Creativity, young people and mental health

As a teacher of creativity it was really disheartening this week to hear in the news that humanities degrees in Australia are set to double in cost over the next few years. The (total nonsense) logic is that it will encourage young people to consider more vocational subjects. But of course it will only disadvantage those that can’t afford to pay for more expensive courses and so the arts, society and the country will be utterly deprived of some of the most brilliant minds available. The education system has started recognising that teaching children through creative thinking develops the laterally thinking strategies that are desperately needed in a world that is changing so rapidly. If you’ve never had the treat of listening to Ken Robinson talking about schools and creativity check it out here.

Nurturing creativity

Here in Australia we’re getting used to the idea of going back to school and work. During lockdown we’ve been at home with three teenagers. I can’t tell you how much painting, drawing and sewing has been going on around here. The kids have grown up around drawing and painting like its as natural as breathing and it has helped enormously during this time. But I don’t want to paint a false picture (excuse the pun) of some Brady Bunch family here. We argue as much as the next family and believe me we’ve been through our share of difficulties with regard to mental health. And although creative activity may seem trivial and silly to some people it’s like a backbone sometimes. It can been an escape or mendative, for pure enjoyment or for professional fulfillment. We certainly can’t do without it.

Mental Health

Whether it’s music, sewing, drawing and painting or dramatic arts I really believe that creative activity is valuable to our mental health, but particularly for young people. I’ve taught art in many ways for many years and seeing the satisfaction and sense of pride that young people get out of creativity is beautiful. Depriving young people the opportunity to pursue what they love because the course is too expensive is appalling and so wrong.

Here are a couple of really excellent resources for young people with regard to mental health.

Headspace (Australia)

The Black Dog Institute (Australia)


Getting Help…getting too much help

Yet another piece of guidance.

I went for my usual morning walk with my silly big dog this morning. Usually I don’t take my phone, or I take it just to take photos. Today I decided to listen on Audible to my most recent purchase, Lisa Congdon’s ‘Art Inc’. I bought it because I totally adore her work and admire the classes she produces on Skillshare, Creative Live and Creative Bug. Honestly though, I probably bought it in the hope that it would clarify things and give me more guidance. It sort of did. I knew a lot of the content already from the mountain of guidance I’ve consumed over the past ten years of pursuing a creative career. And I had the realisation that eventually you have to implement the guidance to make it happen. Especially the marketing. It sounds daft but marketing it’s something I will put off until the end of time. Hearing Lisa talking about it so matter-of-factly did actually remove the emotion for me.

What I’ve learnt

Over the past two years I’ve learnt how to use Corel Painter, Photoshop and Illustrator proficiently. I’ve learnt and trained ongoingly and I’m really proud of how well I know my way around these programs to create designs, illustrations and patterns quickly and deliver them professionally. It’s a never ending persuit and I absoloutely love learning more. I never blow my own trumpet, but look at that, I just did! I’ve also learnt a lot about putting together and managing a creative business. Some of the advise has been perfect for me. Practical, to the point and actionable. But there are many many many people out their offering to help save you and make your business work and I’m steering clear of anyone promising to fix my life at an expensive price tag.

Where I’ve found the best guidance

Two years ago I started a course on Skillshare by Bonnie Christine on surface pattern design. I didn’t know that her beautiful step-by-step approach would absorb me into learning exactly how to use Adobe Illustrator for creative illustration and pattern design. It was exactly what I needed at the time. Since then I’ve explored other artists classes such as Mel Armstrong, Sue Gibbins and Shannon McNabb.

Business advice

For me the best has come from other creative people. Shannon McNabb’s Skillshare class on Air Table really changed things for me. I organise all sorts of things on there from accounts for my business to goal setting, to-do lists and even home expenses. I was also lucky enough to grab the free offer of Make Art That Sells Money Badass Course which is really great at making you look at your relationship to money.

Super useful stuff

I love making lists and setting goals. I bought a Passion Planner last year and I’m going to just keep on buying them. I really enjoy indulging in brainstorming and mind-mapping but these books help you to put a timeline to your ideas and make realistic plans.

Skillshare, a special mention

I’m working on my first Skillshare class, not an easy task for me at all. Seeing myself on camera and editing myself is excruciating. But the free guidance offered in the Skillshare workshop I’m doing has been fantastic and motivating. I highly recommend it if you want to create an online class.

