“Creativity helped me escape severe depression” – Anne Leuck

Chicago-based artist Anne Leuck calls herself a child of the ’70s, an era known for its bold sense of color and graphics. Grew up in Sparta, a small, idyllic, midwestern town in Wisconsin, Anne got intimately attached to the delights of color at home, where creativity spurred in little things since both her parents had a taste for art. Today, the 54-year-old visual storyteller experiments with traditional painting and drawing, as well as digital media, journaling, and ceramics. She has licensed her designs for stationery and home décor products, and her artwork has appeared on billboards, movies, books, TV, and magazines.

But there’s more to her story! In the prime of her career, Anne sunk into clinical depression. While the world got brighter and more joyful with her art, she suffered in silence. In a candid chat with Real Life Heroes – By Manvi, she discusses her life, artistic, and mental health journey. 

Are you an artist first or a storyteller? How do you intermingle stories with art?

That’s one of those ‘which came first the chicken or the egg’ questions! I face difficulty verbally getting my point across, so art helps me communicate my thoughts in an abbreviated style via visual vocabulary of sorts. I spent my teen years organically doodling all over my high school notebooks. My earlier paintings consisted of an image in the middle and words around the border. My imagery expanded into different genres over the years, but it has always been narrative. I desired to marry my sketchbook journaling method with my painting process for my Middle Age Freak Show series. It was a fun way to create, especially for a middle-aged woman who often finds herself searching for words!

You have been documenting your life since 2001. Why?

I’ve documented my life in paintings and off and on in journals throughout my life, but never consistently. This all came about to solve a very different problem. A constant juggle between art and business left me with little time to create art. That’s when an artist friend who kept a daily sketchbook suggested I try it. It seemed like a perfect solution. Since then, the journaling has evolved with me through my divorce, the death of my dogs, moving homes and studios, health issues, depression. It has been a reflective place for me to record my life history, work through my problems and perform a bit of ‘self-analysis.’

As a woman artist, you talk about taboo, honor, physical, mental oddities, peri/menopausal journey. Why do these subjects need a mention? Do you feel the world is not prepared enough to fight these problems? 

These problems have been swept under the rug or whispered in back rooms and kitchens. Social media has brought them to the fore, yet so many women still suffer in silence or have no idea what might befall them. My life was utterly derailed for three years. I was fortunate to have the means to support myself while barely working or leaving my home. The ACA (Affordable Care Act) was a godsend but it was hard advocating for myself with depression. It took three years to find the right specialists to get things back in track.

Do you think there is a link between depression and creativity? What did you do to fight your depression or keep it at bay?

I think moments of creativity were the only ones that helped me escape severe depression (aside from sleeping) after oophorectomy in 2017. In my sketchbook journal, I have mentioned the long, arduous battle with clinical depression, the before and after, alternate healing modalities, different drugs, and hormones. All of this has helped me process my thoughts and navigate through the darkness. When I had completely isolated myself for two years, rowing helped me get back on my feet. Teaching wellness journaling was therapeutic too. It gave me a sense of purpose. I’ve had to rebuild my identity and self-worth and find my footing again through all of this. 

Why is art more relevant in today’s world? 

Art grounds us in this increasingly technological and virtual world. It connects us with natural beauty and real-life experiences. For instance, sketchbook journaling has the power to transform people, to show them how to appreciate and fall in love with themselves and their stories, one page at a time. The entire process helps them pay attention to everyday moments and have gratitude towards them.

How does the journey ahead look like?

I’m preparing to launch a three Month Online Self Study Transformational Sketchbook Journaling Program that will be accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. I plan to produce some journaling courses for niche groups like women going through a divorce, depression, mid-life crisis, etc. I intend to propose a show of paintings based on thematic pages from my sketchbooks and continue my works on vintage windows. I am also hosting a sketchbook journaling trip to Italy in June of 2022!

A piece of work that you are extremely proud of and why? I will give you two paintings, “Bearded Lady” ©2016 because it was the first time in 20 years that I successfully blended my sketchbook practice with my painting practice. The other painting is “Plane Catcher” – my first foray into abstraction. In this, the boundaries between colors can be perceived without the heavy-handed necessity of my past work.

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(Exclusive from Real Life Heroes – By Manvi)

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