I mentioned at the end of my last post that I would be writing about “my creative life”. So I thought I would fill you in on the story of my (very short!) creative life to date. Some of you might think I have always been a painter, so the following may surprise you …
This photo shows me at kindergarten, aged about 4, painting a glorious creation! In all honesty, up until recent times, that was the last time I can recall immersing myself in painting or drawing or any kind of artistic endeavor. Yes, I have expressed my creative self in some ways through my business experience, whether through dreaming up a marketing campaign for a brand (I held various marketing/ management roles in a number of big companies in my career) or a new store concept for my own fashion business. But I never really knew I had any kind of artistic talent, at all. Somewhere along the way I must have shut it down, considering it “babyish” or frivolous, and that I really wasn’t any good at it. Along with many other children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we were actively encouraged to choose our careers in vocations that would “make money”, and art was certainly not considered to be one of those!
So, this time two years ago, if you had asked me could I draw or paint, I would have been very certain that I could not! Art was definitely not my thing. Business was my thing, and in my mind, the two did not go together!
When I started my own business in 2006, a series of fashion boutiques called pink zebra, I dedicated the first store to Martha, because she so inspired me with her courage in battling her breast cancer. We also both had a shared love of retail, so it seemed fitting that I associated Martha with our first, and always most successful store. I went on to open a further four stores in Melbourne and Sydney, and Martha flew down from Noosa to help us set up a few of them over the years. By 2011, the fashion retail environment had become very challenging, and Martha’s health took took a turn for the worse. In a bizarre (and very sad!) synchronicity, I made the decision to close down pink zebra (just writing that SO does not cover the sadness I felt about doing that) on December 6 and the following day, Martha passed away. (And yes, at that point, my head nearly caved in!)
Early the following year, as I battled through a haze of grief, I decided to do a course about colour and design. I had always loved colour, and felt the course might somehow help me with my online cashmere business, which was all that remained of my beloved pink zebra. I did not think it was an “art course”. I probably would not have enrolled if I did! When I went along to the information night, I took a notebook of Martha’s with me, and sat there feeling her with me, willing myself not to cry. I don’t even know why I was so emotional. I just knew I had to do that course! So I signed up, and this very week two years ago, I started the course. I had bought the paints you needed for the course, and had a little play at home with them. This was my first painting and I was quite pleased with it!
But I still did not really think I could paint, let alone draw. I just knew I liked doing it, and felt like Martha was punching the air up there in heaven every time I did. Martha had always been creative, and painted and drew all of her life. She so loved her art!
In the weeks that followed in the course, we learned about the theory of colour, and how you blend colours, and painted endless colour chips, exploring how it all came together. I kept playing with those paints at home, loving it, but still I did not think I was a “creative” person.
In August, we were required to bring in a natural object to draw. “This will be interesting”, I thought, “since I can’t draw!” As we commenced the project that day, I announced to the lovely women at my table, “I so can not draw. This is so not my thing! Oh well, you can’t be good at everything!” All I managed to put on my page was a lopsided outline of a butterfly, which was the object I had decided to draw. My brother Luke had given me a butterfly in a little glass case for Christmas, because we both loved that butterflies were the symbol of transformation, and I had always drawn (poorly!) butterflies for his beautiful middle daughter, Ziggy, when I visited them in New York over the years. “Bu’fly! Bu’fly!”, Zig would always demand of me. And I would oblige with flowers and butterflies drawn with her crayons.
So I took home my butterfly that day to draw. “This is tragic”, I thought, “but I’ll give it a go”. From the beginning, whenever I painted, I put music in my ears, from my iphone, to block out any distractions. So I sat there, put music in my ears and … drew! You can imagine my shock when I managed to complete this drawing!! Seriously, I had not known of ANY artistic talent in me, and this was my first drawing! Oh my God! I can draw!!
I then coloured it and the following week, went on to paint my first “real” painting for class, “Martha’s Garden”. At this point I accepted that maybe I actually could paint and draw!
Since then I have gone on to paint or draw on a consistent basis. I love it! And the reason I am telling my story is because I think EVERYONE has creative talents inside them – whether painting, drawing, writing, sculpting, dancing, making music, whatever! We just have to give ourselves permission to explore them and cultivate them. Hopefully not everyone needs their head knocked off to unlock the creative being within, like I did! But I do love my story because it has, as Lou would say, “a touch of the miraculous”. The most exciting thing is to find whatever is in the surprise package that is inside you. I don’t believe there is anyone who is not a “creative person”.
And I’m excited that since my last post I have taken another step towards my future creative life, by booking a trip to New York, to go to Surtex, the biggest trade fair in North America for the business of art and design! I leave next week and will be attending the conference there, to learn all about this new world to me. It is being held in the same convention centre where I used to attend trade fairs when buying for pink zebra stores, so between that, available flights on frequent flyer points, and free accommodation at Luke’s house, I feel like it is meant to be!
So wish me luck on my new adventure. Just researching at this stage, but I feel like I’m headed in the right direction and will be returning with a head full of ideas to be put into action at some future point – watch this space!