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Your creative personality type

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by Bronya Wilkins

Have you ever wondered how your personality type impacts your creativity? You’ve probably heard of the Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—it’s a widely used psychometric tool for assessing personality. I sometimes use it in my coaching practice to help clients make sense of their personality preferences in the context of their creative lives.

About the MBTI
The MBTI has been used for decades as a tool for enhancing self-awareness and development in business and personal life. It’s based on four dichotomies (pairings) that interact with each other to produce a total of sixteen possible personality types. The preference dichotomies are:

  • Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E)
  • Intuition (N) vs. Sensing (S)
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
  • Perceiving (P) vs. Judging (J)

A person’s preferences will fall on one side of each dichotomy; across the four pairings this results in a “type.” For example, my type is an INFJ: Introversion/Intuition/Feeling/Judging.

While the complexity of personality can’t be explained by any single assessment, and there are some validity issues with the MBTI, I still find it a useful tool if the results are considered within a broader life context. In my experience, the MBTI genuinely helps people make greater sense of how they interact with the world and how they perceive and process information.

MBTI3

The MBTI’s sixteen personality types

How does your type impact your creativity?
The realm of creativity isn’t “owned” by any one type, although some preferences may help or hinder creativity in different ways. Let’s explore some of these below.

Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E)
Contrary to popular belief, “introvert” doesn’t refer to a quiet, shy wallflower, but instead a person who recharges and gains energy from time alone, regardless of how outgoing or friendly she is.

When it comes to building a dedicated creative practice—something that requires a lot of focused, solitary time—introverts may have a head start. The challenge for creative extraverts is to balance social and creative time to meet both needs. Conversely, when it comes to promoting one’s creativity, extraverts’ social ease and larger networks offer more opportunities for connecting with potential collaborators and supporters, a task introverts often find daunting.

Tips:

  • If you’re an extrovert, determine how much time per week to spend on your creativity and block it out in your calendar, so social events don’t creep in over the top.
  • If you’re an introvert, learn ways to promote your creative practice that are more aligned with introversion, such as blogging. Also, challenge yourself to get out there as the face of your practice.

Intuition (N) vs. Sensing (S)
The N/S dichotomy describes how we perceive and gather information. People with N preferences are described as big-picture people, abstract thinkers, people who make gut decisions. S people are more concrete and focus on details, data, and evidence; they are the “seeing is believing” type of people.

When it comes to artistic creativity, Ns are all about the expression of ideas, while Ss tend to focus on execution and craftsmanship. In coaching, N clients often need guidance with choosing ideas and implementing them consistently, whereas Ss need more help thinking “outside of the box” and “connecting the dots.”

Tips:

  • If you’re an intuitive person, remember that sometimes, the devil is in the details. You may have a great idea, but if it’s executed poorly then will it be appreciated? Take time to learn your craft and hone your technique.
  • If you’re a sensing person, be sure to regularly expose yourself to new and interesting people, places, and events to feed your senses and expand your creative ideas.

Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
Thinkers make decisions based on logic and facts, as opposed to feelers, who tend to decide based on feelings and perceived impacts on other people.

Because feelers perceive their art as extensions of themselves, they often get caught up in beliefs of how the world will perceive them, which can lead to fear, self-doubt, and creative blocks. Thinkers, on the other hand, tend to dissociate a little from their work and treat it like a project to be delivered, rather than an aspect of themselves. This emotional distance may make it difficult to connect with audiences—something that comes far more naturally to feelers, who are in tune with themselves and the feelings and drives of others.

Tips:

  • If you’re a thinker, consider the impact your creativity and work have on other people—asking them is a good start! When sharing your work, notice how people respond to it and use that knowledge in your future projects.
  • If you’re a feeler, remind yourself that creative failure doesn’t equal human failure. We all need mistakes and failures to learn and grow. Creating a bit of psychological distance between yourself and a creative work can be healthy.

Perceiving (P) vs. Judging (J)
Another common misconception is the J label, which doesn’t mean that a person is judgmental. Instead, “judging” refers to the preference for closure, certainty, and organisation. Perceiving, at the opposite end, is a preference for flexibility, open-endedness, and spontaneity.

When implementing creative projects, judgers prefer a structured approach; they set goals, manage timeframes, and follow through to closure. Perceivers, on the other hand, often feel confined by plans. They tend to procrastinate and go off on tangents (albeit sometimes very interesting ones!), which can lead to half-finished projects. Because judgers are so focused on following through, however, they often fail to notice (or even dismiss) opportunities that open up along the way but feel disruptive to the original plan. Perceivers, on the other hand, are quick to recognise new sources of inspiration and information—and take advantage of them.

Tips:

  • If you are a perceiver, keep in mind that while it’d be nice to use all your ideas, is it actually doable? Figure out your best ideas, focus on one thing at a time, and follow through even when you’re tempted to jump ship. Hire a coach or get a friend to support you in reaching your milestones.
  • If you’re a judger, remember the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” The best plan in the world doesn’t make a project a success, so learn to tolerate more uncertainty and take advantage of new opportunities.

Creative self-development and the MBTI
When developing your creative self, it’s sometimes useful to tap into one of your preferences more deeply. Other times, it’s beneficial to challenge them and try the opposite. For example, on the J/P dichotomy, I’m very strongly a J. This is great when working solo, because I know how to balance my need for structure with idea exploration, but when collaborating with others my judging tendency can stifle the creative process. I’ve learnt over time to let go and step in as the structure queen only when necessary.

What next?

  • Take the MBTI
  • Consider whether you’re taking full advantage of your preferences. Tap into the preferences that are working well for your creativity.
  • Think about where your preferences are holding you back. Be brave and challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone.

Bronya Wilkins is a creativity coach and founder of Creative Cocoon, a coaching practice dedicated to helping people connect with their creativity. Bronya is passionate about psychology, self-development, and creative expression. Some of her hobbies include dance, graphic design, music composition, and photography. You can find her Facebook and Twitter, or follow her on Instagram (@creativecocoon).

How to future-proof your business

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by Jes Egan

Anticipating what will happen in the future is difficult, however, it is something you may want to consider doing to protect and grow your creative business. By considering what future possibilities lie ahead, you might be able to minimise the effects. It may seem like an overwhelming thing to tackle when you’re in the throes of running a creative business, but a little thought and planning can go a long way toward keeping your business running and possibly helping it grow.

Plan
Having a business plan is a great place to start, but it isn’t something to “set and forget.” Your plan may need to change as your business grows, markets move, and audience evolve. In your business plan, set goals and don’t forget to track your progress.

Review
Don’t get complacent; always keep an eye on what you are offering. Can it be improved upon? What is the market doing? Where are trends going? What and where are opportunities for improvement? You may be onto a good thing now—and hopefully still will be in the future—but markets, trends, and audiences can change, so make sure what you are offering remains relevant and meets the demands of your customers and the market.

Ask your customers regularly what they think. You may think what you are offering is great, but does your audience still think so? Listen to them and watch their behaviour. Is there anything you can do better? Is there something they’d like that you are not currently offering? Ask them face to face, put a survey on your website, do follow-up calls, and so on, to get this information. You’ll gain great insights and can then apply those learnings to your business.

There may be situations when your customers cannot tell you what they want, especially if you are in the innovation space. Think about the iPhone. We didn’t know we needed a device we could use to make a phone call, take photos, play games, and do our banking, but now we need to do all of these things on our phone. Innovating a product that your customers don’t yet know they need is a great way to grow your business and open new market spaces. As Henry Ford famously said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they’d tell me a faster horse.”

Rethink your acquisition strategy regularly. Ways in which you’ve gained new customers in the past may not work for you in the future. Review this often so you can keep adapting.

Watch
Observe competitors and your marketplace, watching what is happening around you. Do this by following competitors’ social media feeds (both locally and internationally), reading blogs and industry publications, setting up Google alerts, and so on. If you already have your eye on your own competitive space, start looking at other industries, too, as learning from one industry can be adapted to another. Having an understanding of what is happening around you will keep you and your business on its toes.

Depending on what business you are in (but especially for creative industries), following trends can also be important—even more so if you are riding on them. Watch trend forecasts, keep in touch, and, if needed, adapt your offerings to keep riding that wave.

Experience
What can you do when others are offering something similar? How do you stand out from the crowd? Don’t just sell a product or service, make sure to give your audience an experience to remember. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; perhaps it’s the packaging for your product, or how you call the client after delivery to see if everything was okay. Customers are more likely come back if they had a good experience, and repeat business is always good.

Diversify
Don’t depend on one section of your business to account for all of your revenue and growth. Find ways to diversify your product folio. If you manage to diversify your offerings, the additional revenue streams can help support your business.

Consider risks
Identify and manage risks, both for now and in the future. You can’t predict all future problems, but consider potential risks and map a way to manage them if they do happen. Not sure how? Start with a simple “SWOT” analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and go from there.

Your day-to-day creative business may keep you incredibly busy, but take some time to think about the future so you’re equally busy—if not more so—down the track.

Jes Egan is a “practical creative” and very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist and a university lecturer. Follow Jes on Instagram (@paper_chap).

Creative women at work: Rachel Devine, visual storyteller

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Rachel Devine is an award-winning photoblogger and professional children’s and lifestyle photographer. Her blog, SesameEllis.com, and Instagram feed attract fans from around the world with candid, compelling images of family life. She has authored and co-authored three books on photography, and last year, her project Within the Keep, featuring portraits of tween girls paired with words each girl chose to define herself, won both an Olympus Vision grant and a 2016 Bupa Blog Award. A native of Los Angeles, Rachel moved to Melbourne nine years ago and calls Australia home.

image 2 Can you tell us about your background and how you fell in love with photography?

I started when I was a teenager—self-taught, on film. I couldn’t draw well, so photography was my creative outlet. In 1995, I opened my business in Los Angeles, photographing kid modeling portfolios and headshots. My claim to fame was photographing Miley Cyrus! After moving to Melbourne, I met a woman named Simone Ryan, who represents kids’ clothing brands. That was my entry into the kids’ clothing world in Melbourne.

How would you describe your work and creative inspiration?

I take pride in the fact that you can look back at images I shot twenty years ago, even on film, and it’s hard to date them. With the clean lighting, true colours, and classic style, you would think I shot them yesterday. I love that.

Light inspires me. I am such a fan of light—and dark. When the light comes into my bedroom in the afternoon—especially fall light, the stripes of light through the blinds on the white wall—it’s just so pretty. I can see a photo just by looking at the light. That’s how I’m constantly looking at the world.

Do you have any simple advice about taking better photos, whether for social media or to sell products?

Learn how to photograph in balanced, flat light without it being dull, and also avoid “hot spots,” which are overly bright areas (as opposed to dark areas). You can find flat, filtered light in a doorway, just underneath a porch, or by placing your items next to a window with a sheer white curtain. Or, coat your windows with yogurt! If you use a roller to paint your windows with sugar-free low-fat yogurt (not no-fat, which is too milky), it becomes sort of a frosted window. You get light through it but you can’t see out. It’s amazing. When you don’t want the yogurt on there anymore, spray the window with water and wipe it down.

If you want to show something simply and beautifully on Instagram, there’s that slightly unsaturated look with lots of white—white backgrounds with one simple object in the photo—that works well. Just keep everything simple and have a clean, consistent look, whether it’s slightly unsaturated or neon coloured.

image 4Which social media channel has been the most effective for you, and why?

Instagram. For me, it has been about interacting with people. It’s not just putting my stuff up there and hoping they’ll show up. I find hashtags that I like and then click on them and “like” pictures that appeal to me. I just like what I like and engage as if nobody was looking. If you think of it as a community and not an audience, you build respect by actually interacting as a human being with other people in the community.

