Survival Skills as a provincial Artist – wise words from Richard Parker

Visit Richard Parkers latest exhibition in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Visit Richard Parkers latest exhibition in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Each week at Ideaschool, where I study Arts and Design, all are welcome to the ‘Friday Lunchbox’. The Friday Lunchbox is an hour of our school day (during lunch) where a speaker from the arts community gives a presentation based on their field of expertise.  This weeks ‘Lunchbox’ featured New Zealand’s acclaimed and influential ceramic artist Richard Parker, and he passed on some very wise words regarding how provincial artists can survive by a list of simple methods that he has developed through his 30 years as a successful practicing artist.

I want to share with you the tips that I felt the strongest response to, and I hope that they also spark something for you in your creative endeavors.



  • Get your hands straight into it at the beginning of the day to avoid procrastination
  • Set 3 small tasks each day to accomplish, rather than an over ambitious ‘to do’ list
  • Start work early, after having attained quality sleep the night before. It is said that the best restorative sleep one can have is before the clock strikes midnight
  • Use simple daily affirmations – morning and night
  • Support your dealers
  • Care for your customers
  • Have professional images taken of your works, as only good images get published
  • Keep CV up to date and looking good
  • Never give up
  • Make little positive changes every day
  • Develop a healthy relationship with money, and be good at asking for it
  • Money sustains us. Develop a healthy relationship with money. Don’t be afraid to state your worth
  • Consider your artist statement carefully, drawing inspiration from your visual diary and keeping words to three paragraphs maximum
  • Think globally!
  • Avoid spending time with people who have negative and self-destructive attitudes or behaviours
  • Avoid overeating. It dulls the mind and spirit. Avoid sugar. Stay sharp.
  • Avoid fear. Face it head on and watch it disappear
  • Develop a technique for handling rejection

The most significant influence that Richard Parker made for me, was the reminder to put my creative life first and foremost. In doing so, I am able to sustain my own life forces and be a better mother and partner as a result. If I am happy, then the family will be happy also. Richard referred to Art as our ‘life blood’, and making art must be a priority in life, not one to be left until you have enough time. So tonight, I happily leave the dishes in the sink knowing that I will sleep easier once I have taken the time to feed my creative soul.


An Inspiring Read – author Paul Arden

This is a must read for anyone wanting to break out of self-limiting beliefs around creativity and succeeding in life. The world’s top advertising guru, Paul Arden has complied a pocket bible full of motivating and insightful messages that have changed my thoughts towards my own negative thought processes and ability to succeed as a creative practitioner.

This read came to me at a very crucial time, as yesterday I had the opportunity to present a three minute digital ‘showcase’ on me as a creative practitioner. Having came away with the feeling that I had missed the mark completely, and more than likely failed to meet the brief requirements, I most definitely needed ‘a kick in the backside’ pep talk from Paul Arden.

The chapters that really stood out for me were:

It’s right to be wrong

where Arden suggests that when we avoid focusing on trying to be right, many other possibilities become available. In my case yesterday, I developed a great ‘left field’ concept even though it didn’t relate very well to the topic. I’m far from perfect, and I probably never will be, but I can make the effort to become better than I currently am. I can certainly give myself credit for taking a risk and I also must hold on to the courage that propelled me to put myself out there in the world.

Do not seek praise, seek criticism

Yesterday I felt deflated when other class colleagues were praised for their efforts individually, and my name wasn’t mentioned. Considering the benefits of seeking out and accepting criticism enthusiastically rather than seeking praise, has lifted my spirits allowing me to be prepared for another insightful lesson and learn from my mistakes. Again none of us are perfect, and we are all different people with our own set of potential weaknesses and strengths. Which brings me to the next pearl of wisdom…

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

I often need the reminder of this obvious truth.

