Posts tagged creative business
What does it mean to be creative?

My friend Ruby recently wrote a blog post about reclaiming the word creativity and it got me thinking. To be honest, it fired me up. I love discussions like this. I love thinking about and talking about creativity. I wrote a response to Ruby on her blog and then I decided to craft my thoughts into a blog post of my own to extend the conversation.

So go give it a read and then come back and let’s talk.

Grab a cup of something hot and sit down and let's chat

I believe that EVERYONE is creative, or has the potential for creativity. It isn’t something to be hoarded. It isn’t something that one person can claim to have while dismissing another’s right to it.

Creativity is a natural state for every child but it often gets left behind as we grow up (Picasso certainly got that right)*. Some of us are able to hold onto it but most of us do not and often the ones leaving it behind do so because of criticism by adults.

It’s hard to ignore negative comments about your creative endeavors, whether you’re a child or an adult. Sometimes it’s more subtle than direct criticism. A lack of praise while the girl seated next to you is fawned over. Not being chosen for a part in the play… Each of those things hurts. I grieve for all the children (myself included) who grew up believing we weren’t good at art (or writing or music or dance…) just because of another person’s opinion. To discard something as beautiful and joyful and as ESSENTIAL as creativity is a terrible waste.

Along those lines if you haven’t seen this video from Creativebug, go give it a watch.

In her post Ruby says “Creativity has become a bit of a buzzword lately.” The word does seem to be everywhere, and as someone who gets excited about encouraging creativity in others I think that’s a good thing.

What isn’t as good is the never ending cast of “experts” claiming to know THE WAY to be creative. I’ve chatted with other artists about this, too. My friend Dana (from the 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration) just launched a new website for her art and we’d been chatting while she built it. There is so much advice about what artists need to do in order to succeed; sometimes that advice is conflicting and often it’s confusing. And I’ve noticed that much of it doesn’t resonate with me and the type of artist I want to be.

Watercolor Play in My Sketchbook Always Brings Me Joy

I agree with Ruby’s assertion that some of those experts seem more interested in making money for themselves than sharing creative practices with others. But who am I to judge? I decide where I put my money. Perhaps one offering is bad for me but ends up helping someone else move their life from darkness into light. Each of us has our own ability to choose what’s right for us.

Building a life around creativity is hard. Like Ruby, I’ve often looked to others for advice. Maybe you have, too. I’ve even taken advice that didn’t end up being just right for me. I recently re-wrote the About page for this website to better share who I am instead of following a prescription that an expert claimed was supposed to make me successful.

Aren’t many of these ideas true for all of life? There are as many ways to live a life as there are people. In the end we each have to navigate our own path. It’s not always clear which is the right one. We make mistakes. We learn. We grow. Life is hard.

But back to creativity and what is “true” creativity and what is not… I don’t think any of us can judge another’s creativity. And what is truly creative? What has honestly never been done before? Not a lot.

I’m a botanical watercolor painter. Botanical watercolors have been painted for centuries. I don’t think I’ll ever find a subject that hasn’t been painted before.

Ruby is a dancer. Is there truly a movement a dancer can make with her body that another person hasn’t made in the history of humanity? Probably not. But does that matter? Ruby is a unique person. Each moment she dances has never happened before she makes it happen. Her body, the music, the space in which she’s dancing… each aligns to create something that hasn’t been done before, even if the movement isn’t something “new”. Just so with my paintings. I make a momentary connection with a plant and celebrate its beauty on paper with paint.

a watercolor tulip recently painted by Anne Butera

Not everyone will like my paintings. Not everyone will like Ruby’s dance. Or your quilt. Or another person’s book…. But that is not the point. The point is the moment of my creative act (or yours) and what it means to me (or you).

I think everyone can benefit from bringing more creativity to their lives. In whatever form it might take and from whichever direction it may come.

I see Ruby’s post a challenge to herself. A challenge to break out of complacency (and cuteness – although I would argue that cuteness has its place, too). And I see it as a challenge to US. A challenge to truly be ourselves and follow our own creative paths without getting off the track onto someone else’s road.

Being our own true self, forging our own unique way, is probably one of the hardest things to do in life, though it is certainly the most valuable.

I am so grateful to Ruby for posing difficult questions. I am grateful to her for challenging herself (and us!) to be the best that we can be. I am grateful to her for continuing to add beauty and creativity to a world that always needs more of both. I hope that you will be undaunted in your own efforts of creativity. Please do not give up. Please keep shining your light.

