Friday, July 22, 2011

The Creative Beast Interview - Cathy of "Tinniegirl"

Hello dear blog readers! I'm excited to share a new interview with a wonderful artist and fellow blogger...
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Interview with Cathy of Tinniegirl

Let me tell you about how I met Cathy also known as Tinniegirl. We had each signed up to participate in the Artful Journey Retreat scheduled to take place in February 2010. I found Cathy in the retreat yahoo group and thought I'd peek at her blog. I was intrigued that someone was coming all the way from Australia to be at the retreat and the name "Tinniegirl" was equally intriguing. As I read her blog, I realized that we had quite a bit in common, being crafters/artists of more than one medium.

We began to comment on each others blogs, then I participated in her fabulous month long event "Blogtoberfest" which was great fun! After that, we would send encouraging emails to one another and before long, we met in person at the Artful Journey Retreat...

The Creative Beast and Tinniegirl together on the same continent!

I've been following her adventures since our time at the retreat and watched as she struggled to start a new life as an artist. I witnessed her triumphs as she launched one gallery show after another and then got her bright and colorful work published in one of Patti Digh's books. Her blog posts are wonderful and thoughtful and it always amazes me how she manages to voice thoughts and feelings that I am often experiencing at the EXACT same time, though I'm half a world away...it's a great reminder that we are more connected than we realize!

I'm so happy that Cathy took some time from her schedule to be interviewed here today. Thank you and Welcome Cathy!

Cathy aka Tinniegirl posed in front of one her wonderful and colorful paintings

Who first introduced you to creating? Was it a family member - a teacher? How did that person influence you?


I come from a family of creative women.  My Grandmother and Mum introduced me to creating and really influenced me to become creative myself.  Both of them were always making something, sometimes for the sake of being creative, other times for necessity.  I think my Gran mostly created out of practicality and necessity, but my Mum just enjoyed the process of being creative I think.  Being around these creative people all the time was the main way that I was influenced to become creative.  Watching these two women who I loved being creative made me want to join in and connect with them in this way.  They also really encouraged me to give things a try and to pursue creative interests.

The women in my family were also sewers, from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mother, though it was my grandmother who taught me my sewing and knitting skills. My mother is also good at home decor and she has a way of mixing colors together that I envy!

What were your first creative actions that you remember? (Sewing, Dancing, Painting, etc?)

I was really into sewing and textiles when I was younger.  When I was really young I used to love making dress-ups and dolls clothes, and also knitting.  Both my Gran and Mum were big knitters so I think that’s what inspired me there.  As a teenager I used to make my own clothes a lot.  I’d be going to a disco on a Saturday evening and I’d decide on Saturday afternoon that I had to make something new to wear that night and there would be no stopping me. 

I loved to make my dolls and their clothes which is probably why I eventually fell into fashion design and pattern drafting, but I can't say I made a garment in the morning and wore it that night! That is quite an accomplishment Cathy!

Do you have a favorite medium to create in? If so, what is it?

Acrylic paint is absolutely my favourite medium to work with. I love the vibrancy of colour and the way it looks when dry.  I also really like working with some of the mediums that go well with acrylics like moulding paste and gels. 

Cathy's love of paint is strong as evidenced by this photo by her...

How do you feel when you are creating in your chosen medium?

I don’t know if it will make sense to people, but the strongest feeling I have when I’m painting is of being really present. I find it really meditative because it’s one time when I can really be in the moment and not think about anything else.  Sometimes I feel relaxed and at peace, other times I’ll be buzzing with energy and ideas, but the overwhelming feeling is of just being really connected to that moment in time, whatever I’m feeling.  It’s the best feeling.

I hear you Cathy - it's like being in "flow" mode when doing creative work. Time somehow feels suspended...

What is the greatest joy you derive from creating? Accomplishment? The process? Sharing it with others? Please explain…

I think my answer directly above pinpoints the greatest joy I get from creating.  That connection with the moment is really profound.  I guess it’s about process.  The process of creating is where my heart feels most drawn to.

However, sharing my work has become an important part of my process and being recognised through sale of work, awards, publications is really thrilling.

Do you think a creative life comes from ideas, doing or being?

