1. Why is creativity important to you?
One of my earliest memories is of riding on my dad’s big swamp buggy in the middle of the Everglades, in a vast stretch of sawgrass and big white lilies that looked like fireworks. Dad drove that buggy straight into a great big pond, deeper and deeper, laughing while my mom and brother and I freaked out, because he knew something we didn’t: the giant tires on the buggy would keep it afloat. That’s where I come from, and to this day I make art that springs from the natural world around me and the energy, freedom, and possible danger of going on adventures, traveling, exploring.
If I’m creating something, I’m alive, getting more confident and stronger; if I’m not, I’m shrinking up inside, and I might not even notice until I look around and realize I’m unhappy. Making art makes me energetic, generous and compassionate, and builds my sense of having something real to contribute to other people.
2. What do you enjoy the most?
What I’m doing right now. Once I’m into the groove on something, whether it’s a drawing, an oil painting, or one of my salvaged-object pieces — at that moment I can’t imagine anything else I’d like more. A particular pleasure with the animal portraits is feeling that I’m getting to know and love my subject, and then hearing that the animal’s owner cried when they saw the finished work.
I have to do all sorts of different things in different media, all the time, in order to keep myself fresh and productive. If I had to choose just one thing to do for the next five years, though, it would probably be the salvaged-object art, because that combines drawing, oil painting, and assemblage. It feeds my need for variety.
3. Do you have any fears when creating?
Of course I have fears when I’m creating. Mostly, that I won’t be able to do the thing I’ve got in mind. All the successful pieces suddenly seem like a series of crazy flukes; this time, I’m sure to fail! Nonsense, but I hardly know an artist who doesn’t feel the same way. These days I tell myself, every time I begin, that The Worst It Can Do Is Suck. Because sometimes it will, but so what? That’s really not that bad. With that thought, I plunge ahead, and most of the time the results are great.
4. Are your family & friends supportive of the things you create?
My friends and family are my lifeline. There is no way I could be doing what I do without them. I grew up in a self-employed household; my swamp-buggy-building dad was an amazingly talented professional photographer, and I had a lot of independent artists around me by the time I was in high school. My family always encouraged me, even when other supposed authority figures didn’t, and for that I am profoundly grateful. My current friends include a lot of people who either are artists themselves or support the arts in various ways, and they are like oxygen. Can’t live without ‘em.
5. How do you find time to create?
Because I am a professional artist, “finding time to create” is my job, and how I do it is:
Go to the studio. No dishes, no computer, no laundry — just me and the easel and usually some of my artist friends. Most of us don’t have studios, and in that case, taking classes is a great way to make space and time.
Take art materials with me all the time. Opportunities to draw are everywhere, and I take advantage of them when I have them. An extra ten or thirty minutes can become a sketch that makes me happy and hones my skills.
Pay attention to what’s sucking my time away — and swat some of the big vampires, like Facebook or TV. I don’t mean give them up, just notice when they’re not that much fun and I’d be happier if I were making something instead.
Remind myself each morning, out loud, that I am an energetic, productive artist. When I tell myself repeatedly that YES! I MAKE ART, my brain starts looking for the time in which to do that, and there is almost always time.
Words of inspiration to creative chicks:
First, from my experience as an instructor, I can confidently say: You are better than you think. My average student is a woman in her late 40s to mid-50s who used to draw or paint way back when, but then got married/had kids/started a career and it fell by the wayside. The biggest obstacle she faces is not lack of skill — skill is a learned thing just like driving a car — but self-doubt, fear, embarrassment. My students are all better than they think they are, and I believe this is true of most artists, and especially true for women. It’s vital to let yourself be a beginner. Kick the perfectionism to the curb, let yourself screw up, and know that that’s the process, not who you are. You are better than you think.
If your creativity is a pastime or hobby, I want you to know that professional artists respect that, and we are glad you share the joy of making stuff. We don’t want to keep this to ourselves. That’s why so many of us teach.
Want to go pro? Awesome. Start meeting people who are already doing what you want to do. You need need need to be around happy creative people. Drift away from those who believe the “starving artist” myth. The people who aren’t making it will tell you every reason you can’t either; the ones who are making it will show you how you can, too. Both viewpoints are very convincing, so choose the ones who’ll convince you to succeed. It’s easier than you might think, now that everyone is on the internet with blogs, Facebook and so on. Strike up conversations, ask questions, sign up for workshops, volunteer at arts organizations. You’ll soon get to know the people who are making it work.
Whether you’re doing this as a career or not, be sure to make yourself happy, daily. There’s something in your life that you just love to do — classic movies, cooking, walking, gardening, painting, singing, knitting, bird watching; it doesn’t have to be creating stuff. Take a little time for it each day (30 minutes you’d otherwise have spent watching TV, perhaps). If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself happier, more generous, more creative and energetic.
Isn’t Tracie delightful?! And she absolutely oozes creativity. You can’t help but feel more creative when talking with her. Check out Tracie’s beautiful art on her site traciethompson.com