Making the Transition to Full Time Artist? (An Interview with Malcolm Dewey)

hi and welcome and so today we have
Malcolm with us and we’re going to talk to Malcolm all about his art and how he
came to grow his art practice and who he teaches online and why he decided to
teach art online. So welcome Malcolm I’m so excited to
have you. Thanks Christy-Lea it’s good to be here.
So how about you tell us a little bit about where you came from and where art really
started in your life. Okay well first of all I live in South Africa. I have
been pretty much creating art and drawing a lot as a child right from an
early age. One my earliest memories, I think it was about six years old, I
was drawing cartoons and you know people were noticing. Friends of my
parents and I got complimented on that. I’ll never forget what a kick I
got out of somebody noticing my little drawings – and yeah I suppose I just kept
on doing that to try and get compliments throughout my life. It seems to be
working. I intended to work as an artist when I left high school. that was
in the 80s and I don’t think we were quite geared up to convince our parents
back then that you could be a full-time artist. So I found myself
actually going to university and joining one of my cousin’s at University who
was studying law. I thought I would study law with him as well. One thing
led to another and the next thing I found that I was actually practicing as an
attorney. But I kept on with art on the side as it were. To cut a long story
short I was really very much influenced by another artist. A
well-known South African artists and he was a former attorney in the same
area that I lived in, but older than me. He became a
full-time artist and I actually listened to an interview with him on a radio station.
I was still young very in my twenties not ancient like now. You
know I was so influenced by that and I basically I knew that I was going to be
an artist at some stage. Fortunately my wife was also very much on board with
this idea and she kept pushing me to make the leap. Anyway I can talk a bit
about that just now, but at some point I got into working as an
artist full-time. And really as a – I could call myself a self-employed professional for I’d say at least the past ten years. I just worked up to that point.
Wow so that’s quite a journey there from you know practicing law
to going full-time into art. What was the biggest struggle that you had to
overcome when you started to share your art with others? More so when you became
full-time. Yeah I think my biggest – it’s hard to actually
pin one down I would say one of my biggest issues starting out was trying
to deal with the idea that I had to be self-sufficient financially as an artist.
That was a real mind shift I had to go through because leaving a
traditional career – I felt that I had to, you know, kind of prove that I
wasn’t crazy and was actually worthy to be an artist full time. But
that idea was was a wrong sort of approach and and I I did work through
that and got over that sort of issue. Then – overall I would say the biggest
hurdle was simply being satisfied that my art was at a certain standard. That I
could, you know. I could put art out there that was of a good quality. It didn’t
have to be the best art. It didn’t have to be at a master level or anything like
that, but there’s always that self-doubt lingering behind. That even though your
friends and family like your painting, will a stranger look at it and
sort of give you that nod of approval. So that was something I had to also come to
terms with and and really put those fears aside. But there’s a lot of – I think
every artist has an element of self doubt. Some more than others so it was getting
over those.You know once that was overcome it became a lot more fun.
So what would you say to other people who like have a creative side,
but maybe have never explored that or are like, I don’t know if I can actually
paint or I’m not creative. Because I’m sure you’ve probably run across those
people too who are like: Oh I could never do that.
It especially came home to me when I started teaching other creative people.
It could be anyone whether they – some had never painted before. Let’s say there
were retirees leaving the old nine-to-five job behind and wanted to
take up painting. There were others that had been painting earlier in their life
and they had put it off. Or just people who were creative at something and wanted to
try painting. So there were all these different individuals and a lot of them – You know, each person has some sort of
self-doubt. As I’ve mentioned before. But this really came home to me when
I was was teaching these people for the first time. It was really strange to,
you know, as a now confident artist let’s say, and now I’m
observing people who actually have such fear of their own ability. I couldn’t
understand it. But once you understand that, yeah for a lot of people
being creative is not a natural thing. In their own mind they’ve got so many
hang-ups about it. So I had to try and convince and show and cajole and
encourage everybody to understand that actually you are naturally creative. It’s
just been worked out of your system from an early age. You know you start off
totally creative. Ss a child you’re creative and as a young student at school
you’re creative. Then you hit that sort of self-conscious period in your
early teens into adulthood and then you’ve got all these other people saying
you must focus on something responsible etc etc. You put all of these creative
things aside and it’s steadily worn out of you. It’s amazing how hard it is
for adults to come back into being creative again. It’s almost like they
are so taken out of their comfort zone. You
know through a lot of gentle assistance and teaching I’ve tried to get
everybody to just connect with who they were as a child and to remember that
actually they did enjoy creating. They enjoyed painting drawing and just
creative play. All these sort of things and then they steadily just become more
confident. By doing you know. Starting at a basic foundation level in painting.
For example artists like that can see they making progress. I think just being
comfortable with progress is very important. Pretty soon everybody
is having a great time. but yeah it’s just to reconnect with the natural
creative ability. It can vary between person to person so it can be quite something
to deal with. But I think you probably agree with there’s always a pretty much
100 percent success rate. Yes and I think as long as they’re
willing to explore that side and open that up,
that it’s much more easier for them to then learn it, and then express it and
then learn it and then express it because it’s a journey. It’s not like
you’re gonna learn everything in one day. That you’re gonna need to know, it’s just
like learning. The other thing like learning how to walk or learning how to
talk or learning how to eat solid food. We didn’t just start with a big, you
know, huge meal when we were born. We had to work our way up to that kind of thing.
