HOW I RECLAIMED MY CREATIVITY
All through my school years I was highly creative.
In year 12 I thought I wanted to be an interior designer.
Then I left school and moved to Melbourne. I got a job in a delicatessen in Toorak frequented by trophy wives and soon realised that if I wanted to be an interior designer then these would likely be my clients. FUCK THAT!
I spent three years doing 60 hour weeks selling french cheese to housewives. This fuelled my travelling and party-every-weekend lifestyle. I hardly touched my creativity - which was fine. I had heaps of fun and travelled to many festivals and party destinations that I felt were the “Holy Grail” of partying at the time.
I would express myself through COLOUR and pattern. The clothes that I wore and the things I surrounded myself with. And the opulent platters that I made in the cheese shop.
I reckon I did 4 drawings over that time. Always of eyes.
And I turned our hard-rubbish washing machine into a monster.
In 2013 I went to Rainbow Serpent for the first time and was amazed by the world of colourful people, real connection and wild expression - it was the first festival of its kind I had ever been to, and it flipped my world upside down and inside out.
I remember going into the gallery and being AMAZED by the art, and totally inspired, and thinking "I wish I could do that!!"
That year I sold all my belongings and went off to work on superyachts. By some twist of fate I ended up working on a yacht in Ibiza (and was totally stoked). It was probably the worst job I’ve ever had (haha!) because of the sociopath captain and the insane hours.
But I ended up working with a gypsy traveller who would later become a travel companion and introduce me to the world of vagabond hippies and spirituality. I remember copying a hamsa tattoo design from the internet into her travel journal and from then on she would introduce me to everyone as “This is Steph, she’s an amaaaAAAzing artist!”. I didn’t quite believe it - for some reason I had put my creativity in the too hard basket.
I also inherited some pretty disempowering beliefs around money during this time, but that’s for another blog.
I went home for the summer, totally hippie-fied by my travels (LOL) and started making dreamcatchers, and became interested in mandala art. My newly opened mind absorbed everything it could. I was watching “Spirit Science” on youtube and learning about the flower of life. I drew it on a piece of paper and all of a sudden realised that I could use that as a base to draw mandalas… and off I went, suddenly there was something I could draw that would always look good, because it is a pattern.
I kept on drawing mandalas for the next year, I loved the repetition and the meditative state that could be achieved through my brain not having to think about the next move.
I loved the way the pattern would make itself uniform, even if my work was messy it would still look good. I learned that our eyes automatically correct patterns if they’re “close enough”, and I found so much freedom in my reclaimed creativity.
The mandalas kept me sane through another season of super yacht work and then off I went with my charter tips to Boom and Burning Man. Two more festival galleries that simultaneously blew me away with inspiration AND, at the time, made me feel like I would never be able to create art as good as that.
After Burning Man I stayed with Gab in Seattle - a friend who came into my life through a synchronous chain of events, countries and people.
She was the first real artist that I had ever known, aside from my amazing art teachers at high school.
She took me to the biggest art store I’d ever been to - I bought some watercolours and painted a scene that I saw at Burning Man. Gab encouraged me and I gawked at her paintings around the house - “how could I ever paint like that?!”
I gave her a mandala drawing as a thank you.
I came back to Australia at the end of that year and haven’t left since, and have been drawing and painting mandalas ever since then. They have become a cornerstone of my creative life and something that I keep going back to and back to. I’ve become so comfortable with them that my brain switches off and my unconscious is free to lead the way. I use them to test new painting techniques and last year I began to use them to teach myself how to teach drawing and painting.
In essence the mandala is the thing that gave me my creativity back.
And I’d love to invite you to do the same. They’re a safe and structured practise that allows even the “I’m not creative” people to make something that they’re so proud of. It’s such a joy to see the delight in workshop participants when they create something so beautiful that they didn’t think they could make before.
My next event, "The Art of Mandala Painting - Reclaiming Creativity" is on in Melbourne on Feb 17th.
Photos of my mandala painting workshops: