Court McCracken is a visual artist, author, and creativity cultivator. Court’s visual art is based on natural patterns of movement, decay, and growth. Court also speaks and writes about nurturing creativity as a part of a healthy life. She believes each of us have an art to nurture. She shares simple ways each of us can approach life with the soul of an artist: living with passion, purpose and intention. Court lives and works in Asheville, NC.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Court, can you please describe your work?
My visual art is exploration into organic rhythms of movement, decay and growth as found in nature. I study everything from patterns of growth on a microscopic level to patterns of erosion on our coastlines and weather patterns. I utilize gesture as a foundation. I begin with a spontaneous painting or drawing based on the found patterns. The paintings emerge through building layers of both washes of pigment and line echoing the original line drawing. I utilize my paintings & drawings for foundations of sculptural work. I create them using crocheted yarn and install them in buildings to show the growth of nature.
Carrie: When did you first realize the arts were an important part of your life?
I grew up in a family that believed in the importance of the arts. I’m so grateful for that because I had amazing experiences when I was young of traveling to museums of all kinds and being exposed to different kinds of music and theatre as a child. I had my own easel and drawing table as a child and spent hours on end creating in that space. I learned a lot of perseverance and what an extended amount of attention can bring over a long period of time with a project. Persistence with art work is one of the greatest lessons we can all learn. Our creative adventures take time to unfold and often times things seem like they are going to fall apart or totally fail, but that momentary failure brings you to a new solution.
I left the arts on the wayside as school became more challenging and I focused more on science and math. Ultimately, I came back around to my visual art because of how I felt while I was doing that work. When I painted I didn’t feel like I was doing something I was passionate about or following my passion; I simply felt like I was actually being exactly who I was. So I recommitted to my visual art work just before I began making my choices for college and ultimately, that steered my life. I knew if I was to study at all at the college level, the only thing I was interested in spending that time and effort on was visual art.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
The artistic process is so wild. I love it! Often I will start one place and end up in another. As an artist the greatest key is to ‘Trust the Process.’ You cannot circumvent it, you cannot shortcut it, you cannot side step it. Stay true to the process.
My process often begins with a visual impetus. I’ll see something in nature that really interests me. A color, a shape, a pattern, a collection of fallen stones. I give attention to the things I notice and I honor and trust the fact that I am noticing it for a reason, even if I don’t understand right now why it’s important. That is one of the things that I try to instill in my visual art students and my creativity clients, that you are noticing things for a reason. You are attracted to those things for a reason and you have to give it the honor it deserves. When we push away our impulses, we are shutting down our creative intuition.
I jot down any ideas when I am noticing things. Like poetry, descriptive words, feelings, etc. I do a sketch of something. I snap a photo. I use those initial responses to a visual stimulus and then I began to massage the idea by playing with those pieces. I move them around. I play with color. It’s the way you design anything, you play with the elements until things begin to lock into place and make sense to you within your own aesthetic.
Some of my greatest “brain storm” moments or times I have made a breakthrough in my own visual art process have happened just through intentional play. I give myself a bit of a game and ask, ”Hey, can you use only two pencils and a piece of drawing paper to fully express the response you are having to this idea?” And then I play with that until a new process emerges for me, until the visual work begins to mature into itself.
Carrie: You also teach art and have a special new art course coming out, tell us all about it!
I do teach art and I absolutely love it! I have been in museum education for years now in addition to teaching private lessons and workshops.
I have learned over the years of teaching and working in creativity cultivation that many people out there wish they had had the opportunity to study art in school more or to even have attended art school, but the time and monetary investment is too much to consider. Because of this they take workshops now and again.
I have been listening to this for years. I decided to find a way to get some of the best information I got from art school and put it into a format for those who are too busy to really take off and head to art school.
I’ve created a year long course called, “So You Wish You Went to Art School?” It goes at a pace that is easy to keep up with, you receive one set of art lessons per month for 12 months. The course covers all the best foundational information and techniques that would pay it forward to any workshop or arts experience in the future.
The idea is to give a solid foundation of art understanding: how to talk about art, how to look at art, how to think like a designer and an artist, and to articulate yourself when talking about artwork at a museum or a gallery or even talking about your own art more!
Each month’s lessons will include a new technique project, a visual journal/sketchbook prompt & technique, and videos on art history and how to interact with art. It’s a really dynamic combination. We’ll also have a private FB group for sharing our projects and a monthly “studio session” where I hop on our live call line and answer questions and talk about the art process. All recordings of lessons and “studio sessions” will be hosted in our online classroom for you to look at whenever you want.
The course is on early bird registration right now and so far we have artists from all over the USA and even a couple of other countries! I’m very excited about bringing this into being as I have been dreaming and working on the curriculum for the past two years. You can register on my main site at www.artnurture.com or head straight to the course’s site at www.soyouwishyouwenttoartschool.com.
Carrie: What advice do you have for people who are learning a new skill?
Give it time. New skills take time to develop. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes a skill can have a steep learning curve. I like to give myself teeny tiny goals to reach so that I can experience that feeling of a win to give me the impetus and momentum to keep going.
It can take a while to learn and grow in something. Don’t compare yourself to someone else who has been doing something for 20 years when you have only taken one lesson.
Pay attention to how much time you are actually investing, who you are learning from, how are you learning, and why are you doing this new thing? If you are having fun and seeking good resources to learn, then keep at it! Getting frustrated to the point of quitting is unhelpful. We pursue these new things not because of “what we get” but because of “who we become” in the process. That’s why I do the stuff I do!
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
Vulnerability is constantly at play within the creative process. Our art is always calling for us to be more authentic, but that is not always easy. When we willingly go to that place, it is a flow like none other. When we fight that authenticity and that vulnerability, it can get pretty rough.