Do you have help running your business?

I don’t have physical assistants, but I have upgraded to systems. I pay for a program called Studio Ninja that I highly recommend. It’s a Melbourne-based customer management back-end service that does quotes and invoices, job tracking, all that. It makes my life so much easier. I also use CoSchedule for my blogging stuff.

Like many of us, you are juggling a creative business and a family. What is your favourite tip for “making it work”?

The best decision I made was saying that I work from 10–2, drawing the line at school hours. I’m lucky in that I can do the school run and be here in the evenings. I don’t feel that I’m working all the time when the kids are around.

Have you ever taken a risk or tried a strategy that didn’t turn out as you’d hoped? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

There are tons. Everything has a learning curve. What I try to remember is that every bad thing will pass—and the good stuff will as well. When something goes wrong, I take those moments in just as I do when something’s going awesome; I know it won’t last and I want to get everything I can from it. As painful as some of it might be, I can still learn from it and absorb life lessons.

headshotYou’re American but have lived in Australia for nine years. Has being an ex-pat shaped your art?

Being an ex-pat has had a huge impact on my art. While everyone here speaks English, it’s a different world. It’s similar to home but it’s not home. I’m always looking at things slightly left of center. Also, I have a slight sense of longing all the time, being far from friends. There’s a Japanese word for that bittersweet appreciation of time passing, and I’m constantly aware of that. It seeps into my images.

Probably the biggest issue I struggle with is that I’m not considered an Australian blogger photographer, but I’m not an American one, either. I consider myself more Australian than American—at least politically. I enjoy and celebrate the opportunities people have here.

What are you looking forward to doing in your business this year?

I’d like to take my Within the Keep project to a larger audience. I’m also working on a visual storytelling journal for kids to help them tell their own stories. I love how photography crosses nationalities, language barriers, intellectual barriers—all those things. It’s universal.

Rachel’s Quick Picks:

  • Favorite read: the Brain Pickings e-newsletter and the book A Man Called Ove
  • Favorite podcast: I have yet to find a podcast I can listen to!
  • Favorite Instagram feeds: Recent finds are @EstherHollywood and @Adele_Miranda
  • Designers, creatives, or brands: the kids’ clothing brand Minti; illustrator Bianca Cash; the landscapes of photographer Bill Henson
  • Favorite place to go for inspiration: the beach
  • Most inspiring friend or family member: My father, who passed away in 1999. He was the one who said, “Photograph. I’ll pay for the lab bills”—and look what he’s done. I think about him all the time, every time I pick up a camera.

Photographs by Rachel Devine

For more about Rachel, visit her blog, Facebook feed, or follow her on Instagram at @sesameellis. To join Rachel’s Photographing Happiness group, where she helps members document their daily moments of happiness, visit the group’s Facebook page.

Julie Mazur Tribe is an editor and book publishing consultant who loves working with authors, books, and creative ideas. She can be found at BrooklynBookStudio.com or on Instagram at @brooklynbookstudio.

Art commissions: basic tips

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by Júlia Both

As an artist, in addition to creating work for exhibitions and your own projects, you may often be commissioned by businesses or individuals to make something just for them. Whether it is a piece of fine art, a mural, or a digital illustration, a commission gives you an opportunity to practice your skills, create new work, and reach new audiences.

Unfortunately, misunderstandings can sometimes come up along the way that cost you time and impact your client’s satisfaction. I’ve found that most problems arise from a lack of clarity in communication, and from not being on the same page about the expected result, timeline, or cost of the piece. Many clients will have never commissioned an artist before and may know little about art and the creative process, and it’s essential to keep that in mind.

Here are a few basic things to remember while doing an art commission to avoid most issues.

Always start with a brief
No matter how simple or straightforward the project, always develop a basic brief at the start. Talk to your client about what she wants from the art piece and what role it will fulfil in her home or business.

Assess the client’s expectations
When someone commissions you for the first time, talk to her extensively about what she expects from the art piece. Be skeptical of people who tell you that they have no expectations and that you can do anything you like. Usually, clients have seen a particular style of art that you do and want something similar. Show them pieces of your work and discuss what they like the most.

Get a deposit before you start sketching
A lot of people will ask to see ideas or sketches on the piece before they commit to working with you. However, they should be able to decide whether you are a good fit for their project based on your portfolio and past experience, without asking you to work for free. It can be frustrating if you spend a long time working on a design only to have a potential client cancel the project. Before you do any creative work, get them to pay a small percentage of the quote as a financial commitment.

Show your client a sketch before you start the piece
Once the client has paid a deposit, get approval of a basic design before you start the piece. This can be as simple as a rough sketch or as detailed as a presentation with colour palette, mood boards, and finalised drawings. The important thing is to agree on the main elements of your piece before you spend a lot of effort on it. If the client is unhappy with the final result, you can refer back to this stage to justify your choices.

Don’t rely on words when talking about art
The people commissioning you will rarely be artists, so you need to illustrate what they mean when using creative terms. When they use words such as “abstract” or “modern” to describe their preferences, ask for examples of what they mean. Similarly, when you describe your ideas, don’t trust that they’ll understand your description: show them. This will ensure everyone is on the same page.

Keep them updated on progress
This doesn’t mean you have to regularly send photos of the piece, but make an effort to keep your client posted on how it’s coming along and when you plan to finish. If you are running behind schedule, be honest about it.

Don’t forget to document your work
Get good photos or videos of each piece you create. A solid portfolio is the best way to quickly convey to future clients the type of work you do and what they can expect from you.

Júlia Both is a Brazilian artist based in Melbourne. Her work explores duality and the relationships between the macro and microcosmos, inspired by plants, nebulae, sex, and dreams. For more about Júlia’s work, visit her at artofboth.com or follow her on Instagram (@artofboth).

