An Interview on Creative Process with Artist Tara Leaver of Brighton, UK

Tara Leaver

Tara Leaver

Welcome to the second installment of the “Creative Spotlight Series” – a series of interviews with inspiring and creative people who share insights into their creative process and work.

I’m thrilled to introduce Tara Leaver from Brighton, UK, a talented artist, writer, and teacher. She has many interesting things to share about creativity!

Q: Where are you from and where do you live now? Can you tell us a bit about your background?

A: Originally I’m from London {England}, but I moved down to the south coast about six years ago to be closer to the sea, to start fresh and move away from a lifestyle that wasn’t good for me.

Q: When and how did you discover you were creative?

A: I don’t remember ever not being creative. I always loved drawing and painting and making things. I took art at school up to A Level, and later did a one year foundation course which I loved, but I did lose my way a bit in my twenties and it went into hiding more often than not while I struggled with depression. That was partly what prompted the move; I needed to start again, and where I live now is a very creative city. It was a short time after I moved that I began to open up that side of myself again in earnest, and it’s just been expanding ever since!

"Sands" by Tara Leaver

“Sands” by Tara Leaver

Q: What are your creative outlets/projects?

A: Well ‘officially’, I paint, I write about art and creative living, and I create ecourses, all around helping people rediscover their own unique way of expressing themselves in the world, and those things are of course all very creative.

But I don’t really separate that from the rest of my life; everything is an opportunity to be creative if you’re open to it. It’s really just a way of looking at the world, and we all have it, it’s just that our culture tends not to encourage us to cultivate it. I take photographs, cook and bake, write poems, make things, decorate and arrange my home on an ongoing basis. It’s all the same to me; it’s all an opportunity to see how creative I can be. And the more I do it, the more ideas come to me! It’s a very abundant way to live.

Q: Can you describe your creative process for us?

A: In terms of my painting, the process tends to involve shorter, intense periods of painting followed by sometimes much longer periods of NOT painting. I always thought that was a problem, that it meant I wasn’t a ‘real artist’, but having embraced it as my natural way it’s freed me up to express myself in ALL the ways I’m creative.

In terms of general creative process, I’m always doing something creative, every single day. Removing the lines in the sand about what is and isn’t ‘creative’ means that I can approach everything with this curious and experimental mindset. So much more interesting and fun!

Tara Leaver's studio

Tara Leaver’s studio in Brighton, UK

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Everywhere! Seriously, it just seems to be how I work, although I also consciously cultivate that so it’s always evolving. I do find that interaction – rich conversations borne of meaningful connections with people I love and admire – and enormous quantities of solitude and quiet are probably my main idea breeding grounds.

Q: How do you get inspired?

A: I think the key to this is to open yourself up and be always alert to inspiration. When I’m actively hunting it down, I tend to look to other artists, my own past work and sketchbooks, and it’s a cliché really but going for a walk on the beach is a failsafe way to bring inspiration! What I’ve learned is that yes, inspiration can and does ‘just come to you’, but it comes a lot more frequently when you create a space and cultivate the conditions for it, and keep experimenting.

Q: What do you do when you’re not feeling creative?

A: I don’t know that I ever don’t feel creative, it’s more that it manifests in different ways at different times. It was a real game changer for me to see that just because I wasn’t making art, didn’t mean I’d ‘lost’ something or stopped being creative. This is what I mean about opening up to a greater range of creative possibility. Most of us have one or two ‘main’ things that we always love the most, but there are always many more to add to the mix.

"Lavender" by Tara Leaver

“Lavender” by Tara Leaver

Q: Do you have a schedule or routine for creating?

A: No. I follow the energy of wherever I am in the cycle. For projects like creating courses I do plan, but it’s always flexible and flowy! In true Piscean style, I like to keep things fluid and open. Recently I’m learning that laying in a basic framework for a specific project actually yields both greater freedom and more satisfying results, so I’m having to recalibrate a bit to accommodate that! But for painting, that’s all done by feel.

Q: Do you consider yourself to be a night person, morning person, or something else?

A: It seems to depend! When I’m in the throes of an exciting project, I’m both a night and morning person and sleep becomes a mildly annoying interruption! During quieter periods I allow my body to sleep as long as it needs.

Q: Do you have any creative tips for others?

A: One thing I always want to encourage people to do is to really let yourself take on board that creativity is not a special gift for the chosen few. Even if you don’t think you’re creative, all it means is that you haven’t yet uncovered YOUR unique way of being creative in the world. Think of all the things you do daily that are creative; putting a meal together, planning a route, using words to describe things in conversation, doodling while on the phone, creating a spreadsheet. It’s all creative if you let it be. And when you do, your life opens up in the most extraordinary and unforeseen ways. That sounds dramatic, but I stand by it. 🙂

Q: What artists/creative people inspire you?

A: Artistically I go through phases, according to what’s most interesting to me at any given time. Again something of a cliché, but Matisse is a great inspiration to me, as is Schiele, for their colours and linework respectively. And there’s a whole host of contemporary painters who inspire me, in particular those who work in an abstract expressionist style. I currently particularly love Wolf Kahn’s intense colour forests, and Chris Gwaltney’s figurative paintings.

In a broader sense, I admire many creative entrepreneurs, like Susannah Conway and Artemis Russell of Junkaholique. Both live their work, so to speak, and are creative in many ways that weave through their lives. That’s how I live too, so I’m always inspired to see how others do it in their own ways.

"When I Was Twenty" by Tara Leaver

“When I Was Twenty” by Tara Leaver

Q: What is your next creative project?

A: I’m currently creating my next painting course www.taraleaver.com/abstractify which is proving to be a very interesting and rich experience ~ creating courses always teaches me so much! That begins in March 2015. I also have several other projects either just started or soon to be; a photography project called the LiquidLight series, ideas for workshops, a new creative mentoring offering, writing articles, creating prints of my best paintings, and the Grand Ultimate ~ I’d love to create a membership site. That one is more of a background/longer term one! There’s a lot to learn and put in place for that.

Q: How do you juggle multiple creative projects?

A: I really had to think about this one! I think it’s a constant balancing of following inspiration and flow, and doing the tasks that need doing on any given day. I use Teux Deux and a wall calendar to keep track of what I’m doing and where I’m going, which are the result of many attempts to find the absolute simplest way to do that. But if I come to do something and the energy doesn’t feel quite aligned right then, I’ll look for what does and do that, and then I tend to find that I’m ready to do the other thing. It’s like you have to make sure all the parts of you are fed to keep everything running smoothly. I don’t force anything, and everything gets done.

Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

A: You can find me at taraleaver.com, which is where my blog, gallery, shop and ecourses are. I am also to be found on my artist page on Facebook www.facebook.com/aquamarineart and www.pinterest.com/taraleaver. I love Instagram, so am always happy to connect there at www.instagram.com/taraleaver; it’s kind of my ‘unofficial’ place, where I share a lot of behind the scenes of my life, mostly beach and paintings in progress!

"Incognita" by Tara Leaver

“Incognita” by Tara Leaver

Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention – about you, your work, or on the topic of creativity?

A: I could talk about this all day, so probably best not to encourage me. 🙂 The one thing I always hope to foster is the understanding that every single one of us has gifts to share, and not believing that doesn’t make it any less true. My work this lifetime is to do the best I can to help people find out the truth of that for themselves, so I always encourage feedback and questions; that helps me bring forth more of what I can do that’s valuable to those who might benefit from it. So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to always ask questions and seek support for your creative journey. And don’t separate your life from your creativity!

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