.
Other artists inspire me a lot. History in general, especially the ancients and the classical periods I especially love. I did a copy of one of the most brilliant figure studies of all time once which I really enjoyed.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
This is kind of a huge question. Lots of things at different times, but I guess the main themes I like to include in my art are a sense of beauty and balance, and a sense of upliftment. I really want my art to make people feel better and lighter and more peaceful when they interact with it. I want it to make others lives better and safer and more beautiful to live in. I don’t want to create weird, ugly art that disturbs people. I want people to feel happier for seeing my work.
Who are your biggest influences?
Like I’ve said: the classics. I really like the work of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, especially his ink drawings. I love Rodin, Michaelangelo and a lot of the renaissance classics. Also love Monet, who I regard as one of the true geniuses of all time in art. I’ve seen his several of his actual paintings in person and they are mind blowing. They go way beyond merely being paintings but really become a living window into the scene he created.
I quiet like what Lionel Schmidt, contemporary South African artist is doing as well, in sculpture and painting. Also a fan of South African sculptor Dylan Lewis.
There are a number of fantasy artist and illustrators I follow who are quiet mind-blowing as well. I like the work of Hardy Fowler, Wilie Beckert and Peter Mohrbacher.
There’s really no end to the list of artists whose work I love and admire. There are a huge amount of extremely good and productive creatives out there.
How have you developed your career?
Through practice and hard work and keeping busy creating and not being afraid to work in new media and learn new technology. The world has become very tech-dependent. If you don’t get on board as an artist or business owner you’re going to get very much left behind.
A lot of artists these days are selling their own work directly to collectors and it’s working. The internet has effectively cut out many of the gate-keepers and monopolies of old. I’ve set up my own online store for my art recently to keep pace with these trends.
How do you seek out opportunities?
It’s really the same way anyone does. Let people know about me and what I’m doing and find out what people want from me.
Lately I’m mostly working on my online presence, since this is the easiest broad channel to reach people on these days.
I think if you just keep reaching out on every channel available and do it more and more and to more and more people, and then make sure you reply to and engage with the responses coming back, you find that opportunities really just find you.
How do you cultivate a collector base?
Well I’ve mostly been working on commissioned work but I think it’s really about telling people your story and letting them get to know you and become involved in your work.
Once people have enough of a relationship with you and appreciate what you’re doing and are about they invest in your art.
How do you navigate the art world?
I generally don’t work with galleries or agents. I try to do as much marketing directly to my potential buyers. I do use agents sometimes when they’re able to get me big sales and they care about getting my work sold or getting good commissions for me.
How do you price your work?
This is a bit of a tough one. I used to sell my work very cheaply but now I sell it for a price I think is a more realistic value for what it is. I know how much time and effort I’ve invested myself into learning and making art and I try to sell at a value I know will be a good exchange for that.
How do you Work?
As I’ve said in many different media so really in as many ways as there are to make artwork really. I sculpt in clay, paint oils, create digital paintings, do 3D graphics work etc. I’m going to be doing a project next that involves a lot of metal work and welding. I like this aspect of continually mixing it up. It keep it alive and interesting and keeps improving my skills.
How do you know when a work is finished?
This is sometimes really hard to know, I generally get to a point where I just don’t really want to touch a work anymore, and at the point I stop and stand back and come back and look at it later. After a day or two I can usually see if there’s something still needed in it or if it’s done.
I try to rather just create more work than strive for a perfection that is only really achieved through making many artworks instead of just one.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
There is no one tool that is most important to me, except perhaps my hands!
Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?
Maybe just learning and working in new media and combining things in interesting ways that I haven’t thought of before.
What’s your Favorite Artwork and who is your favourite artist?
Don’t really have a favourite artwork, but I covered some of my favorite artists in 4. above.
What Role does the Artist have in Society?
An extremely important one. And artist creates the future of the culture and the society. If you read science fiction books of 50 years ago a lot of the concepts first dreamt up are now a reality. Like Sci-fi author Isaac Asimov talking about personal communicators (cel phones) decades before anyone ever had one for example.
Artist’s are the first to conceive of new and exciting realities and then others, other kind of artists really, eventually love them so much they figure out how to build them.
Artists also keep a society and a culture fresh and alive and provide a means for people to relax their minds and enjoy beauty and renew their ability to appreciate life. Without art and artist I think society would become extremely dead extremely fast.
(original article first published by Addicted to Art, 19 March)
PS: What did you think of my interview, what are your views on art, artists and art-making?