I think the answer to that question is individual to everyone.  For me it is a combination of all three.  I have to say though that it has been the ‘doing’ which has given my life a sense of wholeness.  For a long time I dreamed of being creative and was full of great ideas, but it was when I started to really do something with them that I felt like I had found my way.

How do you express your creative life? Is it integrated in your daily life or is it a separate part of your life?

Creativity is very much integrated into my daily life. I journal almost every day, a practise that I committed to after ready ‘The Artist Way’ by Julia Cameron.  It’s a really important part of my day.  I also publish my blog, a creative part of my life that is very important to me.  I love blogging because it combines my loves of art, writing and storytelling.

I also paint regularly, sometimes daily.  Over the last couple of years I’ve started to get up earlier than I need to for work so that I have time for me each and every day.  I’ll often do a tiny bit of painting before I get ready for work and this really helps to remind me that I’m an artist at heart.

an image from Cathy's new studio in her new home

I agree that taking time every morning to do your own creative work really helps ones well-being and it's a great way to honor that important part of your Self. 

Can you think of a time when someone else’s creativity fed you? What was that like?

I’m not quite sure what you’re asking in this question.  If you mean is there a time where I was inspired by other people’s creativity, then I would answer constantly.  There is so much inspiration to tap into via other creative people and thanks to the internet it’s so easy to do now.

Sometimes though I find it good to turn off the inspiration tap and just be in your own creative space, let your own ideas evolve and develop.

Yes, there are MANY creative souls to be inspired by on the internet and you are certainly one of them Cathy! But I have to say sometimes it can be overwhelming to see so much creative food for thought and I find I have to strike a balance between looking for inspiration within and without...

What is the most significant creative event in your life to date? Was it a defining moment? Was it a milestone or a lifetime goal?


Being shortlisted for an art award for my painting ‘Amongst It’ has been the most significant creative event in my life so far.  There have been so many great things that have happened for me creatively over the past 2 years – exhibiting and selling my work, being published, being commissioned – but to have my work stand against so many talented, experienced and accomplished artists and to be in the top 10 really blew me away.  It helped me to see myself as a successful and recognised artist and to know that there was a lot of potential for my future.  It also helped to define the direction I want to head in, which is to focus on exhibiting and selling original work.

 "Amongst It" - Original painting by Cathy

How do you feel about working a ‘day job’? Do you feel your day job is in alignment with your life and your values? If not, does that matter to you?

That’s a tough question – how do I feel about working a day job.  It’s a mixed blessing.  On one hand it means you have plenty of money to play with but at the same time it means a whole lot less time.  I’m working full time at the moment, which is not an ideal balance.  I’d prefer to work 3 or 4 days a week to cover expenses and leave time for creative pursuits.  Hopefully in the next 12 months – 2 years I’ll be able to do that.

Working a day job does create opportunities though.  It takes the pressure off you to make enough money from your art to pay the bills and in that way let’s you really explore your creativity and develop your style.  For me it also means that I have funds to purchase new materials, experiment with different mediums, take courses and workshops.  All these things are part of what feed my creativity so it’s really important for me to be able to access these sources of inspiration.

In terms of the particular ‘day job’ I work I am not that concerned about the alignment with my life and values.  I wouldn’t work at something that was in opposition to my values, but what’s important to me is that the conditions are right to support my life and creative life.  So things like location (close to home), flexibility of hours, good salary and conditions are the key things for me. Ideally, I want to be able to do work that is interesting and engaging, but I know that my heart is elsewhere at the moment so I’m probably not going to be fully engaged in the ‘day-job’ for now.

I agree that job location, hours, salary and environment are very important for anyone working a day job, regardless of being an artist. I know for myself, if I do return to a day job, I'd like a job that was closely aligned with my values of helping others in creative ways and empowering them, which is something I also hope to do with my own artwork and creativity...

Do you think it’s necessary/important to be a self-sustaining artist?

Again, I think that this is something that each person has to answer for themselves.  For me, it’s a resounding YES!  I absolutely want to make a sustainable living from my creative life.  It’s not because I think that this is actually an indicator of success, but because I want to be able to spend more time on my own ideas and creative pursuits.

