From Psychologist to Photographic Artist

lady inside russian dolls photo manipulationThe Day Job

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a psychologist, a photographer or an artist and would never have guessed I’d end up as any of these things.  However, importantly for this tale I did grow up believing, from those who had shaped my thoughts during my formative years, that being an artist wasn’t a real job.  In the 80’s being a hairdresser, estate agent or nurse were considered suitable careers for girls.

Once I decided on my career path in my twenties I pursued a traditional academic route, studying psychology through to PhD level.  A topic that still fascinates me today.  I continued to work in that arena as was expected.  I wasn’t particularly happy and burn out felt inevitable but didn’t have any idea what else I wanted to do.  I had committed so much time, energy and money to my training that quitting seemed reckless.

♥ Dogs ♥

welsh springer spaniel

My call to art crept into my life when I started to take my photography hobby a little more seriously.  First I learned how to use my camera properly by going to night school. Next I turned the lens on something I have always loved through my life: dogs.  I photographed dogs in my spare time for several years using photoshop to tidy up images, remove leads and eradicate stray drool. Through the process of doing this I realized that photoshop was an incredible and creative tool. I started to mix photos together that didn’t belong together and creating things from my imagination.  Quite a find as I cannot draw or paint.  My first crude attempts seemed to spark something that I didn’t know was there.


girl watching butterflies escape from her dream cage

Some years into this journey and still photographing dogs as a hobby I had to move back to the UK from Australia.  This forced my hand and the psychology career had to go.  I now see this as a blessing.  At this point I had to consider whether I could make money from the skills I was developing in photography and photoshop.  I started mooching around the internet and stumbled across the work of Brooke Shaden, Miss Aniela, Aaron Nace and many others.  I followed Brooke’s work for a while, bought one of her books and devoured courses on-line to improve my skills.  Then, out of nowhere, I found myself with the opportunity to attend an artists’ retreat Brooke was running – amazingly it was in the UK.  It was costly given the amount of savings I had at that time but I felt compelled to go.  I managed to get one of the 12 spaces and off I went.  That long weekend experimenting with ideas and working with other creative photographers was life changing  – I really haven’t looked back since.  I’ve created art using photoshop every week ever since. I’ve also started hoarding stuff that might come in handy.

About 18 months ago I stopped photographing dogs to turn my hand to creating photographic art full time.

Breaking The Rules

girl runs from a ruined building onto the moorsEven when I started to create full time I still had the sense it wasn’t a real job.  I was a psychologist, I knew the psychology behind this thinking and the self imposed barriers I was creating.  In complete contrast to my academic career art was far removed from the rigors of research bound within rules laid down over centuries – creating art didn’t feel like proper work, it didn’t feel important or rigorous, just a bit frivolous and self indulgent.  Eventually, and it has taken many years, I have moved beyond these self limiting thought patterns that I don’t even agree with and never have.  Allowing myself to be creative is just another part of who I am now.

Photographic Artist Kirsteen Titchener at an art fair in the UKSharing & Making Friends

In the early days, and still occasionally now, the feeling that you are alone in a sea of creative talent online can be completely overwhelming.  Putting your efforts and creations, dear to your heart, out there in the real world is daunting.  Receiving a wall of silence or just a whisper in return is hard to hear.  It is easy to forget that sometimes the silence comes from no-one knowing that your latest effort is out in cyberspace.  How can people respond if they do not know it is there?  Constantly reminding myself of this generally keeps me out of the abyss but sometimes I slip back down feeling I’ll never be seen or heard.  That is why I enjoy art fairs and openings because I get to meet and chat with people who are interested in the images and the techniques.  Working alone each day can be quite difficult, even for an introvert like me.

Keep Moving Forward

International Photographer of the Year 2017: Photomanipulation Winner Kirsteen TitchenerI’ve nearly given up many times.  A lack of knowing what else to do and a loathing for the idea of returning to my previous career keeps me on track and although you might think that isn’t the right reason there is more to it.  I know if I went back to 9 to 5 I’d still be compelled to create images in any spare time I had.  I’d still be taking ideas from my mind and turning them into something more tangible.  I’d still be exploring the human psyche by using the creative skills I have learned.  Every time my work is recognized by publication, award or someone loving it enough to choose it to decorate their home or work space I realise that what I do is real, proper and worthy – the feedback, or lack of it from the internet, is tempered by recognition elsewhere and it keeps me pushing forwards.

The Future

I expect there will be more to add to this story in the future. If you’d like to join me on the journey why not sign up to my newsletter and stay up to date with what is coming next…includes a newsletter (no more than monthly) with occasional subscriber only offers and news of where to view my work and meet me at shows and openings.

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