 

Book review: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

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by Kate Shannon

Described on the cover as “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self,” Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is regarded by many as a way of life. The book, which turns twenty-five years old this year, is known as the creative person’s bible, helping us tap into our creative desires and ignite—or reignite—our artistic spark.

The Artist’s Way is presented as a twelve-week course, working through the steps of “creative recovery.” Each chapter outlines an area to address in our artistic unblocking, with exercises such as affirmations, lists, check-ins to challenge core beliefs about being an artist, and ways to override the internal censor that so often sabotages our creative pursuits.

Cameron, a prolific author, poet, playwright, and artist, shares her experiences finding her creative mojo and overcoming barriers in her creative career. She encourages readers to open themselves up to inspiration by being playful, ignoring the quest for perfection, and simply showing up.

Cameron reckons the acts of coming up with ideas, being inspired, and creativity itself, are all the influence of a higher power. References to God’s input into the creative process are peppered throughout the book, but you don’t have to be religious to find it helpful or to complete the program.

Here are a few of the key insights I took from the book:

The morning pages
The practice of writing daily “morning pages” is at the heart of The Artist’s Way, and is one part of this book that I use regularly. Every morning, you write three full pages of whatever comes to mind as a way to clear out negative, superfluous “clutter” and make room for positivity, clarity, and creativity. These pages aren’t designed to be kept or shown to anyone else, let alone published, but the idea is that if you do them daily, creative gems will eventually show up. Cameron says that she’s been doing them every day for years, and thousands of her devotees swear by them.

The artist date
Another of Cameron’s essential tools is the “artist date.” This is the act of spending an hour or two alone each week pursuing something that piques your interest. A date could be a visit to a museum, a walk around an unfamiliar neighborhood, a browse in a bookshop, or simply time collecting and arranging shells at the beach. Artist dates are designed to feed our inspiration; Cameron describes them as “assigned play” and “more mischief than mastery.”

Surround yourself with those who encourage your creative practice
Cameron encourages us to safeguard our artist within by avoiding the people in our lives who are negative influences when it comes to making art; she calls them “crazymakers.” “Do not expect your blocked friends to applaud your recovery,” she writes. “That’s like expecting your best friends from the bar to celebrate your sobriety.”

The importance of noticing
Cameron shares a lot of herself and her experiences in this book. One anecdote about her late grandmother particularly resonated with me. She tells of her grandmother’s ability to pay attention to the details of life, describing the letters her grandmother wrote detailing her surroundings, which she called “flora and fauna reports.” For example: “the roses are holding even in this heat… My Christmas cactus is getting ready…the little Shetland looks like she’ll drop her foal early.” Her grandmother noticed the beautiful details of life, even when life wasn’t so cheery.

Cameron describes her grandmother as “standing knee-deep in the flow of life and paying close attention,” and prods us to do the same, as this is where we find inspiration, connection, and sanity.

 The Artist’s Way has a knack of either strongly binding or dividing its readers. My dog-eared copy has been a constant companion on my creative journey, as well as the journeys of many, many others.

 Kate Shannon is a Brisbane-based freelance writer. She spends much of her time in the garden with her two little girls, and loves writing and learning about flowers, plants, and creative people. Follow her on Instagram at @thehanburys.

Interview with Dawn Tan, illustrator and teacher

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by Jenni Mazaraki

One of the greatest gifts that illustrator, teacher, and soapmaker Dawn Tan gives her students is the permission to make mistakes. Having taught art since she was seventeen, as well as working as an illustrator, Dawn embraces the art process as changeable. “If you make a mistake, just go for it,” she said. “Change it up a bit. See how you can do something new out of that mistake that you’ve made.”

Dawn’s “Making Space”
Dawn welcomes me into her Yarraville home in Melbourne’s inner west. We can feel it is going to be a warm day, but for the moment we are both thankful for the coolness of her kitchen and dining room.

Dawn’s studio space has a gentle filtered light. The Victorian terrace she shares with her husband, Darren, is filled with art by friends and by artists she admires—such as good friend Madeline Stamer—as well as objects collected on the couple’s travels. A recent trip to the U.S. and India has prompted new designs featuring images and patterns inspired by the American desert and India’s magical colours and spices.

The long wooden table in her dining room is where Dawn creates her illustrations. On the day I visit, the table is neatly arranged with resources for a work in progress. The watercolour painting she shows me is of her client’s grandparent’s home, which Dawn carefully paints with fine detail as a precious memory for her client.

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One of Dawn’s detailed custom house portraits

A Creative Life
Along with working as a freelance illustrator and having her work published by such clients as Frankie and Hooray magazines, Dawn teaches workshops for adults in her home, and for children as a school art teacher.

In the last six months, Dawn has also discovered a love of making handmade soaps—enticing in both looks and aroma. The packaging for her soaps bears Dawn’s signature watercolour drawings, and the scents include apple cider, Joshua tree cactus, and chai milk tea. “I started making soaps not only because I wanted soap for myself, but because I was going through quite a rough patch when I was teaching and working in my previous school,” she explained. “I found that I needed a way to relax and not think about anything else, to do something different for a change.”

In high school, Dawn had great support from teachers who recognised her natural artistic ability and encouraged her to pursue an artistic career. Her friends and family have also encouraged her to keep going with her art, in part by ordering prints and custom house portraits, buying soaps, and sharing her posts on social media. “A lot of my colleagues were amazing, super troopers, cheering me on,” said Dawn.

DawnTaninLivingRoom

Dawn in her living room

The Little Art Yurt
In June 2017, Dawn will fulfill her dream of opening her very own art school: The Little Art Yurt. “I’ve always known that I wanted to teach,” she said.

As Dawn awaits delivery of a large round tent, which will fill the entire outdoor space in her courtyard, she prepares for the school—planning, designing brochures, and adding students’ names to the ever-growing waitlist. She already has the most elegantly made aprons ready and waiting for the first class, hung on a plywood rack made by her father-in-law. The Hedley & Bennett aprons are examples of Dawn’s attention to detail: she is sensitive not only to the ways children engage with art, but also to how they feel physically while creating art. The aprons let children move freely without being hampered by stiff, bulky art smocks.

