This month I’d like to introduce you to Donna Mulholland.
While we’ve never met in the real world, I’ve been following Donna Mulholland’s Instagram account for awhile now and her work always gives me a lift. To me, she makes joy visible.
I took a chance, contacted her and she graciously agreed to be part of this series, another example of the generosity of creatives.
Thanks, Donna. Maybe one day I’ll be able to visit Donna Mulholland Studios and meet you in the real world.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
For me, being creative comes down to being curious about the world and curious about trying new things. I always want to know “what will happen if …?” What will happen if I try this … or that?
I’ve always loved the quote “creativity is another word for courage” because you must face the fear of failure to go outside your comfort zone where the real creative breakthroughs happen. I like to think of myself as a creative explorer seeking adventure. No risk, no thrill, eh?
When did you first realize that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?
I was a creative kid. I was always doodling or drawing on a piece of paper, writing stories or running around pretending that I was a horse. Fast forward thirty plus years, to the day I noticed a sign for a watercolor class on the bulletin board at my sons’ elementary school. I started the class in January 2006, totally unaware how that one action was going to change my life.
I soon began drawing and painting practically every day, and the darndest thing was that drawing and painting changed me … it opened me up in ways I had no idea were even possible. Within 3 years, I had left my government career to pursue creativity and painting further.
What inspires you?
At this time of year, nature is a huge inspiration. I adore my daily walks on the trails of my beautiful city. There’s always something new to see and appreciate as the seasons change. Music is another important inspiration. I also find that when I am taking good care of myself inspiration is more likely to find me.
I want my art to uplift, to inspire and to communicate freedom and joy. I used to think that being told that my art was happy was an insult, as if my work was shallow and unsubstantial, but now I realize that it’s a gift to express and share freedom and joy.
Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
There are two general approaches I take to painting. The first is totally intuitive, where I simply stand in front of paper or canvas and see where the paint takes me. This is my favourite approach, and if it leads to something I like, it may lead to a new series.
The second approach is when I start with an intention or concept that I want to explore further and paint intuitively from there. With both approaches, I am always cognizant of the principles of design as I paint. Often, I journal when I paint so that I can remember intentions, thoughts and such. This comes in handy when it’s time to title a painting and write a blurb about it for social media.
My current studio in my home is deliciously private and quiet, so I find I don’t require special routines and rituals beyond my favourite Spotify playlist and a beverage. Certainly, in the past I have tried and enjoyed many different tools to plug me into my creative stream before I started to paint; including meditation, yoga, affirmations, burning palo santo and such.
What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?
The lulls between creative periods can be challenging. There is always the fear that creativity won’t return. Turning on some music and playing with no expected outcome can get me going again. It’s like eating one potato chip … after one taste you have to try another and another!
Alternatively, leaving the studio for activities that fill my well also works. It basically comes down to believing in myself and taking good care of myself. (Also read on for my answer to the next question!)
What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?
“If you don’t fall off the horse now and again you aren’t trying hard enough.”
That is, if your paintings are all turning out well, it’s not a good thing. It means you’re being too careful. You need to push beyond the comfort zone and have some failures to really grow as a person and as an artist. A bonus is that something extraordinarily good often follows a not-so-good painting.
Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?
One of my business goals this year is to reach 10,000 Instagram followers. I started the year with 3500 followers and at the time this was published, I had about 7700 followers. I’d be thrilled if you checked out my account and followed me at @donnamulhollandstudio at https://www.instagram.com/donnamulhollandstudio/?hl=en.
Thanks so much!
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Contact: Got a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org