This week’s Creative Spirit interview is a wee bit different, well, because I interview me! I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about the creator of Artist Strong, I’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know you. 🙂
Carrie Brummer is an artist, educator and American expat currently living in the country of Oman. Her current art explores ideas of home through her many travels: what objects, patterns, colors do we associate with home? Additionally she runs a company called Artist Strong, Inc. It’s entire aim is to help people celebrate and embrace their creative interests.
Carrie: How did you discover your interest in the arts?
If I’m entirely honest, I always remember being drawn (ha, ha) to the arts. However, it wasn’t until the middle of my college experience that I actually honored my interest by fully embracing it. I finally signed up for some art classes I wanted to take and I could just feel the change in my body and spirit when I made time for art. I spent a lot of my adolescent years battling perceived expectations of my future. I was even told by a high school counselor I was too smart to participate in a vo-tech program that included a portfolio building class – I wanted to take it to apply to art school. That was only one of many examples of circumstances where my highly sensitive nature felt directed another way. I spent a lot of time trying to please everyone but myself.
Carrie: Can you describe the evolution of your artistic style? (Have you always made art with this unique vision or what was your turning point into recognizing this style was your authentic “you”?)
I find this question really difficult. I believe my style isn’t quite found yet, that I’m still looking. It pops up here and there in certain artworks, telling me I’m home. Yet, I am ever searching for this style and voice in each artwork I create. People tell me they recognize my work when they see it, so there must be something already there that makes my art mine. I have yet to fully see this myself.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
I’ve had a huge drive my entire life to please others. I don’t know where it came from or quite how it grew into the monster it can sometimes be, but this concern over other people’s perception of me can be quite an impediment to my creative process.
People love sharing input and ideas about art when it’s being made, or even after it’s complete. The funny thing is, when I let go and ignore those inner voices of judgement or fear, my work is often selected for gallery exhibition, or wins awards. So, despite outer accolades commending me when I do explore on my own, I can still find myself seeking approval of loved ones. I have to remind myself my family, and respected mentors, are not my intended audience.
Accepting that this is part of an inner belief and acknowledging that fear of rejection when it comes up seems to help. Pushing it away or trying to ignore it only makes it worse.
Carrie: In addition to your own artist practice, you run a company called Artist Strong. Can you tell us about it?
I started Artist Strong so long ago I don’t even remember the year I opened my first wordpress account for it! It’s at least 5, maybe 6 or 7 years old now! I was seeking a way to extend myself professionally. I enjoyed my work in the classroom, but I was starting to stagnate personally. I wanted to way to share my knowledge and experience of the arts on a larger scale. So I started writing blog posts about it, and connecting with people via Twitter.
I knew people sometimes converted their blog into a full time business and that really excited me, but I was scared. I loved the security of my job and the positive but challenging experience of working with teenagers. I had no idea where to start, so I just kept writing.
Life circumstances have a funny way of supporting you in your creative hopes and dreams. I had accepted a job as assistant principal within my school community, hoping that this was my challenge of creating change and reaching people on a larger scale. But I held back quite a bit. I didn’t always voice my opinions, and I beat myself up over it. I worked really hard, but kept myself mostly on the sidelines. Then, I got sick. I missed my art.
Throughout all of this I kept writing for Artist Strong and each time I worked on it I felt joyful, excited and full of opportunity. I felt stuck. Then, one particularly difficult day at work I said to my friend and colleague, “Sometimes I wish things like this were just taken out of my hands.”
Shortly after that I got a call from my then fiance. He was offered a job transfer to Muscat. I knew then, that very moment, that I would begin to give Artist Strong the chance it really deserved. Artist Strong is now a corporation based in the state of Texas, and we are offering some of our first online courses, well, today!
Carrie: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
The other project at the moment is tied to Artist Strong. It’s called The Art Detox. Many of my readers express an interest in the visual arts. Some are practicing artists. Others have a long dormant desire to try something new in the arts, but have held back. I wanted to create something that would allow people to embrace their desire to be creative.
I thought about the introductory class for high school students I offered and decided to create something similar, but for adults. I wanted to give adults a chance to play again, but this time, there are no grades. It’s not about skill, it’s about trying something new and having fun doing it!
The Art Detox is a 5 week online class. Each week a new art activity is released and students will be part of a private membership forum to share their artwork and receive feedback and encouragement from one another. It includes a whole bunch of bonus goodies: video tutorials about different art materials, such as watercolors, charcoal and pencil; as well as bonus content created by some pretty awesome guest teachers. I’ve been building this course for nearly 6 months now so I’m completely excited that we are opening up registration today. Class starts on January 25.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
Vulnerability can act as an impetus to create or as an impediment to creation.
Many people have shared stories with me about their one negative experience in art class, or writing class, that stopped them from participating in art again. There are so many stories like this! We need to better learn how to harness that vulnerability for good.
Just recently my yoga teacher shared a story with me. She explained that when we take things personally, or get really sensitive about things it’s generally because we feel too much ownership over it (it being our art, our yoga practice, etc.). Instead, acknowledging ourselves as a channel for creativity opens us up to taking greater risk, building our skill, and being better artists.
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
I’m pretty sure the rest of my life is about fueling my interest in art. Everything feeds into the other. My exercise clears my mind and helps me solve problems in my art or Artist Strong. Baking does the same thing. And I love playing games with my husband and family, sometimes I spend time looking at the branding or board design and those little details can influence my art.
Watching movies and reading transport me into another artist’s mind and that can inspire and motivate me as well. My travel and living away from my home country also opens me up to different styles and techniques of art and life.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
My outside interests actually help me get unstuck. I should note, though, I often feel most “stuck” when I’ve taken too much time away from my art. I start to get this fear feeling, “have I lost my skill?” “What should I paint?” “How do I start again?” So, keeping a near daily practice, even just 15 minutes a day, is my best strategy for staying creative.
Carrie: Advice for people who are learning a new skill?
Don’t judge yourself. Just create. Try, and then try some more. Accept feedback from teachers when you know it comes from a loving place, designed to help you improve your skill. And whatever you do, don’t give up.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Man this is a hard one. I guess, I’d choose the internet (my husband is giggling here, he isn’t surprised at all)! It opens doors to information, connection and ideas. All of these things fuel my art and Artist Strong!
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is an individual’s commitment to self-expression.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Research demonstrates that creative expression, or creative play, can actually help us be happier and healthier. Have you made a commitment to your creativity in 2015? Consider joining me for some creative play, register for The Art Detox today.