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Leanne Cartwright-Bradford - Finding My Way Back to Art

Leanne Cartwright-Bradford is the Country Manager for Audible Australia and New Zealand. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two sons. She loves listening to audiobooks (of course) and has recently rediscovered her love of art.

Read more about how she found her way back to art, to this hobby, and pleasure through her children.

1. It All Started with Junk Store Canvases

My sons were bored during the lockdown, and we needed to entertain them. My eldest, who is 6, loves drawing. So, I bought a load of cheap art materials to play with – watercolour paints, soft pastels, acrylics, oil pastels, beads, origami paper, and cheap canvases.

Over his shoulder, I watched him reimagine the same scenes over and over, working them out in his mind. I watched as he merged TV franchises with places we’d been and people we know into one wonderfully weird image. I watched him make sense of it all, trying different combinations and colours. Getting it ‘wrong’ and not even knowing, much less caring…and in doing so, getting it just right.

They loved it. And most of all, I loved it.

2. I Began Painting for Myself

Nothing in particular; small watercolour patterns to use as wrapping paper. Tempering my artistic ambitions by only creating things that were designed to be thrown away. Painting loose, drunken-looking designs that used colour extravagantly.

Then I got more adventurous.

I bought a big canvas and started painting with acrylics. I love acrylics because they dry quickly and don’t give you time to overthink. I’d sit in our yard with the boys and paint on the ground, bits of leaves flicking onto the canvas, tiny hands reaching over to add a bit here or there. Water flecks sprinkling down as my youngest son turned on the hose and started spraying.

I rinsed the canvas, dried it, and started over again.

3. Remembering a Time Before

I started to remember a time before the children came when there were leisure and the ability to fritter days away, just trying things and pondering. Memories of me sitting at a millinery block, making hats. Sketching with the softest lead pencils. Layering blue upon blue with a palette knife. Writing stories and listing ideas to be strung together into one long whimsy or rant.

I wondered how I had forgotten this part of myself for so long. How had I let this part of me fade away? All my creativity was poured into my work and raising my children. The tiredness from working all day bookended by the grind of caring for small people had covered me in a fog. I was lifting out and coming back closer to myself with each brushstroke.

I painted and repainted, moving shapes and colours around the canvas. I got bored with it and moved onto something else, knowing that there would be a time when I’d be called back to it to complete it. Or perhaps paint straight over the top.

4. To Make Art, You Have to Let Go of The Need to Be Good

Returning to painting felt easier than before because I finally let go of the need to be any good. I was simply enjoying the process.

I was recently reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut Jnr quote: "I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could "Win" at them." This really resonated with me.

I can't even blame the culture; I think this is inherent to who I am. But returning to art, I was able to focus on the pleasure of creating, on the relaxing process of applying paint to canvas, and worry less about the outcome.

5. Create for Yourself; And Not Anyone Else

I am a marketer by trade, and in truth, I am a marketer in my dirty commercial heart. So for me, the problem when I create is always the question of the audience. When I create, I often second guess myself. I ask the obvious marketing question: who is the audience for this and how should I communicate with them? This is great when writing marketing copy, but when creating art, it limits you.

When I write for an audience, I obscure the parts of me that aren’t neat or nice or don’t seem consistent. I plane off rough edges for easy consumption.

When I paint, I am better at this. Being a beginner is so liberating.

Eliminate the audience when you create.

A big, heartfelt thanks to Art Lover Mama Leanne Cartwright-Bradford for her beautiful story, find out more about her here!


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