The personal project…

What to do when creative motivation leaves the building? Last year I lost my mother, and as a result of the grief my productivity dropped off the cliff. I was tired, fed up and just not feeling it, and I didn’t know how to claw myself back up.

When I was deep into this sluggish hole, I met up with an old friend, who wasn’t feeling motivated in work either, and I suggested he take up a personal creative project. No clients, no opinions, just complete freedom to do what he wanted to do, to his own timeline. By the time I have finished rabbiting on to him I was totally sold myself. I haven’t prioritised a personal creative project in a long time, this could be the answer, motivation is born of doing, and I want to kick start my life again, get hyper, learn, and start to have fun.

Finding the joy…

Our first encounter with creative projects start as soon as we are able to pick up that pencil. How wonderful when you have a child and you can commit to creating anything you like with no reward attached, other than maybe a parent’s approval. When we are children we create just to create – it’s part of play, it belongs to us and us alone. Being creative is the achievement, it’s so pure and so simple.

As education, success goals, and finances take over we can lose this ability to just do what we would like to do – without having to give a reason. I dated a guy once who asked me why I bothered making art – what was the point? Well why do anything? I’ll just lay down and die, shall I? He met my elbow and I continued on with the ‘art stuff’ for the joy, and to improve and test my own abilities.

The success story

When a personal project also doubles as a marketing exercise it’s a total winner in my eyes. Once upon a time me and my ex partner decided we needed a marketing plan for our design agency (him/me/baby/cat/one-bedroom basement) so we decided to gift the good people (commissioning art directors) of London (Shoreditch and Soho) of our super cool knowledge and design. We launched our own ‘magazine’, Station. It didn’t make money, but it didn’t lose it either, our blood sweat and tears were all we invested.

Station was a roaring success. Our good people, the coveted art directors, found our carefully placed magazines on their favourite beer soaked bars, and we won plenty of work. This is when the personal project keeps on giving – we also learnt so much, I commissioned interviewed and edited, and Luke Edge did all the design. So much fun.

The emotionally motivated

Ok this one was really really healthy and therapeutic, even though I completed most of it drunk, it was fan-bleedin’ tastic. Five years ago, I had my heart broken (get your violins out…) and after finding the most amazing neon pink diary I just started to doodle. A visual diary for all the identity crisis mayhem that I was experiencing. I had ‘lost’ a white picket fence version of my life I always wanted, but wasn’t quite cut out for. Cue pages of random drawings and words that expressed my inner turmoil. Some profound and personal, some amazingly corny… some of the sentiments mortify me now, but my diary did its job, I found a place to illustrate my heartache and hopes for the future, and learnt a valuable lesson, that we all have the capacity to be seriously emotionally challenged…and that creativity saves…

Group effort…

This one I absolutely loved. In a joint effort to up our own productivity, myself, Kerrie Kent and Agatha O’Neil started AEK. We artistically represented one word a day, we would take turns to pick a word and share on our WhatsApp group, we then had to draw/paint/collage a representation of this word and share it on Instagram. We did this for six months. A guy I met on Tinder joined in for a bit too. Personal favourites included an open manacle attached to a sink (freedom), handcuffs (connection), Mermaid tattoo (fish) and Jonny Cash in an 18th century hat (Highway Man). We did this for six months and had an exhibition and sale at the Forum as part of Unfest. I still have shit loads of art around my house as a result – definitely upped productivity, and won me a couple of new clients…plus working with the girls was a joy, we laughed, we cried, and supported each other through all sorts of art and non-art related highs and lows…

The half failure

I always loved the idea of photography, and if you want to learn you have to do. I had a go for Station which was brilliant, but I wasn’t as good as my partners efforts (annoyingly) so about three years ago I started doing test shoots in and around Tunbridge Wells, to see if I could crack this skill. From my time doing my shoots I made new creative contacts, met new beaus, and I got some fab images out of it. The best part was that I really upped my Photoshop skills, the live projects were a great learning tool. The biggest lesson I learnt though is that photography is super hard, and wasn’t my bag, which to be fair I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had a go. So kids if you want good images invest and invest some more, good photographers are worth their weight in gold…

Next up…

Who knows, but a new year is a great time to start something new creatively, so for the next couple of days I will be exploring new ideas and making plans, a great distraction from drying out after the festive period, and shaking off the cobwebs ready for 2020. My dream personal project needs to:

  • Be something totally fun and weird, I have enough chores in my life
  • Allow me to develop a new skill – big motivation for me
  • Take me in a direction that will allow me to be completely independent and free
  • Be easy to pick up and put down (single working mum issues)

Wish me luck!

Elizabeth Barrett


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