Helen: Catching Creativity

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When did you start making art?

My mom was my first art teacher. She taught art for 40 years, just retired last summer. I started making art with her. There are things she taught me at home and in the classroom that I still use today.  

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Then, I majored in art in college. Afterwards, I decided to get my masters in teaching and hoped to teach art someday like my mom. But, I didn’t make art again for many years.

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What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I guess it’s the best way I have to share myself with the world. Each piece comes from a place within. They tend to turn out bright, and I think that’s because I’m a pretty happy person most of the time. I love color. 

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I don’t usually I have a plan when I start a piece. They come to life on their own. Each communicates a different part of me and reflects where I am when I made it and what I’m going through. 

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What’s something you can’t live without in your studio?

Probably my rolling cart where I put my palette while I paint.  I stand while I paint and it’s not tall enough for me, so I have to bend over just far enough to mix my paint that my back hurts after a while. I know I should probably buy a new one, but I got it years ago at a thrift store and someone painted little blue swirls on the sides. I can’t let it go. 

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How do you know when a piece is finished?

I guess when I can walk away from it and feel confident showing it to others. There is also a sense of “Ok, we’re done here … you and I have had our time, and we’ve both said what we need to say.”

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What does “being creative” mean to you? 

I guess it means letting go and letting the universe, or whatever your inner being is, flow through you. 

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Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, talks about creativity almost being like something you have to catch. 

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She describes art as something that’s flowing to you like the wind. And if you don’t use the idea, it’ll move on to someone else. 

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So in that sense, I think claiming creativity as your own isn’t really authentic. It all comes from the same source, it’s just looking for someone to express it. 

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When did you realize creating art was something you absolutely had to make time for? 

I started making art again about 5 years ago. It sounds cliche to say it now, but it really saved my life. I had lost myself and needed to find my way back. I worked through The Artist Way (TAW) with a wonderful book group and found my creative voice. I never looked back. 

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I make art now because I have to. Because it reminds me of who I am. Before that, I used a lot of other things—relationships, alcohol, etc.—to fill a void. I didn’t realize I was searching for something to fill this void, or that I even had one, until I connected with others going through the same thing.

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I understood that everyone has this void, and we all need to fill it. The thing I’m learning now is that the void continues to empty. You have to fill it with something of substance regularly, or the void takes over.

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Do you have any rituals to help get the creative juices flowing? 

I try every weekday morning to either meditate (I use the app “10% Happier,” I highly recommend it—my mom told me about it!) or write three pages of stream of consciousness (an exercise from TAW called “the morning pages”) to get my brain going. I wake about half an hour early every morning to fit this in. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s been the most consistent thing in my creative practice for years.

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Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet? 

I’d love to make jewelry some day. My aunt makes beautiful jewelry. I’ve always been inspired by her and would love to try it myself. 

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Is there an artwork you’re most proud of? 

Probably my piece “Movement.” I painted it after a long period of creating pieces that were uncomfortable and just awkward to me. I was also going through a lot of changes in my personal life—my grandmother had just died, I had just moved in with my now fiance, and I had just started a new job. 

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“Movement” was actually several pieces before its final composition.  Painting it felt like I was coming back to myself and returning to my voice as an artist. 

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What’s the best advice you’ve been given about creating art? 

Start before you’re ready. If you wait, you’ll overthink it. The fear of starting is much worse than the feeling of disliking your work. 

 See more of Helen’s work online at HelenElizabethArt.com

Follow her on IG @helenelizabeth_art

Check out our first post about Helen from last week!

Book | The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Book | Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Next Friday you’ll meet Haley Queen. She’s going to talk about her path to a healthy plant-based diet, what’s in her pantry—and—she’s making a very delicious vegan meal for my very meat-loving partner, Brandon. Stay tuned! 

Stay updated with Tom Priss when you click the follow button. Updates of new posts will be sent straight to your inbox. 

Cheers, friends! ❤

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