This month for our creativity series I’m thrilled to present my interview with illustrator Elizabeth Patch. I’ve been a big fan of her work ever since I discovered it several years ago. In fact, in 2010, I interviewed Patch for my body image blog Weightless. (Here’s parts one and two.)
Patch is a high school art teacher and author of More to Love, a beautiful book of illustrations that features uplifting and inspiring messages about body diversity and self-acceptance. With her unique artwork Patch celebrates the human form. And she promotes a very important message: to accept, respect and take great care of ourselves at any and every size.
Below, Patch shares what inspires her, how unstructured “sabbaths” help her slow down and create and the quick way she ignites her imagination. She also reveals how we can incorporate creativity into all areas of our lives.
Visit http://elizabethpatch.com to learn more about her artwork and inspiration for all sizes.
Q: What are your inspirations for your work?
A: I’m always drawn to artists who truly know how to draw the human figure, whether it’s an artist from the Renaissance, or a graphic novelist. And I am a fiend for color and pattern. But the biggest source of inspiration for my illustrations is simply people watching; I am fascinated by the endless variety of shapes and forms of people.
Q: There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
A: I don’t think there is an artist alive who hasn’t struggled with self-doubt and fear of failure. But another big killer of the creative impulse is our culture of constant go-go multitasking. If I don’t get enough unstructured down time, my creative energy absolutely disappears. Like most modern women, I juggle a full-time job, a family and a home, and at the end of the day I find it very hard to be inspired when I am tired!
Q: How do you overcome these obstacles?
A: Naps, meditation and yoga help me re-center on a daily basis, but I’ve also discovered the importance of keeping weekly media-free, unstructured “sabbaths.”
I turn off my computer, TV, cell phone, tablet. I put away the to-do list and ignore all the things I “must do.” I ask my family to give me some space and privacy, and I allow myself to “waste time.”
I play with my art supplies, write in my journal, or practice a quiet creative hands-on skill (like sewing, knitting or working in the garden), without any concern about the end result. Sometimes I spend just one evening a week, sometimes I indulge myself for an entire weekend, sometimes it’s an entire vacation period.
The more time I allow myself to play without worrying about being an “artist,” the longer my creative battery stays charged.
Q: What are some of your favorite resources on creativity?
A: One of my favorite books is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a truly inspiring and hands-on guide to breaking through creative blocks by tapping into your inner artistic spirit.
I am lucky enough to live near the fabulous museums and galleries in NY city, and I am constantly enthralled by what I see, most of which looks nothing like my illustrations!
I have been know to burst into tears in museums, where I become breathlessly, happily exhausted by the power of human creativity.
Q: What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
A: My personal quickie method for jump-starting a creative block: I scribble, yes scribble! with every color pen, pencil or marker I can get my hands on. I just keep scribbling until I feel like I’ve warmed up, and then I scribble some more. The process of making something, even a pile of scribbled paper, seems to open the flow.
Q: What’s your advice for readers on cultivating creativity?
A: Take a tip from little kids: Pick up the materials (whether it’s paints or fabric or whatever) and jump right in. So what if you make a mess? So what if it’s not perfect?
Like everything else, creativity takes practice.
Creativity is a process, not an end result.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about creativity?
A: Creativity isn’t something that is limited to producing something “Artsy” or “Crafty.” Creativity can be engaged in almost any mundane activity.
Look into an “empty” refrigerator and create something wonderful to eat. Look into your closet full of “nothing to wear” and mix things up into a creative combination you’ve never tried before.
Even problems can be sources for creative inspiration! A disagreement with your spouse? Trying to manage a too-small budget? Ask yourself: How can I create a solution to this problem?
Illustration by Elizabeth Patch.