A Question & Answer Session with safari wildlife artist Teresa Allen
When did you first get into art?
I think it started before I even went to primary school. I've always loved colouring in; from its therapeutic qualities (not that I knew it at the time) to the achievement of being really pleased with the aesthetics of a finished piece. Throughout my school education, I loved creating things with my hands, whatever the medium (paint, textiles, wood, clay) so it was a no-brainer that I would study art at University.
When did you decide to make it your business?
Last November I was made redundant after a decade working in Event Management. I didn't want to fall into a similar job somewhere else so figured it was now or never to get the confidence to dust off the art materials after a 16-year absence.
What was it like for you to take the leap into being a fulltime professional artist?
Mentally and emotionally challenging! The art-side of things has been rewarding because with each piece I'm developing my technique and I can see how much progress I've made. My work is becoming more detailed and more realistic. The business-side of things has been the most unsettling. At times I've felt so far out of my comfort zone; thinking about and doing things that I've never done before, not knowing what to do in situations, feeling isolated by the personal responsibilities, knowing that in order to achieve financial success I need to do certain tasks that aren't in my DNA or natural skillset. It's a rollercoaster. Some days I'm fired up and have ideas and create lots of action and other days I wonder if I'm strong enough to keep pushing forward when half of what I'm doing I don't enjoy. Marketing and sales are completely new to me and not something I excel at, but they are the fundamental requirement for whether I succeed or fail. It's a dilemma that is tough to face sometimes.
What has been your grandest or biggest job yet and how did it make you feel?
Each piece I work on gets a bit bigger, a bit more complex and a bit more detailed. I've really enjoyed pushing my skills to introduce more dramatic lighting and textures - I want my art to have a look of realism but still to contain an artistic touch. I start with a visualisation in my head and it's wonderful as the hours progress and the layers build up to see the animal come to life on the page in front of me. I feel so proud to know that this is a talent few other people have and to hear people say they can almost feel the texture and sensation of the fur just by looking at my work is a huge complement.
How do you cope with the pressure of your job?
The business-side causes the pressure, stress and tension headaches so the release is to get back to the easel. Working on my art whilst listening to music and singing along makes the perfect creativity bubble. This brings me back into the moment to focus on what I'm doing instead of worrying about things in my head. I think the combination of three creative elements is like a therapeutic melting pot. Scientific studies have shown that viewing art improves wellbeing and decreases stress levels so I would agree that the process of making it also does the same thing. Aside from that, I go for a walk everyday across the fields. Fresh air, nature and wildlife, landscapes and skies . . . they are all guaranteed to top up my happiness levels.
Which aspect of your art do you get the most satisfaction from?
Seeing the final result. I instinctively know what needs to be worked on, how I want parts to look and therefore when I can step back and say it's ready for my signature.
What’s the best thing which has happened to you as a result of you being an artist?
I've rediscovered a skill that had been unintentionally left in my past and forgotten about. It was only when other people said to me 'you're so creative and talented' that I truly realised that I can do something naturally that other people can't. It made me decide to embrace it and want to show the world that this is what I've been put on this earth to do and share with people. My mission is for my art to speak to people; I want them to connect with what they see visually as well as appreciate and value the deeper meanings behind the work, to the point where it is more than just art, it's inspiration.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on your ability to work? Has this impacted on your mental health?
Initially I loved it because the world had stopped and I felt like I had time to try and catch up. The biggest impact has been the thought that lots of other people are on furlough getting paid to do nothing and I've been trying my best to work hard but am struggling to make any headway so haven't had any money coming in. Knowing that people like my work but don't want to buy it has been tough, although the reality is that I've not got my work out to the right audience yet.
How does your work and passion protect / affect / impact upon your mental health?
I think most artists are wired slightly differently from most entrepreneurs which is why it is tough to master the two and become a success. Art is so subjective, so people value it in different ways. It is also highly personal as it is something I have physically created with my hands. As I work through a piece, I generate messages as to what the piece is about; it almost becomes a self-portrait in terms of emotional connection. There is always a deeper philosophy behind each piece to enable the viewer to connect and understand it in a more comprehensive way. My art isn't simply about depicting a lion or a zebra, it's about relating it to our own identity and individuality.
Teresa (fondly known as T) is a professional pastel artist specialising in safari wildlife. Her artwork and blogs are inspired by her love of nature and travel. She offers one-off original artwork and high-quality limited edition giclee prints. If you require a vibrant statement for your walls, a powerful reminder of past experiences or inspiration for future adventures, explore the T J Allen Art website https://tjallenart.weebly.com/ or follow the T J Allen Art Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tjallenartworkandblogs and Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/tjallenart/