Dawn possesses a true joy of teaching, describing it as something that feeds her creativity. “I find that, especially working with children, they have this sort of crazy, fun energy about them. It makes you learn how to let go and just relax,” she said. “I see it as an exchange of knowledge. I see kids as teachers as well.”

Dawn comes from a family of teachers. “Being able to share what I love—which is art—helps me be inspired. I enjoy having conversations with people, sharing experiences, food, laughs. All these things help me create better as a maker.”

Being an Artist
At the end of each day, Dawn makes a deliberate effort to pack all of her work away onto her shelves, a method she has recently adopted. “I used to leave everything out lying on the table,” she said. “I used to have a separate table in a little corner, but then we bought this bigger table and I realised that having this big kitchen table forces me to put everything away. It actually helps me think better and work better because every day is a new fresh start.”

Dawn’s watercolour illustrations are distinctive, with their use of fineliner and watercolour. Layers of watercolour in elegant tones capture doughnuts, cakes, food, plants, houses, and packaged goods. Dawn decided a while ago that drawing people was not for her, preferring to draw inanimate objects. Her style brings the subjects she paints to life, as if we are experiencing them through her eyes. “One word that’s kept coming up over the years is ‘raw’: how my work is so raw, almost like reading through someone’s journal. I like that,” she said.

Dawn is open and honest in the way she shares her life and work online. “When you have a very personal voice—when you’re just you and when you don’t hide, when you don’t make it all look nice and fancy—I find that people actually appreciate it more,” she said. “I always wanted to be the sort of artist where there’s no hiding, so, yeah, I think I’ve achieved that.”

HeartQuote

A favourite quote

Dawn’s Tip
Dawn encourages women who want to start their own creative business, or who struggle to juggle their business with other demands, to believe in themselves. “Don’t doubt yourself,” she said. “I’ve learned over the years that if you’re going to sit there and hesitate and doubt yourself and think, ‘What if? What if?’ then it’s never going to happen. Just do it. If you fail, you fail. Dream big; go do it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

To find out more about Dawn and her work, visit her website or follow her on Instagram (@handmadelove).

Photos and podcast audio production by Jenni Mazaraki

Jenni Mazaraki is an artist, designer, writer, and podcaster who helps women tell their stories. She is particularly interested in the ways women make time and space for creativity. You can see more of Jenni’s work at localstoryspace.com, on Instagram (@localstoryspace), or on Facebook.

Taking a leap: going out on your own

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by Christina Lowry

I always wanted to be an artist. As a teenager, I had romantic notions of living in a studio surrounded by canvases, paint, red wine, and cigarettes while I suffered for my art. I lived this dream for a while when I moved out of home and undertook a Fine Art/Visual Arts degree straight out of high school. I rushed through my early foundation classes in sculpture and silver-smithing, awaiting my longed-for painting instruction. Alas, after undertaking my foundation course in painting I realised that my love of arts and passion for creating weren’t enough. I was surrounded by amazing artists, I was invisible to my lecturer, and my work was far below my expectations. I hadn’t learnt yet that comparison is the death of joy. I didn’t know not to compare my “chapter one” to someone else’s chapter twenty. I just felt a sense of failure and fear. And as a seventeen-year-old living in a world of adults, I assumed the answer was to drop out.

I’m so pleased that a friend and fellow student talked me out of such ideas, so pleased that I stuck it out. I fell in love with and majored in my next foundation area: intermedia (a mixed-media approach to fine art). Here I learnt how to become an artist: how to question, see, experiment. I was given free rein over photography equipment and a darkroom. I learnt early Photoshop and built a website, created sculptures and installations, journaled, and exhibited my work. I still didn’t know what I was going to “do” when I grew up, but I trusted that I would work it out.

To complete my degree, I needed to tick off two final classes. My financial situation had changed by this point, and studying silver-smithing became a viable option. It seemed like an enjoyable way to meet the requirements of the degree. After three years at Uni, these last two classes actually decided my future, for it was here that I found my medium and decided to become a jeweller. I fell in love with the rigidity and flexibility of metal. I was enthralled with the techniques and history of the practice. It was sculpture in miniature, designed to be worn. It was craft, art, and a trade. The day after I graduated I started applying for jewellery apprenticeships. I wanted to be a “real” jeweller, with a secure, guaranteed income as I learnt the craft, and the ability to create work and exhibit in my own time.

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Styling the jewellery

Finding an apprenticeship is no easy task. I spent the next several years working in jewellery stores as a sales assistant, getting whatever time and training I could at the jewellery bench and learning anything else I could in the process—from pearl threading to Diamond grading, gem identification to antique hall marks. I learnt sales strategies, stocktake, and stock and package ordering. I met suppliers and went to industry launches and trade fairs. I took a twelve-month jeweller vocation course at the Goldsmith school. I worked with several jewellers and finally started an apprenticeship, only to lose it when the business ran out of capital. After all this time, effort, and learning, I still wasn’t a real jeweller.

By the time I took maternity leave with my first child, I was so burnt out on the jewellery industry that I settled in to being a stay-at-home mum and didn’t touch the tools in my workshop for more than eighteen months. Eventually, I made a silver pendant as a gift for a friend. Then I made my sister a pair of earrings. Online sales platforms like Etsy and Madeit were taking off and friends suggested I sell my jewellery online. So I did, as a hobby.

With hindsight, I can join the dots, but at the time I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The thought of starting my own business hadn’t occurred to me. I thought I would return to the workforce as a jewellery sales assistant and keep trying to get an apprenticeship, chasing the elusive dream of becoming a “jeweller.” I thought receiving my apprentice certificate would remove the imposture syndrome I felt. But as I kept making and selling my jewellery, I realised that the certificate was only important to me. When people brought my pieces, they didn’t ask if I was a “real” jeweller, self-taught, or a bit of both.