I like that you want to be a self sustaining artist for the sake of honoring YOUR IDEAS and YOUR CREATIVITY Cathy - that, in and of itself, sounds like you are successful already!

What is it like to be a self-sustaining artist?

I spent most of last year working for myself as a consultant to the not-for-profit sector and as an artist.  In hindsight I don’t think that I was ready nor had I really thought through what I would need to do to make that work on a number of levels.  When you work for yourself you have to spend a lot of time generating business and marketing yourself so you need to have a really strong network and good marketing skills.  I hadn’t nurtured either of those things enough so my income was very unreliable and ultimately very stressful as I never knew if I was going to have enough income to live off.

The ripple effect of that was that as I became more stressed I became less productive and therefore I generated less income because I wasn’t working as hard.  It became a bit of a downward spiral to be honest, and ultimately I ended up really unmotivated and unhappy.  I was relieved to make the decision to return to full time work when I eventually did.

I think what I’ve realised when I look back on last year was that I was never really clear about what I was setting out to do or how I was going to go about it.  I decided that I’d have a go at making a living from my own endeavours and I didn’t do any further planning.  I’m not saying I should have had a big business plan in place, but I definitely needed to do some goal setting and some planning around how to achieve those goals.  I ended up drifting all over the place because I didn’t have a plan.

 
Saying that though, it really did give me an opportunity to explore some different pathways and to learn about myself as a person and an artist.  I’ve realised that I need security of income, that will always be something that I’ll need to factor in even when I do end up working for myself.  I also need contact with people in some capacity.  I love to work alone and am happiest working autonomously, but I do need small amounts of interaction with others, so I’ll need to think about how that might work in the future.

 
I also learned more about where my focus is as an artist.  For a while I tried to follow in the footsteps of people who have had success with their creative enterprises who focus on reproducing their work through prints, cards, licensing, etc.  However I’ve come to realise through the exploration of the last 18 months that’s not where my passion lies.  My passion is in creating original, one-of-a-kind work, whether that be in my art or my writing.  This has been the biggest learning for me and it’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve really firmly reconciled myself with this decision.


"Stillness" - Original painting by Cathy
 
So while I don’t really think I’ve been a self-sustaining artist I had a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the aspects of that lifestyle and it has given me a strong foundation for the future.  When I am ready to think about becoming a self-sustaining artist again I’ll be much more prepared and equipped for success.

 
For now I’m going to continue exploring my style as an artist and building my networks and skills.


Cathy, thank you for sharing your perspective on both sides of the issue between working a day job and working at being a self sustaining Artist - having done both in the past two years really gives you a unique view into both worlds. I've worked as a free-lace costumer and at a regular 9-5 job and I can honestly say that each world has it's own obstacles to navigate...

Is your life different from the time when you worked for others?

Working for myself was very different to working for others.  There were aspects of it that I loved – setting my own hours, arranging my day to suit myself, being my own boss, being accountable to myself – they were definite perks.  I liked being able to follow my own course, change direction if I had a new idea that I wanted to pursue.  It was certainly different to when you are working to someone else’s priorities.  But I missed having a regular pay day!

Yes, we all love having a regular check coming in but when it comes at the expense of ones peace of mind it can also become a burden as much as NOT having a regular check can be a burden...I think for Artists, it's important to find a way to create multiple streams of income and I hope to work that out in the months to come =-)

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Thank you for taking time to be interviewed Cathy!! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it! Be sure to stop by Cathy's blog and learn more about her and her own artful journey as it unfolds:

5 comments:

Kathryn Hansen said...

wonderful interview!! i sooo related to the last few questions...and how she came to know what works for her as an artist. it's all a process!!

The Creative Beast said...

Yes, Kathryn, it's ALL a process and we are always learning as we go. I'm glad you enjoyed this interview!

CurlyPops said...

Fabulous!

SueAnn said...

What a great interview! So nice to meet Cathy!!
And I agree...the process of creating is so powerful and fulfilling!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Cathy {tinniegirl} said...

It's so weird to see that first photo with my hair so long. It feels like eons ago that trip to AAJ.

I'll do a post and link up to the interview this week Monica. I completely forgot until now!