Ever since he was young, Levi Selway has always loved art. He inherited his love of art from his mother, who did art as a hobby.
“She loved art,” Selway said. “I guess that’s where I got it from, really.”
Art became a source of comfort for him after his mother passed away unexpectedly when he was 7 years old.
“It helped me deal with the emotions that followed that loss,” he said. “I found it to be very therapeutic.”
Selway also found he enjoyed expressing himself through art.
“I think we all need that as human beings,” he said. “In one way or another, whether it’s music or sports or art, we all need artistic expression — an outward expression of our emotions.”
When Selway was 16, he was asked to choose a few subjects to specialize in during his last two years of high school. One of the subjects he chose was art.
Selway grew up in England, where students begin learning skills for their chosen career earlier than in the United States.
“We specialize in a few subjects for the last two years of high school,” he explained. “I did art. It was just something I was naturally good at and enjoyed.”
After high school, Selway would have liked to continue on the path to becoming a professional artist, but there was one problem — he didn’t know how to go about it. His art teachers suggested he go to art school, but were unable to answer his questions about how to make art into a profitable career.
Those are common questions for young, aspiring artists, Selway said.
“I think a lot of people, as youngsters, love art,” he said. “Then, very quickly, they’re told by the social mirror or they find themselves unsure of how to make … a living off it. It seems like an elusive industry where only the privileged people can do it. It isn’t, but that’s a notion a lot of people have.”
Selway’s doubts about his ability to make a living off of art led him to consider a very different career — in the medical field.
“I got discouraged (with art). I didn’t see how it would work,” he said. “I eventually decided to become a doctor because doctors make a good living and there’s a clear path for it. It’s already laid out in front of you; you just have to work really hard.”
Selway wasn’t afraid of hard work. He began applying for pre-med programs and was accepted into the program at Brigham Young University.
That’s where he met his wife, Anabelle.
“I … met my wife at BYU in the foreign language housing where she was working as a native French speaker,” Selway said. “That was 2005.”
BYU’s Foreign Language Student Residence immerses its residents in a chosen language. Selway lived in the French house.
After Selway and Anabelle graduated, Selway applied for medical schools. He was accepted into a medical school in England and he and his wife returned happily to Europe.
Everything seemed to be going Selway’s way. But as he started his new classes, something didn’t feel quite right.
“I found myself more interested in drawing people than treating them,” Selway said. “I think I just got a bit burnt out. I had just done four years of BYU and it takes a lot of effort to get into medical school in and of itself. When I got there … one day I just realized it wasn’t my path.”
That day, Selway decided to walk away from medical school.
“Medical school in Europe is nowhere near as expensive as it is in the U.S., so it wasn’t like I was financially bound to that career,” he said. “It would have been a lot harder to walk away if I’d been in a lot of debt.”
The Selways decided to return to the United States, and a few months after leaving medical school, Selway walked into Adonis Bronze, a bronze foundry in Alpine, Utah.
“My wife bought me a sculpture kit for my birthday in 2011 and I told her I wanted to get into sculpting,” Selway said. “It was something I hadn’t done before.”
Adonis Bronze specializes in casting fine art sculptures for local artists. Selway went to it on a day it was open to the public.
“They have an open to the public day where you can go in and work next to professional sculptors,” he said. “That’s how I got into it (sculpting).”
Selway was so excited about the idea of creating bronze sculptures that he decided to attend art school. In 2013, he and Anabelle moved to her home city of Paris.
Over the next year, shortly before their third daughter was born, Selway attended the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. During the next five years, he and his family lived in France, Italy and England.
“We were fortunate to live in Nice, France, for a couple of years,” Selway said. “There’s a lot of art around (there). I studied a lot of public art at museums. Then we went back to England for three years.”
Earlier this year, Selway decided to take his art to the next level. He moved back to the United States with his family, where the cost of living is lower than in Europe. When his wife found work teaching French in Grantsville, the Selways decided to settle in Stansbury Park.
“We … decided that we wanted to make the transition into full time art, so we came here in August and that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said. “I divide my time between doing the school run and taking care of the kids and doing more of the home operations, if you will, and then doing my art during the day when I can do that.”
While success is never guaranteed, Selway is determined to figure out how to make a living off his art.
“I sculpt and draw as much as I can with my time,” he said. “My aim is to get some gallery representation in Park City and start selling in art fairs. There are a lot of them around; each state has an art fair during the calendar year, so I’m putting together that body of work.”
Selway also offers private art lessons and holds regular art nights at the Millpond Spa & Retreat in Stansbury Park. He’s already held a “draw night” and two “sculpt nights.”
The art nights are similar to Paint Nite events, with one important distinction — each attendee chooses their own subject to draw or sculpt.
“I get everyone to choose something they want to do so everyone’s doing something different,” Selway said. “I’ll work on something at the front of the room and teach general principles they can apply to their work and then go around and spend about five minutes with everyone and give them a few pointers.”
Selway decided to hold art nights for several reasons.
“One (reason) is that I’m an advocate of promoting arts in the community and I wanted to provide a space for people to create art, but also to learn some technique and sort of have just an artistic or cultural experience,” he said.
Selway’s first sculpt night was a success.
“We had a nice mix of experienced sculptors and novices,” he said. “It was an experiment as well as anything else. It was nice; I really enjoyed it. I think I’m already sold out for the next sculpt night. We’ll do a couple more in December after Thanksgiving break.”
One of the participants at Selway’s first sculpt night was his daughter, Eve.
“My oldest daughter did a really good sculpture,” he said. “It’s nice to involve family, when you can, with your passions.”
In addition to teaching, Selway has also been hard at work networking with other professional artists in Utah. One of the first things he did was find an artist who was willing to mentor him.
“I collaborate with other professional artists in Utah,” he said. “I’m just kind of working with them on the business side of things and trying to build a business, essentially. It is (a lot of work). It’s different … at the academy, they teach you to make art. Selling art is another story even of itself.”
Selway’s first goal is to build up a body of work. Bronze casting is expensive, but he hopes to have a few finished pieces in 2020 that he can show on a website and in galleries.
He doesn’t regret his decision to leave medical school.
“Again, it just didn’t feel like my path and wasn’t aligned with my core values and passions and interests,” he said. “It was very much more an intellectual exercise. I rationally decided what would be a good career rather than (pursue) what I love to do because that’s a lot more daunting and abstract.”
He added, “I’ve been fortunate enough to make some connections with professional artists here in Utah who are very down to earth people and who are generous in mentoring me and helping me to figure this out, how to sell art and make a career of it. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet those people and that’s half the battle. I guess you could call it serendipitous.”