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*”Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one once he grows up.”

—Pablo Picasso

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Any Step Will Do -- How to Move Forward with Your Creative Journey

I had another post planned for today, but lately it seems that my blog keeps getting hijacked by a desire to share what’s on my mind. I’m ok with it and I hope you are, too. I want this space to be an honest reflection of who I am. I want it to open up conversations. I want it to create connection and inspire you on whatever journey you’re taking. I’m grateful for every comment and every email. If you have thoughts you’d like to share with me or if there are certain posts you wish I’d write, I’m always open to hearing your ideas. Leave a comment or contact me here.

Anne Butera Painting In Her Studio in the Summer Surrounded by Flowers and Wearing her Butterfly Fabric

For a while now I’ve been in a weird place in my art journey. Knowing that I need to change, or am on the cusp of change, but not knowing how to do it or what that change is supposed to look like. I know I mentioned it last month.

I continue to write about it in my journal. I continue to ponder what to do and how to do it. But instead of moving forward, I end up standing still. Yes, stillness can be part of the process, but eventually I need to begin.

My Silly Cat Quin Likes to Help Me When I'm Working at My Computer

Back when I was just starting to make art, an artist I follow on Instagram posted something about how she still had a lot more practice to do. At the time I didn’t get it. Her art was wonderful. I wished that I could draw and paint as well as she did. That she could make such beautiful, compelling work and yet be dissatisfied with it was baffling to me.

Now, I get it. Artists are always developing and growing and changing and learning. In fact that’s true for everyone, artist or not. A creative journey doesn’t have an end point. You’re never going to “arrive”. And what would you do if you did?

a selection of nasturtium paintings — all are available  in my shops

a selection of nasturtium paintings — all are available in my shops

I had been describing my current situation as being at the crossroads, but yesterday I visualized it in a different way. I’m standing on the edge of a swiftly moving stream. To continue on my journey I need to cross the stream. There are stepping stones in the water, but they’re slippery and far apart. There is no clear path across. I have been standing on the bank for far too long. I’ve been telling myself that my hesitancy is due to uncertainty. How do I proceed? Which stepping stone do I choose? But if I look honesty, I can see that what is stopping me is not a lack of clarity, but fear. Fear that I might stumble. Fear that I might slip into the water and get wet. Fear that I might choose the wrong stepping stone, get stuck and need to turn around.

Instead of moving forward I’ve been giving myself tasks to do while I wait on the bank. Those tasks stand in my way of moving forward. I fill up lists of intentions and goals and to-dos, but none of those have anything to do with crossing the stream. Many of them have to do with what I hope to find on the other side.

You see the predicament.

I wrote something in my journal yesterday that I’d like to share with you:

a surprise gift from my garden — nasturtium cuttings blooming in my studio in November

a surprise gift from my garden — nasturtium cuttings blooming in my studio in November

  • I am craving clarity

  • I am craving focus

  • I am craving quiet

  • I am craving attention (my own attention, lavished on myself)

  • I am craving single-tasking

  • I am craving being present fully — with the good and the bad

  • I am craving finding joy in this moment, not in the one I wish I were having

  • I am craving art, even if it is messy, ugly or bad

  • I am craving play and fun

  • I am craving a release of the BS

I know my next step simply needs to be a step forward. Any step will do.

I know I will make mistakes. I know I will stumble at times, but that is all part of the journey. When I was first learning how to paint I made lots of mistakes. I stumbled quite a bit, but I kept going. I think I’ve forgotten that stumbling is necessary. These stumbles will be no different than the other ones. I simply need to keep moving forward.

a page from my second collaborative Sketchbook with Dana Barbieri (my swan is on the right)

a page from my second collaborative Sketchbook with Dana Barbieri (my swan is on the right)

What about you? Are you on a creative journey? A personal journey? How are you progressing? What have you been craving in your life and how are you planning to make it happen?

You don’t need to tell me; try writing it in your journal. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Thanks for being here. Wishing you joy.

Why trying new things and even making mistakes is good for your creativity

When you're learning how to do something or if you're building up a business, it's important to focus your energy in one direction.

When I first started teaching myself to paint I didn't do that. I sewed. I crocheted. I was selling handmade purses and jewelry on Etsy. I was trying all sorts of things and learning and experimenting. Eventually I came to realize what I wanted to do more than any of those other things was paint.