So I think you’re you’re totally spot-on with that for sure.
Yeah absolutely. How do you help people? You know what do you offer people that – to be able to do that to express their
creativity through painting. My work really revolves around painting in some
form. It can be oils, acrylics, pastels or watercolor. So an interest in
painting is what I’m really looking for in a student. So we
start off at a very basic level. Even even artists who have painted, you know,
years ago and now they’re coming back into it again. They’ve got some
knowledge of painting. What I find is that there’s a lot of bad habits
that were learnt and we need to sort of work through them. My painting, I
guess, is founded in a lot of traditional painting. Impressionist painting really.
So I use a lot of those formal techniques as well. But with a, you know,
an approach that is not authoritarian or anything like that. It’s a
fun process and and it’s just a case of each person finding their feet. So I’ll
help them do that by starting at the very basics. Just but with shapes and
then moving into color and it gets a bit more advanced as they progress. I
don’t want to throw anybody into the the deep end, like you have to go
straight into, you know, a sort of old classical way of teaching where you’ve
got a sketch you know a marble figure and it’s got to be perfect and all of
that sort of thing.It’s not a pursuit of perfection.
every person’s art is, you know, legitimate as it is. I just deal with
each person individually. So I’ve got a number of courses that they
can start with from very basic fundamental level and progress through.
Different mediums as well and I also work with people online who want
one-to-one coaching as well. More direct feedback from me. So we do some
video calls and and I do some live demonstrations with them. So you know
whether somebody’s a self-starter then they can find
something there. Or they can work directly with me. Yeah I also do live
workshops in my studio occasionally as well. Or go out and local level and work
with a few other artists. But by far the the biggest reach and I’d say the most
helpful work that I do is actually over the internet. It’s really amazing,
amazing how many people get so much benefit of just being left alone
and and working with your course. Then I encourage people to
contact me or send me pictures of their work. So yeah you know I like that
interaction. Yeah I think that’s important too. Is
like encouraging that interaction because it also allows them to sort of
you know be able to reach out and not feel like they’re doing it all alone at
the same time. Right absolutely. So why was it important for you to begin
teaching the art of painting to people and what was it that you wanted to bring
to them. I never expected to teach art and that is absolute truth. Being quite
an introverted typical sort of artist type.
I think also some influence with my family as well.
My wife was interested in trying painting. I mean I was painting like
crazy after hours and trying to just find my way and she wanted to start
painting as well and didn’t want to be left out of all the fun. So I started
showing her some of the things I was learning. You know or someone – like my
children as well. There was a lot of – a big chunk of their education was in
fact through homeschooling with my wife. I was brought in as art teacher
and so I was teaching the the kids as well. Trying to until they thought I
wasn’t cool anymore. Yeah I just realized actually you know I knew what I
was talking about. I could communicate this and it was important to me and and
they were enjoying it. And then you know I had my mother-in-law as well and
she was taking some you know impromptu lessons with me. I just sort of fell
into it and I think because I was am totally passionate about
painting and just focused on it so heavily that that came through as well.
So it was never a drag. It was always fun and I was always keen and
and everybody seemed to be enjoying it. And it just got bigger and bigger.
Then I guess – you know one other thing that that sort
of did bug me when I started working with a few other artists that
was the the actual lack of education for artists. It sounds strange to actually
say that because there is so much information out there. But it actually
it’s a big confusing mass of information and a lot of the a lot of the things
that were being taught weren’t really helping people. All I kept coming
across was a lot of frustrated artists you know. Especially people starting
it at a later stage in life and they just were not getting really beyond the
very beginnings. I thought you know let’s actually put something
together that’s going to teach people the the proper stuff they need to
know to paint well. And it wasn’t particularly difficult. It just wasn’t
being taught. You know I was struggling to get all of these so-called
secrets of painting, and they’re not really secrets, but nobody was
really wanting to teach it fully. I just thought well you know I’m not holding
anything back. Everything that I’m teaching is exactly the stuff I learned
and helped me become a full-time artist and actually do it for a living.
So I teach everything. No secrets. Nothing held back. It’s all there.
It’s just up to each person to decide how far they want to take it. Yeah it’s
kind of you know definitely a purpose behind that as well just to put
it out there. Yeah so how can people connect with you and how can they get in
contact with you if they’d like to be able to take one of your courses for
example. Well I’ve got a whole section on my website at courses. A section you can browse through that. I’ve got some
guidance there as well about where folks should start and what they can look at.
Different mediums as well and there’s a introductory course which
which you can start for free as well. Just to see how things go.
So yeah you know that’s the easiest way just to go along to the
website and find all the information. And obviously you can ask me any
questions and we take it from there. So it’s quite simple. That sounds really
good. I want to say thank you very much for allowing me to interview you today
and for just sharing with us a little bit about where you came from and how
this whole journey sort of unfolded for you into teaching other people.
thanks very much Kristy-Lea – nice chatting.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Very interesting. Congratulations on having created such a satisfying way of life and helping people to re-find that creativity that would have been natural as a child but tends to get stifled on the way to adulthood.

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