I believe I met Sue Ann Gleason through Jen Lee's Indie Kindred Creative Community some time ago...no matter the when or the where, Sue Ann is just an amazing human being, and I am grateful to know her. Someday I will actually create and enjoy a meal with her! I have already, though, taken part in her "Food for the Soul Collage" call/workshop in the past, and absolutely love making collages inspired by chocolate. What an experience.
Sue Ann has An Introduction to SoulCollage® as a Nourishment Practice coming up on Sunday, December 11, and I hope you'll join me in her call/workshop! I have found SoulCollage a very intuitive way of answering my own question: "If I am the answer to my questions, what do I want/who am I at my core?" Her process is a powerful way of connecting with those things. I hope you'll give it a try, for sure!
What does Creativity mean to you?
Expression. Pure expression. For a long time I thought you had to earn the title ‘creative.’ Then, I discovered you ‘choose’ it. Now it feels more like a lens through which I view the world.
How do you expand yourself creatively?
I try to stay engaged with the creative process in some form every single day. Cooking is an easy one for me because I love playing in the kitchen. I try to stretch myself, too, by engaging in courses, online and off, where I dabble in artistic endeavors that take me out of my comfort zone. I am convinced that playing with paint or collage, our cameras, or any medium that takes us out of our heads and into our hands is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
My father was a design draftsman, technical illustrator by day and a watercolor artist in his free time. As a child I was enamored with his art. It was like watching magic wash over a page. He spent hours with me at the dining room table introducing me to his tools (like the gum eraser!) or showing me how to embellish my science projects and then taking great care to wrap my projects in layers of cardboard and tape so that they wouldn’t get marred on the way to school. When I look back on those experiences now, I am convinced my love of beauty and the care I take with my art, comes directly from him.
What inspires you most?
Artists and makers and writers inspire me. I’m still that little girl watching magic wash over a page.
Do you have any gratefulness practices?
I keep a gratitude journal. One year I made it public, a 365 Days of Gratitude process where I posted my gratitude in photos each day on Facebook. I remember sharing a lot about my dad in those posts and my Facebook friends grew to love him through those slices and snippets. When he passed away in June of 2014 I received hundreds of messages from people who told me how much affection they felt for this man who they had never even met. One woman even placed a bouquet of flowers on a cliff in Hawaii to honor him.
How do you care for yourself to ensure you’re available when ideas present themselves?
'Care of self' is very important to me. For many years I had an all-work-no-play persona and even though my work involved creativity (inspiring and igniting the creativity in children), I spent very little time on my own creative endeavors. My health suffered for that. I’m doing things differently today. I’m taking time to play.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
I weave them together wherever I can. I arrange the food on my plate in an artful way. I keep two or three art journals open on my desk at all times so that I am motivated to finish up the less appealing tasks that are involved in running my business, like bookkeeping for example. And then, I make a collage or I complete a spread in my art journal just for fun. For me, art is a self-care practice.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them, or push through?
This is such an interesting question. I don’t think I have creative dry spells. Perhaps because I dabble in so many forms. One form becomes a portal for another. For example, this morning I was feeling somewhat anxious. I didn’t know where the anxiety was coming from exactly so I just started pulling images from my stack of magazine clippings to create a collage. Pretty soon I found myself writing a blog post titled, What Keeps Me Up At Night? The images tapped into a place in my psyche that needed to be expressed. The reverse it true, too. Sometimes my writing calls me to look at the world differently and I find myself taking photographs or using an app to create images that deepen or enhance the writing experience.
Has your work ever been copied? If so, how did you deal with it?
Ugh, yes. This wasn’t a piece of art; it was a course I created. Someone engaged in one of my courses and pretty much took the idea and made it her own. The thing is, the concept fit her brand and her work beautifully and I would have applauded that had she opened a conversation with me and said, “Hey, I would like to use your concept to create a similar program with a nod to you for the inspiration.” Suffice it to say that didn’t happen. I handled it graciously. Some may think, too graciously, that I should have expressed my dismay. I try to learn from situations like this. I now have a much more explicit intellectual property clause on my course materials.
How important is self-compassion to your creative process?
Very important. It is so easy to fall into the comparison trap. I see art as an opportunity to cultivate compassion toward self. I’ll never forget my first introduction to intuitive painting. I enrolled in an online course with Flora Bowley. There was a private Facebook group where we could share our process and our art. I was having a ball splashing paint on my very BIG canvases with not a care in the world for what they looked like; I just loved getting my hands in the process. And then … I saw what others were posting in our Facebook group. Oh my. The art was incredible. I could have been very intimidated by that but I chose to be enamored and enchanted instead. I kept splashing paint on my canvases. I took photos of ‘pieces’ of my art, small sections that tickled me, all the while drinking up the beauty that my peers posted. For me, this was a lesson in self-compassion.
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
My strongest mediums are food, photography (most recently iPhonography), and the written word. I am trying to expand my definition of creativity to include how I view the world and how I interact with it, and in it. I love this quote by Ansel Adams: “You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” I like to think that everything I create has a narrative attached to it and I am here to discover it.
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
Mostly I like to work alone. Occasionally I enjoy a delicious collaboration but I choose those with great care.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity, or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
About a year ago my study/office space was completely dismantled because we were pulling out our carpets and installing wood floors. My books were in boxes but my art supplies remained out. Pretty soon my office space started looking more like a studio than a study. When I put that room back together again I kept the art supplies front and center. That way I can play whenever inspiration strikes.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
This is such an interesting question. In 2011 I opened up a Chocolate for Breakfast Facebook fan page to build a platform for a book I was writing. The page flourished and in two years I had over 20,000 fans. Then, Facebook changed its algorithm and my reach dropped considerably. It no longer felt like a good use of my time and I had no interest in the ‘pay to play’ concept so I stepped away from that endeavor and placed my energy in my newsletter and in my blog. The Facebook page pretty much runs itself now. I pop in there from time to time to post something of interest but I use social media primarily for connection and to be inspired. It’s my happy place. When I have a program launching I am sure to share that but I don’t want my social media spaces to become a billboard for my business.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Meissner (textile artist) in the context of my Luscious Legacy Project. Our conversation encompassed legacy and art and writing and nourishment. At one point she said this:
"I think a big part of creating is being patient [...] to just let the answers come. And they will come, so you have to be ready. They aren’t going to be the answers you thought you were looking for either, but you still have to listen to the muse. She will land on your shoulder and whisper in your ear, and then you have to act or she might not come again." I think this is, indeed, the best advice I've been given to date.
Do you have any favourite books?
I have sooooooo many favorite books! Here are just a few that come to mind:
Fiction: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. My favorite line from that book: "How about peaches dear?" murmurs Madame Manec, and Marie-Laure can hear a can opening, juice slopping into a bowl. Seconds later, she's eating wedges of wet sunlight."
Memoir: Stir by Jessica Fechtor. I love a good foodie memoir and this one was so much more. It was a story of courage and resilience and illness and recovery and being fed on so many levels. I’m ready to read it again.
Humor: Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White. This is an old one but I’ll never forget my first encounter with this book. I was reading it on a plane and laughing out loud throughout it. (I couldn't help myself.) When I stood up to disembark people followed me into the terminal to ask me what I was reading.
Helpful: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I can’t say I’ve implemented all of her suggestions (please don't ask me to part with my books!) but it was a delightful read.
Poetry: Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda
Any questions I did not ask, that you would like to answer?
Yes, I really do eat chocolate for breakfast.
Do you have any upcoming projects/collections to share?
The project I am most passionate about at the moment is my Luscious Legacy Project.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
Where can we find your art?