How was your creativity birthed and grown in your formative years?
I was lucky to be immersed into creativity from a young age. My mom worked in textile design and my dad is an architect. From an early age I determined that he worked way to hard [laughs] so that wasn’t a path for me. Seriously though, it was also a great grounding not only in creativity, but it modelled that you can make money as a creative, which is something so many creatives neglect or are still learning. It seemed such a natural path for you into a professional creative space. Were there ever any other career options for you?
I never wanted a career in the creative industry. When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional mountain biker and go to the Olympics [laughs loudly]. I was good, but I understood pretty early on that I probably wasn’t going to the Olympics. You have high degrees of creative competence over a myriad of art forms. What is your creative philosophy in terms of exploring every dimension of your creative gift?
Some artists want to focus on one discipline and that’s absolutely fine. I see a lot of value in that. In fact, I often wish I had more of this type of focus. But at this point in my career I’m enjoying creating in a number of different ways. So whether it’s photography, drawing or other art forms, I look at it as a Rolodex of art forms that I access and use at any given time. The one feeds into the other, and ultimately makes me better as a creative and artist. I want and need to keep exploring, keep learning and keep growing. Next up I’m venturing into sculpture and how that can work with illustration, and that’s really exciting for me. You cited your experience of having two creative parents who knew how to monetise their gifts. This isn’t the case for the vast majority of creatives. Many have to learn or be taught how to do this. Any advice?
It didn’t come naturally to me, I had to learn and I am still learning. So I won’t offer any advice, but will say is that it is critically important to develop your business mind alongside your creative one. You get some freaks who are just great at both, but that is rare. The rest of us mortals have to consciously continuously work on it learn to value our work from early on.
How do you negotiate creative blocks?
Creating is such a subtle alchemy, and there is no rigid process to creating great/different work. Generally speaking, when I’m pushing too hard, I struggle and box myself in. And I find if I just wrestle in that space, it compounds the challenge. So I find some release in moving around, just living life and often find the fresh thoughts in fresh air. There are so many ideas that have come to me when I’ve just walked away from something I’m working on or need to attend to other things. That ’spark’ just comes from the most unusual sources. I’m also a strong believer in happy accidents, and will always preach to take the unexpected and unplanned seriously. So much of my and our work (at Jana + Koos) come from small jokes, and misheard interpretations. What has your experience been in this regard and how have you negotiated that dimension of creativity?
It’s real and made so much more difficult by social media. I can only speak from personal experience and I try not to be too precious about what I create or share. I understand that people will either like it or they won’t, and to fret over something I have no control over is pointless. This is obviously nuanced if you’re talking about commissioned projects, which obviously need to be guided by a brief and the client has to love what you create. Outside of that context, I’d encourage creatives to always be guided by and trust their unique skill set and point of view. Related to that is a fear of failure. Have you struggled with that and if so, how have you managed it?
Of course! You’d have to be a stone not to have dealt with that [laughs]. I guess there are people who go through less self scrutiny than others, but for me personally a healthy balance of confidence and fear makes the work better by injecting some common sense and humanity to the mix. I think a fear of failure is fuelled by comparison, looking at what your others are creating and then feeling inferior. It’s hard to create with the eyes of your peers on your back - so it always helps me to just remove that layer as a starting point, and create a bit more freely at fist. You can always add in the ‘judgements’ a bit later to refine your ideas. I love the personal mantra - Just draw - But take that as just create in its bigger implication. It’s so simple but has really helped me get started, often the hardest part of big, difficult or pressured work.