I’ve learned over the last decade of my practice to release into that vulnerable place. Release into that vulnerable place of creation, even if you don’t know what will come of it all. Release into that vulnerable place of sharing your work, even if it may leave you open to criticism. Release into that vulnerable place of feeling like you might really fail at this whole thing. Release into vulnerability because that is where your greatest bravery and your greatest work lies.
When you get comfortable with that process, really no criticism can harm or take you down. It’s really hard to take someone down who is fully aware of their own imperfections and who embraces the process so fully. It makes you resilient when you do it that way.
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
I love sports (that often surprises people!) and I used to be a soccer player throughout my school years. I’ve run a number of races in the past, long distances like half and full marathons. Those experiences really led me to understand what pushing my own personal boundaries of what is comfortable feels like.
That is where I’ve learned a lot about perseverance and achievement and the “long game.” That stuff has served me in ample amounts throughout my creative career. I don’t give up so easy because of it, so I am grateful to those parts of my life that have taught me lessons I couldn’t have otherwise learned.
I also have a horse who I got as a young wild mustang. I spend between 5-6 days a week training with her. Training a horse from the ground up is not an easy task, but it is incredibly worthwhile. My relationship with my horse keeps me going. It’s an incredible relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything and the process of earning her trust and respect and learning alongside her has impacted my heart in ways I couldn’t have ever anticipated.
I love studying natural horsemanship and learning all that I can. I could see myself one day adopting more mustangs, but for now I’ve got all the horse I can handle in my busy life! It’s a lot like my relationship with my art. There are good days and more challenging days, but overall it’s an incredibly worthwhile pursuit.
I also love to play and hike outside, listen to live music, and go to festivals. I live in a beautiful place and the landscape is constantly inspiring me. I do spend a lot of time in my studio, but the time outside of my studio is just as important because those experiences are what I take back as fodder to work with…art is not made in a vacuum.
Carrie: What do you do when you feel creatively stuck?
Feeling creatively stuck can be a really useful thing. I’ve learned that feeling that way is seeking to communicate something to me. It’s seeking to communicate that I’ve become complacent or uninterested in my process, thus a change is necessary.
Feeling creatively stuck could mean that I am cutting myself off from some potential solutions, but why? Are those solutions scary to me? Do they make me uncomfortable? Do I believe they are actually impossible? Feeling creatively stuck could be a symptom of a lack of rest time and it could be saying to you that you need a couple of days off.
When I feel creatively stuck, the first thing I do is call my awareness to it. I ask, ‘Why is this happening? What do I need to learn? What do I need to do to respond to this feeling?’
We often put ourselves in the pressure cooker with our creativity…more more more, we think to ourselves, push harder, more work, longer hours, another class, etc. Sometimes the best thing to do is release that pressure and relax into the process with ease.
One of my biggest strategies for remaining in creative flow is to not overbook my days. I will allow myself between 1-3 priorities for the day and no more than that. I find when I focus on fewer things per day and just write the other things down for other days, I can remain in a place of healthy sustainable flow. When I’m getting stuck a lot, I know it’s because I’ve burned the candle at both ends for too long. It’s not the way I like to live. I’d rather live in flow.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
My attitude of being a solution finder. I am always looking to take down barriers and to find a way to keep moving forward. In large part I have learned that from many resources over time. I like to surround myself with positive people, with good books, and opportunities to learn. The more of those helpful resources I plug into, the more buoyant I feel overall and buoyancy is an incredibly helpful trait while on the creative journey.
I couldn’t do it alone and I am grateful for each person, resource (books, videos, courses!), and learning opportunity (conferences, seminars!) that has presented itself to me along the way. I keep my eyes peeled for new opportunities to learn and grow and I am always focused on creating my attitude of finding solutions no matter the situation. Hanging out with more people who view their creative work in an entrepreneurial way has helped me immensely on my journey. I used to make tons of work and not share it!
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by so many things! When it comes to inspiration, the more you share, the more it comes back to you exponentially! When I first began my work with Creativity Cultivation, I had concerns I would burn out giving so much. But then I learned a lot of healthy ways to handle this and what’s wild and beautiful about it all is my clients inspire me on a continuous basis! They constantly share their growth and process with me and I am always feeling inspired to create.
I am inspired by nature, how it always finds a way to grow. I look at weeds growing through sidewalks and think, “Whoa! That must’ve been tough, but you found a way!”
I love animals and am always observing them. My wild mustang horse constantly inspires me. I learn a lot from her on regular basis. She is honest, she is strong, she is a clear communicator, she is poetry in motion. She teaches me to be clear, she teaches me to be honest, she teaches me authenticity.
I am a better human for spending hundreds of hours with her over the years. I have learned a lot of perseverance from my relationship with her as well. Ashe the mustang and I have never given up on each other. I see her as one of my collaborators in my art.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity at it’s very root is the act of making choices. We bring our own beliefs, knowledge, ideas, passions, thoughts, and activities to the choices we make. That is why each person’s expression of their creative energy comes out in its own unique way.
“We pursue these new things not because of what we get but because of who we become in the process.” (Click to Tweet)
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you ever considered being stuck may be a useful tool for your creativity? What is one lesson you can learn from being stuck? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
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Awesome insights Court! I love how you give the process of making art light.
Thank you for reading Miranda!
Intelligent Lady! Great insight to the Creative Process in practical terms via observations of nature, animals and people.
Thanks for reading Roger!
Thank you for reading Roger 🙂
Court is a fantastic friend and mentor. She always offers copious amounts of happiness, encouragement and motivation while giving definitive counsel with empathy. I believe everyone should take a look into services. I’ve been with Court for a few years now and have never questioned that choice. I’m happy to share in her journey and will be happy to support her in her future veures as much as she has taken an interest in mine.
Thanks for sharing Ryan!