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Christina behind the scenes

Change came rushing in after listening to Clare Bowditch speak at a Big-hearted Business morning tea. I had begun tossing up the possibility of selling my wares at a local craft market in a school hall, still with a hobby mindset. Clare encouraged us to get out pens and paper and write down where we wanted to be in five years’ time. For the first time, it clicked that in five years’ time I could still have a hobby—or I could own my own business. I decided to apply for that craft market! After the event I chatted with creative business owners and shared my revelation. They were pleased, but offered another revelation: don’t aim small. Find the best market around for what you want to sell, and apply for it. That day, a fire was lit inside me that still hasn’t gone out.

My hobby became a business the moment I decided to treat it like a business. I had to embrace fear and question my belief that I wasn’t the sort of person who could own a business. I applied for the Brisbane Finders Keepers market and spent the next couple months making stock and learning everything I could about business. I launched Christina Lowry Designs in November 2013 at Finder Keepers.

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Collaborating with creatives

Now in my fourth year in business, I consider myself not only a “jeweller,” but a designer, mentor, and businesswoman. Everything I have learnt, from my fine arts degree to my sales work, has been incorporated into Christina Lowry Designs. I define my own work life balance. My family is my priority. My passion and drive continues. I believe in lifelong learning. I read, listen to podcasts, collaborate with other creatives, and take courses. And every day, I am so glad I took the leap and went out on my own.

Photos by Trudi Le Brese Photography for Christina Lowry Designs

Christina Lowry is a designer and jeweller who makes fine jewellery for creatives. Her work is featured in several Australian galleries, as well as in her online store. Christina fell in love with jewellery making while studying a Bachelor of Fine Art/Visual Art. Each piece is lovingly made by hand in her Brisbane workshop, incorporating precious metals and gemstones, using traditional metalworking techniques.

Studio visit: Anna Walker, picture book author and illustrator

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by Jo Watson

Anna Walker is one of Australia’s most established and beloved picture book creators. She has published twenty-five books in a career spanning twenty years. Her newest book, Florette, has just landed in bookstores and is a beautiful meditation on how to become comfortable with change.

Florettecover

The cover of Florette, published by Penguin Random House

I met Anna in her studio, a converted shirt factory she shares with a printmaker, an interior designer, a tea importer, and a book designer. You know you’re talking to a visual thinker when she says, “I wish I could respond to your questions with a painting instead of with words.” But as you read on, I think you’ll agree that Anna’s words more than suffice!

Starting out
Anna had the good fortune of knowing what she wanted, right from the get go. “I remember looking at the illustrations in a book of fairy tales and thinking, ‘Those are so beautiful; that’s what I want to do when I grow up,’” she said. How did she turn that early inclination into a rewarding career? It was hard, she explains, and there were obstacles, but she would “try to find ways of overcoming them.” Anna is petite but possesses a stubborn determination, to which she largely credits her success.

After studying graphic design at Swinburne University (where “there were no illustration courses,” she said), Anna set up shop straight out of school. Her parents ran their own business, so working for herself felt more like a natural step than a leap of faith. Besides, she says, “I had nothing to lose.” At first, it was all design work. Whenever there wasn’t enough work, she would invent briefs for herself and treat them as real commissions. After a few years, all of her work was illustration-based. Gradually, picture-book illustration became the foundation of her business.

The importance of presentation
For illustrators still building their businesses, Anna stresses the importance of presentation and attention to detail. Small details—like a visual link between your website and your business card—matter. She also suggests finding ways to put your work in front of potential clients, both online and in hard copy. This might mean incorporating an illustrated element into your email signature, or sending out postcards, bespoke holiday cards, or, occasionally, original artworks. “People don’t get that kind of thing very often,” she said, “and they appreciate it.”

Studio Lounge

The studio lounge area

Giving work space and time
Anna and her character Mae in Florette have something in common. They like to be immersed in an environment that is beautiful and familiar. While Anna’s studio retains the exposed brick and pipework of its industrial heritage, she has transformed it into a bright, welcoming space. It feels like a loft, though it is actually a basement.

Anna at her desk

Anna at her desk

Her desk looks out through an arched window at street level. She enjoys watching the passing foot traffic, including a Greek neighbor who always bends down to wave hello and children who look through her window.

“I’ve always shared a studio,” she said. “I go a bit crazy working by myself at home.” Having others around provides moral support and an exchange of ideas, both vital to a happy work life. And from a business perspective, having to meet an overhead (rent) pushes you to find work.

Just as important as environment is time. Anna devotes a year to each book, a pace that allows her to let the work develop fully, take on select commissions to subsidize her picture-book work, and be present for her three teenage children.

Personal style
Anna uses a variety of techniques in her work, including collage, woodblock printing, etching, watercolour, and ink. She’ll sometimes redo an illustration twelve times before she feels it’s right. Regardless of the method, her illustrations always seem to strike the perfect harmony between detail and simplicity.

Anna suggests not worrying too much about developing a personal style.  “It was years before people started saying, ‘I recognize your work,’” she said. “You can’t have a style until you’ve got a volume of work behind you. Just do the work.”

The power of knitting
Like many creatives, Anna references self-doubt as one of her biggest challenges. She tempers those unhelpful thoughts by running three times a week, sharing a studio, keeping in touch with other illustrators, and…knitting. Anna knows she’s bringing too much work anxiety home when her husband says, “Now, where’s your knitting?”

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Anna collects her ideas in a (tiny) visual diary.

I asked Anna what she does with her ideas-in-waiting: ideas she’s had but hasn’t had the chance to use. Her response was golden. She thinks of ideas as little scraps of fabric. A book is like a sewing project: you assemble the bits you need, make a start, and keep going until it’s finished. “You don’t need to feel badly [about the ideas that] haven’t been used yet,” she said. “They’re just waiting there, ready to make the next thing.”

