Every once in a while I come across an artist whose work literally takes my breath away and Leila Fanner is one such artist. I loved her paintings so much I reached out to her to find out more about her creative journey. In this interview Leila offers some wonderful insights into the creative experience and the dedication required to make a living from your talent and passion. I particularly love what she says about her creativity being as essential to her as breathing or stretching. Enjoy!
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative journey and how you arrived at this point in your career?
I started my art journey at age 4 – with an abstract painting of an archway. My grandmother fell in love with it and had it framed for her beautiful living room where it remained until she died. Growing up with a struggling artist and single mother, however, made me really cautious, if not terrified, of struggling my way through life like she did. So, I naturally went in the opposite direction and entered the corporate world. I managed to stick with Creative Direction for about 4 years before the longing to do my own thing overtook the false sense of security that plastic money and a monthly paycheck gave. So, with the birth of my second son at the age of 33, I took advantage of the year-long maternity leave I was given and plunged headfirst into the world of fine art, galleries and becoming my own boss. It was a rocky start. I had many, many moments of talking to The Universe and questioning my direction and begging for answers. Which I got – very clearly. I wrote about this in my slightly out of date blog. I also had a kind and supportive husband (also creative) and a few really supportive and creative artist friends who kept me on track. I did a LOT of research, marketing courses and listening to inspiring podcasts. I got really clear about what I wanted my life to look like and made a decision to FULLY COMMIT. I realised that if I had a Plan B – I would fail. I had to be all in.
When you read/hear the quote ‘creativity takes courage’ what does it bring up for you? What does it mean to be courageous creatively?
The thing is, we are all creative – no matter what you do – you are using your imagination and your power of discrimination and putting something of yourself into every action you take. When applied to art creating – this can feel very vulnerable in the beginning. We take our creations too seriously and then can’t handle critique or rejection – it is as if our very Soul is being judged. It takes time and an openness to learning and making messes and pushing your own boundaries, to get to a stage where you realise you have a lighter touch – a certain confidence, and this attracts people to your work. Some lucky creatives have this early in their careers…but then they have other challenges to face.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced along the way, when you have really had to draw on this courage?
There are a few: The most obvious is lack of financial success – for at least 10 years I just worked at it and made sales here and there. I managed to make graphic design and paint effects work as a side-job and just couldn’t give up on my vision of being a self-supporting, thriving artist – no matter how long it took.
Staying true to my creative ideals, when asked to do all kinds of ‘styles’ and commission work that simply was not my thing e.g. cartoons etc. when the money was a temptation. I did do some in the beginning and always regretted it – the clients would be a nightmare or the job took much longer than it was worth, because it was just not my skillset. I definitely learned the hard way.
What keeps you inspired and excited about your work?
As I get more confident and go deeper into expressing my own story through my work – it feels like a celebration and a revelation at the same time. Art making is very cathartic and therapeutic for me.
What role do you see the arts and creativity playing in our lives and on a global level as we navigate this strange post-Covid world?
Art is the one thing we all turn to in times like this. Whether it is the music, the movies, books or visual art – the creativity of our species is what gives us hope, inspiration, a means to understand each other and speak without using words. Art helps us release emotions and reveal our truths to ourselves and others. I think now, more than ever, art and artists will thrive. People need to be uplifted, heard, seen and appreciated. Art does all of that.
How do you juggle your creative work and career with being a parent?
It isn’t easy – but my decision to be a fulltime artist was partly motivated by wanting to spend more time with my children. I have fairly routine ways of working my day, in order to have at least two daily meals with my son.
I drive him to school as well, so we get about an hour to chat then too. In fact now that the virus drama has got us all at home, my son only attends school a few days per week and has online lessons for the rest – so there is more time and the pace is easier to manage. It was a lot harder to go to work for long hours with a small child at home.
What would you say to any woman who is struggling to ‘find the time’ to honour her creativity?
I think perhaps the word ‘honouring’ might be the problem. I think of my creativity as a necessity and a valuable skill. Once you decide that it is as important to you as, say, breathing or stretching – believe me, you will find the time. I don’t need to honour my need to breathe or stretch – I just do it.
Discover Leila’s beautiful work at www.leilafannerart.com