Here’s a bit of marketing!

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Happy Easter

Stay home, stay safe

This time next year

With any luck I’ll be able to look at this picture and remember this crazy time as a distant memory. A time when life was really odd but it’s ok again now. It’s not really looking likely at this stage though. But it is Easter! There’s chocolate and we’re all together and healthy.

Looking back

Having us all together all the time does make me look back on a time when I was at home with the kids a lot. My mum told me when I had my first baby to make sure I didn’t give up on my creativity. She might say I took that a bit too seriously. But the really great thing now is that all my children draw and paint to get through it all. I found these two drawings from 12 years ago when the kids were 2, 4 and 7. I’m not sure who drew them but they say a lot. I kept this ‘I’m sorry’ one on the fridge for ages to remind me not to shame the kids and make them feel this way. I wish I was a perfect mother, but let’s face it, who is? Someone who’s not telling the truth. This other drawing shows me on the phone. The blobby shape is a speech bubble. From my persepctive it shows I’m desperately trying contact the outside world but the little child hanging onto me would have a different perspective.

Easter Bunnies

Looking back on old pictures makes me realise there’s been a lot of projects featuring rabbits over the years. I’d forgotten all about this gorgeous quilted rabbit. I think it went to Hong Kong with a quilt for a new baby.

Creative Kids

A few weeks ago I put together a list of really great sites with a wealth of ideas and activities for kids. Check it out here.


African Designs

This week’s Spoonflower challenge spurred me on to look at my drawings and photos from our recent trip to Zambia. I loved the whole idea of using a folk art style for this tea-towel design. It just seemed right. The colour palette came together easily from a mixture of folk art research and collections of photographs. I’m looking forward to designing a whole collection of patterns for children from this.

When I first looked at the tea towel challenges on Spoonflower for this month I honestly didn’t find them very appealing and thought they probably weren’t for me. But I guess that’s the whole point of a challenge. You find yourself researching art forms and genre that you wouldn’t previously have considered looking at. I love the way folk art has no rules. This design appears symmetrical, but it’s not. The drawing is naive, yet accomplished. The design seems haphazard, or cute, but it’s deliberate. This definitely won’t be my last attempt at folk art



Well, a new month has arrived and that always gives me a bit of a boost…’This is the month! This is the month I will get my s*** together!’ I can start with good intentions anyway. I’m in complete denial that the year is nearly over. It has been a particularly tricky year. But less of that, I’ve decided to set myself the ludicrous task of doing not one, but two, Inktobers. The official Inktober was started several years ago and now has a huge following of super talented artists. Let’s hope I don’t contribute to bringing the standard down! I’m really looking forward to following #inktober2019 on Instagram. I also decided to do my own African Inktober. This is a way of disciplining myself into getting some drawing done from the wealth of material I gathered from our trip to Zambia in August. I’ve set myself some rules

Rule #1 Work ahead of schedule

I have to do this to stay in it, to get to end and to stay sane. From past experience with these kind of things it never gets finished unless you work ahead of schedule. Life is crazy and unpredictable and the reality is that I am fairly unlikely to be able to sit down and draw and paint every day for a month. It’s nice to think that that’s what a professional artist does but in honestly it’s a round of marketing, emailing, doing other work, running a household and having three kids. So, in reality I have taken full advantage of being sick all weekend and I’m a week ahead of schedule. Round of applause for me!

Rule #2 Keep it relevant

I could let my imagination go mad with these prompts and try to do clever, illustrative images. But what I need are motifs for pattern making and prints for children. After all that’s what I’m offering and what I most enjoy creating. So I’m steering away from drawing people or scenes and keeping it simple.

And that’s it. Wish me luck. There’s a heap of other things coming up as well. Not least preparing something for the fabulous Illustrators Australia 9×5 Exhibition ‘Grow’ in December.

Happy New Year!

I can honestly say I haven’t lifted a pencil to draw in two weeks. It’s becoming a bit of an issue, but the whirlwind of visiting children,  trips to the beach and trying to keep the house in some kind of order doesn’t look like slowing down soon. Christmas and …

Drawing Life

At the beginning of the year I made a plan to get out and draw in public on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday. But things didn’t go according to plan. Drawing in public proved to be too much of  challenge and I just wasn’t motivated to do it. But I found something …