Meeting business challenges
For many illustrators, the biggest challenge is making a living. “Getting your folio out there and meeting with publishers is important,” she said. “When things are quiet, you worry about when the next job will come in. But that’s when it comes back to sending out postcards, freshening up your website, reminding people you’re here. If your focus is book illustration, joining the Australian Society of Authors is a must.”

Certain things, like cold calling and quoting, never get easier. Anna doesn’t have to do the former as much these days, but her motto when something’s difficult is: do it anyway. She suggests viewing cold calling, networking, or whatever “thing” you find difficult as just one part of your business.

If you’re not sure how much to charge for a job, Anna suggests talking to other illustrators. Take into consideration how the artwork is going to be used. Is it for one product, or multiple products? Will it be used locally, or globally? Also consider the duration of the usage license. Is it for one month? One year? In perpetuity?  “I don’t part with copyright for anybody,” she said. There’s a way to give the client what they need and protect yourself. As she explains, “An exclusive license has just as much weight as copyright.” Don’t be afraid to request amendments to your contract.

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Cut-paper backdrop to be used an animated book trailer for Florette

What’s next?
“I’m working on a book with Janie [Godwin, a long-time collaborator],” Anna explained, “and I’m also working on my own story about a walrus.” Anna often starts a project by crafting her character in toy form. She showed me a loosely stitched walrus plushy. “So far, that’s what I’ve got,” she laughed. Recently, the final step on her projects has become creating a book trailer using stop-motion animation.

“I’ve always believed in the picture book as an art form,” she said. “It’s important to me that every aspect is crafted to be the best it can be.”

For more about Anna Walker, visit annawalker.com.au.

 Jo Watson is a Melbourne-based screenwriter and artist. Visit her on Instagram (@diaryofapicturebookmaker).

 Photos by Jo Watson

 

What is (creative) leadership?

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by Kim Goodwin

Discussions of leadership are all around us. Business titans and sportsmen offer up the secrets of leadership in countless “how-to” books lining the walls of airport bookstores, yet we hear less about creative leadership. We’re more likely to see a leadership book written by the captain of the Australian cricket team than by the director of a blockbuster film. Personally, I don’t think we give creative leaders the respect they deserve.

Have you ever stopped to ask: what actually is leadership?

We are told by employers and business coaches that we all should aspire to be leaders, but there’s actually very little agreement as to what leadership is. In 1994, one researcher wrote that more than seven thousand academic articles had been written on leadership. Even with all these words, no definitive definition has been agreed upon, then or since.

Different perspectives of leadership
For some, leadership relates to hierarchy: those in management and in positions of authority or seniority. In art and culture, we often look toward artistic directors, gallery heads, CEOs, and general managers of our large institutions as examples of community leaders. But leadership is not management. The operational running of an enterprise is an exercise in the coordination of resources and administration; it’s not leadership, which is removed from day-to-day operations.

Theoretically, what constitutes leadership has changed over time. At first, leadership was considered an innate set of qualities identified in a lucky few. This was known as the “great man theory,” for obvious reasons. While the “leaders are born, not made” argument seems easy to dismiss, it has recently returned to popularity, with studies linking leadership to physical characteristics, such as height. Some have even claimed to uncover a “leadership gene.”

In the 1950s, focus shifted to understanding what leaders do. Leadership became a set of behaviours that could be learned and applied. We all could be leaders if we developed the right skills—a view still prevalent in the world of leadership development today. Unfortunately, this approach often neglects the environment in which leaders operate. In response, research began to consider the context, or situation, in which leadership occurs. In all these theories, leadership is embodied within an individual, with a strong focus (particularly since the 1990s) on characteristics such as charisma.

In more recent decades, however, there has been a shift to consider leadership as a more holistic concept. A widely shared TED talk by Derek Sivers, called “How to Start a Movement,” highlights the crucial role of the first follower. Critics of traditional leadership theory tell us that what we call “leadership” neglects the incredibly important role of followers. Leadership is not embodied in one man (or woman), but is a process that occurs between people. Without followers, there is no leadership.

For most of us, particularly anyone working in the creative sector, where, according to the 2011 Australian Census, more than 90 percent of people work in businesses of less than twenty employees, leadership can be something else entirely. Leadership in the creative sector is often what is known as distributed, or relational. It is a fluid process that exists in networked groups, which come together to achieve shared goals through collaborative processes. It doesn’t relate to job titles or pay grades, but emerges within a group to guide the team as needed at a particular moment, and may change from person to person as required.

Is creative leadership different than “regular” leadership?
Discussion of creative leadership has echoed the development of leadership theory in many ways. Leadership in the creative sector has been studied predominantly from the organisational perspective, examining the intersection of the artistic and the administrative in large arts companies or institutions.

In today’s knowledge-driven economy, however, where companies aspire to be the next Apple, creativity and innovation are seen as “silver bullets,” leading many in the business world to examine creative leaders with renewed focus. Orchestra conductors, for example, with their ability to bring seventy musicians together into a single, cohesive musical unit, are seen as leadership role models by many. And theatre directors, who enlist diverse talents to construct and communicate a shared vision, are identified as great un-lockers of creative potential.

Leadership and creativity are similar in that they were both originally thought to be individual qualities. As in the “great man” theory of the past, creativity—or talent—was seen as a “gift” bestowed on a lucky few. We now know that creativity and leadership both emerge as processes between individuals, and can be fostered and shared.

For many, leadership has always been linked to the achievement of defined goals. But for a creative individual or organisation, goals might be harder to quantify than for a bank or retail organisation. Creative leadership is not as simple as breaking even, or delivering a return to shareholders. Leadership in the cultural sphere is, as Sydney Festival Director Wesley Enoch writes, “…creating space for opposing voices, about imaging a future, exploring the repercussions of our values and promulgating public debate through the work we make and the relationships we create.” (Source: “Take Me to Your Leader: the dilemma of cultural leadership,” issue 40 of Platform Papers).

