PART 2:


From graphic designer to working artist, Duncan Stewart walks us through his journey and shares what he’s learned about living as an artist along the way.

Coming from a traditional family of lawyers and bankers, Duncan never saw himself becoming an artist, even with an insatiable appetite to draw and paint. Though he studied, and later worked, as a graphic designer, he eventually gave himself the opportunity to explore the underlying desire to create. At 22 years of age, while working in an advertising firm, Duncan allowed himself to explore his artistic tendencies and attended art school in Florence. 

Duncan gave himself two years to understand why the pull to art was so strong. In Florence, he found his answers. Creating art provided what he needed to build a sustainable life: personal expression, connecting with people, and financial stability. Duncan explains that working as an artist is not a straightforward path, but for him, a necessary one: “Art is a difficult journey, but it’s [...] who I am.” 



Without the funds for art school, Duncan had to get creative, and cycled from Johannesburg to Cape Town, gaining sponsors that allowed him to attend his first year. After running out of money, Duncan put on an exhibition with his student work and raised the funds necessary for his second year.  

He explains his path has shown him who he is as a person and artist, and that being around great artists led him to challenge himself. Duncan notes, “[w]hen you go to Italy or when you choose your art school or when you choose the company you keep, I've realized that [you should] always aim as high as you can. Your own standard will then automatically be raised.”



Duncan now works across all media. From painting in oil, sculpting, or fabricating works in bronze, ceramics, or stainless steel, he pulls inspiration from life’s observations, and what’s happening in current culture. He reveals that his art continues to shift, becoming less figurative, and more cerebral and expressive. 

His studio process fulfills his deep personal sense of why. Duncan muses that working as an artist honors the fullness of his identity. He believes God made him for the purpose to use his talent, and through that, he gains a deep level of fulfillment and contentment as a human being. 

Perseverance and motivation are both highlighted as necessary components of being a quality artist and professional. Meeting deadlines, answering emails, and responding to inquiries all help to grow professional momentum. Duncan recognizes that there must be a balance of making and marketing art in order to build a profitable art business. 



The empowerment and freedom that comes from being a working artist are coupled with the financial pressure and balancing creative and profitable work. Duncan creates a balance between the varying aspects through an overwhelming sense of curiosity and understanding the need to connect with other artists. 

Duncan encourages young artists to never stop drawing. Once you know yourself as an artist, practice as an artist, and create a network along the way. Duncan highlights the importance of art, noting, “we are art [as unique individuals], and it is a language by which we can connect at a deep, deep level.” Whether invoking rage, curiosity, or love, art lets us relate to one another.    

When asked what advice he would give to his younger self, Duncan wishes he would have guarded himself against others' opinions, and reminded himself to be okay with who he was. He muses he would tell himself to take more risks, taste and see as much as he can, and find mentors that grab his attention.

The life of a working artist was not so much a choice for Duncan, but an inevitability. Being able to apply his natural talents let him explore the insistent internal voice that drew him towards art and creativity.     


Find out more about Duncan here: https://duncanstewart.co.za/

Follow Duncan here: https://www.instagram.com/duncanstewartfineart/


On Duncan's must-read list:

Ken Robinson - The Element

Betty Edwards - Drawing on the right side of the brain

Art the highest form of hope - Phaidon





Tired of figuring everything out by yourself?

If you want extra support in making, marketing, and building a business around your creativity then you are welcome to join me and a group of wonderful artists all over the world in THRIVE.

For a limited time only I'm offering you all-access to THRIVE with immediate access to all the modules, courses, lessons, worksheets, community support, art expert & Q&A sessions for just €27.-/ month.

Head over to www.sonjasmalheer.com/thrive to find out more.



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