At first I didn't want to "give up" everything else. Even with the advice I kept running across, I was hesitant to focus on just one thing. But over time I saw how valuable such focus could be. Focus allows you the most growth. It gives you purpose, direction. It makes everything clearer.

And so I painted, letting go of my other projects, narrowing my attention to art. It made a huge difference to my development as an artist and it brought some wonderful opportunities.

I'm a naturally creative and curious person, constantly overflowing with ideas. I have so many projects I want to tackle and things I want to try, but I also know I can't do everything.

Despite what it might look like sometimes on social media, no one can do everything. We must choose how we spend our time and that means something always gets left out.

While pondering this I went back to my old blog and found these words in a post written about three and a half years ago

"I've come to realize it's not abandoning dreams that's happening when we let go of ideas and desires which aren't right for us, it's refining an understanding of who we truly are."

Isn't that a powerful thought? It's beautiful to imagine this clarified understanding. To me it sounds filled with self-love.

On Instagram I'd seen a few people mention Lilla Rogers' new class on Creativebug. It's called Treasure Hunt Your Artistic Style. When I first heard about the class I discounted its usefulness. I know what my artistic style is; I don't need to hunt for it. But I was curious and yesterday I watched part of it. 

It's so interesting to look at what I like and dislike. To nestle in to what I love and think about why I love it, about how what I love and who I am influences my style.

Flying Pigs on a Shelf in My Studio Bring Me Joy Each Day

But what does any of this have to do with trying new things and making mistakes?

Both trying new things and making mistakes help us refine our understanding of who we are. More than that, trying new things keeps us curious. It keeps us moving forward. Almost two years ago I went through a long creative slump. Since then I've thought a lot about creativity, inspiration and creative energy.

Creativity is not a static thing, but sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. Although focus is a wonderful thing, it can sometimes lead us into the rut. Being ok with the idea of creative ebbs and flows helps a lot, but so does being open to new things. Experimenting. Changing gears. Having fun.*

Reminders in My Studio

The "It's supposed to be fun" note came from Ria Sharon, a gift in one of her newsletters. It's a great reminder not to take things to seriously, a reminder I often need.

Although it takes time and energy to try something new, we need to remember to hold onto the fun.

I recently started crocheting again in the evenings. Instead of hemming and hawing I simply chose a pattern (the hardest part for me) and got to work.

A Top I Crocheted Using One Dog Woof's Wildflowers Tunic Pattern

It was a simple pattern, but in picking up crochet I challenged myself to try something different and to learn something new. The pattern taught me a new technique which started with quite a bit of mistake-making, but ended up empowering me with a new skill.

Last weekend I pulled out my fabric stash, unearthed my sewing machine and sewed a top. Trying a new sewing pattern, looking at fabrics and matching them up, thinking about future projects... all of those things stretch my creativity. They help me problem solve. They open me up to new ideas and possibilities. This carries over into my art, too.

A Top I Sewed with the New Look 6284 Sewing Pattern

The tomato and eggplant pieces I painted last week were a change of gears for me. A slight shift of subject matter, yes, but also a change of format -- square -- and a change of paper type -- cold pressed after painting mainly on hot. Doing something different doesn't have to be BIG, but it can open up big possibilities.

Trying something new can help you face your fears, too. I never draw or paint people, in part because I find it a bit scary. But I think in order to continue to grow as an artist I need to stretch myself and face those fears. I've been dipping my toes into those waters with Charlotte Hamilton's 31 Days of Faces Creativebug class (talk about making mistakes!).

A 2 Minute Marker Sketch Portrait Created with Charlotte Hamilton's Creativebug Class

It feels good. All these creative experiments. All this play. 

Trying new things gives you a different perspective. It makes you ask the question "what if?". Like the question I asked last week: What if I roast eggplant with taco seasonings and use it instead of meat in my tacos? I did that this week, too.

My focus has not changed. Watercolor is still my passion.

A Watercolor Painting of Dahlias in Progress in My Studio

I might be sewing and crocheting in my free time. I might be drawing wonky-looking people in my sketchbook. I might be experimenting in the kitchen and even making soap, but I'll still be painting every day. I think my paintings will be enhanced by all my other creative play.

So what about you? Have you tried anything new lately? Or maybe come back to something you love but haven't done in a while? The changing of the seasons and beginning of the school year is a perfect time to embrace "back to school" thinking. I'd love to hear about it!



*Working through my own creative slump and pondering it afterwards helped me to create a Skillshare class designed to help you break out of a creative slump