Creative leadership is about more than meeting performance goals. It is about imagining a future for our communities, and bringing people together to communicate those visions. This is what makes creative leadership such an exciting concept.

What does this mean for you as a creative practitioner? When someone asks if you are a leader, do not measure yourself against an idealised, organisational version of leadership. Consider instead your vision and the ways you are achieving it in partnership with others. This is what makes you a leader.

 Kim Goodwin is an academic researcher and arts manager with a background in leadership, human resources, and career development. Since leaving her corporate career, Kim has focussed on building understanding in how creative leaders are developed while working in a variety of arts organisations and academic environments. She can be found on LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter (@KimAroundTown).

Allow creativity to fill the vacant spaces in your life

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by Bronya Wilkins

In my creativity coaching practice at Creative Cocoon, I’ve found that although most clients come to me for help with larger creativity projects, they often report the most significant positive change from our work integrating creativity into their everyday lives. Integrating creativity into their everyday lives—huh? What does that even mean?

Many people use the term “everyday creativity” to describe the creative thinking involved in solving everyday problems, such as using a paper clip to poke out the SIM card in your phone. I prefer to use it to refer to integrating creative and artistic thinking and expression into our daily activities, something I call micro-creativity.


What is micro-creativity?
In my definition, micro-creativity refers to small, self-contained creative or expressive activities that you perform in your daily life. The main purpose of micro-creativity is to strengthen your creative habits without the anxiety often associated with larger projects. You can also think of it as creativity for creativity’s sake. Here are some examples:

  • Whilst waiting for your son to get out of school, you people-watch and imagine their backstories and personalities.
  • On your morning tram ride, you write short poems to express your current state of mind.
  • During lunch breaks, you wander the streets and take photos of details that catch your eye.


Benefits of micro-creativity
You can’t substitute all of your downtime with micro-creativity; your brain would fatigue. But sacrificing just a small chunk of mental “lazy time” each day can, I believe, result in many benefits, including:

  • Increased creative problem solving. Tapping into your creativity at random times strengthens the connection between your logical and creative minds, which helps with problem solving in your work, creative, and personal lives.
  • Increased self-awareness. The more you interact with your creativity, the better you understand and appreciate its existence, warts and all. Building a stronger relationship with your creativity can benefit your creative process and help you develop your sense of self.
  • Increased confidence. The more you practice, the better you become. By improving skills, you gain confidence and a sense of capability in your creative life.
  • Increased wellbeing. Creative self-expression without boundaries, deadlines, or judgment can help you work through personal issues and channel emotions (although self-guided creative therapy is no substitute for professional help).
  • Increased discipline. Practicing daily micro-creativity gets you into the habit of regular creative expression, which can help reduce anxiety (and procrastination) around your larger creative projects.
  • Increased observation skills. Micro-creativity can help improve your observational skills, which are key for creative thinking and expression.


When and how to micro-create
You can micro-create whenever you have mental downtime, which means whenever your full attention is not focused on another task. Some examples include:

  • Waiting in queues
  • Riding public transport or as a passenger in a car
  • Walking
  • Taking lunch breaks
  • Swimming laps or running on a treadmill
  • Cleaning
  • Showering or bathing
  • Waiting on hold on the phone
  • Resting

Micro-creativity activities are limited only by your imagination. Some examples are listed below, but be creative and make up some of your own.

  • Take photos of interesting details.
  • Write a poem.
  • Write stream of consciousness.
  • Draw or photograph self portraits over multiple days.
  • Watch people and make up their backstories.
  • Tune into your senses and record what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
  • Play a word game, such as a rhyming game.
  • Doodle mindlessly or draw patterns.
  • Record a voice memo of your observations or thoughts (as if you were a private detective).
  • Imagine life from someone else’s perspective. What are they experiencing in that moment?
  • Write a letter to your future self, then reply as the future self back to your present self.
  • With headphones on, listen to music and imagine what the music would look like if it were a painting.


Conditions
In order for your exercises to count as micro-creativity, you need to meet the following conditions:

  • Don’t think, just do. Don’t overthink the activity. Tune into “doing” mode (rather than “thinking” mode) for the duration of the activity.
  • Minimise judgment and pressure. Put your inner critic aside and accept whatever comes out as part of the process. There is no “good” or “bad.” To help, imagine a child has done the exercise. You wouldn’t judge her on the final work; you would simply be proud of her for putting in the effort.
  • Choose your content. Work with content unrelated to your current projects to reduce the risk of anxiety. After a while, you’ll be surprised how often random creative exercises turn into something bigger or link back to a larger project.
  • Keep it quick and dirty. Limit your exercises to between five and fifteen minutes. Any longer and your inner critic will step in. If it helps, set a timer. Remember, it’s the process that counts, not the result.
  • Commit. Commit to at least one activity a day, even when you don’t feel like it. Routine and persistence bring the longer-term creative benefits. Think of it like brushing your teeth. If it helps, decide on a regular time and set a phone alert or calendar entry.
  • Minimise distractions. Try to minimise distractions whenever possible.
  • Enjoy yourself. The more you enjoy an activity, the more likely you are to continue doing it. Choose exercises that are meaningful, fun, and enjoyable.
  • Change it up. Be creative and choose different activities from day to day. The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.


Additional resources
If you’d like to read more about integrating creativity into your everyday life, I recommend the following books:

  • Just Do Something, by Mykel Dixon
  • The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp
  • How to Be an Explorer of the World, by Kerri Smith
  • The Creativity Challenge, by Tanner Christensen
  • Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 

Bronya Wilkins is a creativity coach and founder of Creative Cocoon, a coaching practice dedicated to helping people connect with their creativity to increase wellbeing and life fulfilment. Bronya is passionate about psychology, self-development, and creative expression. Some of her creative hobbies include dance, graphic design, music composition, and photography. For more about Bronya and Creative Cocoon, visit her website and Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.