Don’t give a speech, put on a show

Had I not failed to introduce my topic and how it is a creative suggestion of the brief outline, I would have certainly put on a show rather than given a speech. I enjoyed being the story teller in my presentation, it was just a shame that not many people had a clue why I was saying what I did.  I then adopt another tip from Arden…

Fail, fail and fail better

And all is as it should be in my world, and I can…

Achieve the unachievable

By aiming beyond what I am capable of and pushing through the barriers where my self-limiting beliefs put an end to things.  I need to define where I want to be in reality, and visualise it happening. Before the end of the week, I intend to have a clear vision in mind, for what and where I want to be as a creative practitioner, and how good I want to be in this reality.

Watch the Score!

a prime example of the wise words of Paul Arden

a prime example of the wise words of Paul Arden


Arden, P. (2003). It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be. London: Phaidon Press.

Lisa Duddington. (2011). Usability and UX Blog. Retrieved on 17 April, 2013 from

What ignited my creative spark?

Christmas 1997 - Me and Grandma Russell

Christmas 1997 – Me and Grandma Russell

It was more a case of ‘Who’ than ‘What’ ignited my creative spark? Being the grand-daughter of the late Joan Russell, that’s what! Grandma was a consistent creative role model throughout my entire life, until 7 years ago when she left this world. Aquarian born like myself, she had a flair for design and new ideas. She excelled in poetry, writing stories, painting, drawing, illustration, fashion design and construction and all the craft trades under the sun; specifically silk ribbon embroidery and lace work.  My love of illustration began before I even started school, when she would assign me to the task of drawing or painting the pictures of a story she had written. I remember one of these stories vividly; of the vacumn cleaner that came to life and tidied the house all on it’s own before the family came home that day.  I took on this task very studiously and together we created a book that immortalized one of the most influential factors of my creative upbringing. Since these early days, I have always taken colour to paper and picked up a needle or pen as a natural extension of my own hand. In my teenage years, I spent many hours sitting at Grandma’s dining table. We would share our poems and stories over a couple of pots of tea.  She would ensure that she always had a stash of home baked treats (of which scones were my favourite) awaiting for my after school arrival.  My poems would have a new refreshing light cast upon them.  My heart would be soothed from pains and tribulations of dating boys.  My unsuccessful sewing projects would transform into magnificent creations under her watchful eye. My baking skills improved as I came to learn how therapeutic the smell of home baking was. My love of strong tea was established (even though Grandma would cringe every time she saw me adding milk and sugar). These memories are so deeply etched into my mind, that to this day, I can still hear her voice over my shoulder as I work. I will hear words of encouragement and acceptance or disdain if I failed to unpick that dodgy seam I just made in my sons new trousers.  It just occurred to me that she might be the reason for my needing to be meticulous when it comes to creating things. Ah, I need to let that go in this world of creative exploration. Regardless, I’m sure she would be proud. Here’s to you Grandma – a tribute!

Tea for Thought – Drawing

'In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing' - Vincent Van Gogh

‘In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing’ – Vincent Van Gogh

Not necessarily a philosophical word, but I have been contemplating the word ‘Drawing’ each and every day since I began to consider myself as an artist. To draw is the act of a person or thing to make a graphic representation on a surface by lines, tones, or colors of an object or idea. Sounds simple enough, yet I find myself over thinking the act. I understand that drawing is a foundation skill for all art, and that I must become familiar and comfortable with my own drawing practice. I am excited about what often becomes of my drawing attempts, however I am also equally intimidated by the whole idea.  The term ‘doodling’ for me, gives drawing a more relatable and friendly nature in which I feel less fearful of exploring the realm of making marks.  My challenge will be to ‘doodle’ something from real life, and having it look somewhat similar.  Right now, I am making the conscious choice to explore other methods of drawing. I invite serendipity and chance to become a viable element in my drawing practice, letting go of the ‘ideal’ perception and embracing all that I encounter through experimenting. I choose to be congruent with my real artist self, rather than my ideal perceived artist self. My mission starts with reading ‘Art Lab for Kids’ by Susan Schwake. Taking myself back to the non-intimidating days of childhood fearlessness and complete abandon. Lets see what I can create, beyond my own limitations.