A conversation about the need to create, making sense of uncommon life paths, overcoming imposter syndrome, and the meditation of creative flow
The rewards of following your own path to a meaningful creative life are so rich but often seem small and far between. We each need encouragement, support, and a sense of community – of being a valued part of something, in order to move forward. This is part of a series of conversations with makers who I feel are living with courage, from the heart. They are intended to give you a positive window into the struggles, determination, and vision that goes into forging a wholehearted life. I hope you will find comfort and strength through the sharing of these stories.
How long have you been a maker and how did you get started?
I am pretty sure I have always been a maker, writing stories, doing origami, playing music – since I was very young. However, it’s really only been two years since I quit my job as a Cégep philosophy teacher and allowed myself to be labelled as an artist and maker.
I always knew I needed an outlet for my creativity and tried many things in the past. When I was introduced to the darkroom in my last year of high school I became fascinated by the photographic process. I ended up doing something else: studying philosophy at University Laval in Quebec City – a discipline that gave me amazing tools to think about the world, my identity, and my aspirations. I kept the passion for taking pictures during my 20s, but it was after a 6-month solo trip around India in 2013 that I came back with the urge to learn photography. Still, it took me a few years to act upon it… I thought everything had been done and I had nothing new to bring to the art world.
I finally realized it was not so much a matter of being relevant, but a matter of need. I needed to create and when I listened to this need, I felt like I met a part of myself that had been kept hidden. I found it so refreshing!
I finally realized it was not so much a matter of being relevant, but a matter of need. I needed to create and when I listened to this need, I felt like I met a part of myself that had been kept hidden.
What materials do you work with? What called you to them?
At the moment, I am working to broaden my range of tools for creating images. Digital photography and regular inkjet prints are great and *relatively* quick, but I find myself exploring film photography and mixing old techniques with newer ones to see what can come out of it.
I am currently working on a triple pinhole that allows me to use my digital camera without a lens. It gives a unique dreamy look that can be very evocative!
In French, there is a saying, Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué? (Why make it simple when you can make it complicated?) More and more, I enjoy the many steps that lead me to a final image – whether it be the taking of the photos themselves, the digital postproduction, or alternative darkroom processes like cyanotype, for instance. Each step works to engage me with the image I am creating, and this enables me to infuse the work with meaning.
Where do you do most of your making? What’s the space and atmosphere like?
I like to shoot outdoors but most of the work happens in postproduction, indoors. I have a small office in my apartment where I let the magic happen. It sometimes gets a bit crowded with all my photo equipment, prints and frames… I definitely need to work on that!
More and more, I enjoy the many steps that lead me to a final image… Each step works to engage me with the image I am creating, and this enables me to infuse the work with meaning.
You had a previous career as a philosophy teacher. Did your study of philosophy lead to your change in direction? Do you find that it informs your creative practice – or are they unrelated?
You know, I’ve wondered about that. From traveling, to philosophy, to teaching yoga, to making art… what could possibly unite everything?
At first, I thought nothing was related and that, as a curious person, I just had many passions. But the more I dive into my practice, the more I have to admit that everything is intertwined.
Someone once told me, “you really seem to be searching for light” and I have to admit that they were right.
Through all that I do, I am trying to understand the world I live in – to see it clearly. With philosophy, it was more on a conceptual level; light is a strong symbol for mental clarity, rationality, truth, humanism, and the list goes on. After learning how to use this great toolbox that is philosophical thinking, perhaps I was ready to experiment with the actual light?
… But maybe it’s just my mind trying to make sense of my life path and creative practice.
When I get in my zone, I forget everything except what I am doing in the present moment. I guess it can be compared to a sort of meditation. This is why it is something I best achieve alone.
What is it like when you’re in the creative flow of a project? What helps you get into this headspace?
I often get inspiration from a new place I am visiting – especially if it involves nature. My curiosity is immediately awakened and all I want to do is wander off with my camera. When I get in my zone, I forget everything except what I am doing in the present moment. I guess it can be compared to a sort of meditation. This is why it is something I best achieve alone.
Is putting yourself and your work out there difficult or tiring for you? How do you manage this and continue to share?
If I’m abroad or visiting a new place, I find it so easy! But, regular daily routine is something that can kill my vibe, especially if I stay in the city for too long (and if my work space is messy, oops). I do try to go beyond that and am motivated by going to museums and gallery openings. Seeing how hard other people work for their art always encourages me to push further.
Like many others, I seem to have a default setting of imposter syndrome. I tend to revert to it when things don’t work out the way I want. It’s not a good feeling. But I now refuse to let it take over! Sure, it’s not always easy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. Overcoming these negative thoughts makes me feel proud each time and helps me distance myself from that self-created negativity.
Have you had times when you’ve felt daunted or nearly given up? What has kept you going?
Because I only just started being fully committed to my art practice, I feel like ideas are pouring out of me, right now. Sometimes I have a hard time focussing on what I want to do in any given moment. It can be a bit overwhelming.
Also, like many others, I seem to have a default setting of imposter syndrome. I tend to revert to it when things don’t work out the way I want. It’s not a good feeling. But I now refuse to let it take over! Sure, it’s not always easy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. Overcoming these negative thoughts makes me feel proud each time and helps me distance myself from that self-created negativity.
On a more technical level, I sometimes worry that my practice isn’t coherent enough, and that my different series of works are too different from one another. But, my identity as an artist will eventually come together. I believe it’s a matter of habit, perseverance, and hard work.
Seeing how hard other people work for their art always encourages me to push further.
Do you have a strong community for support? Who is in it and how did it come to be?
Most of my friends are artists, so when I decided to switch careers, I had a lot of support, help, and coaching from them.
Any parting words of encouragement or support for other makers?
How can I say this without being corny? Don’t be afraid of where your imagination can take you.
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If you know someone who might be a good fit for a Maker Interview, please get in touch.
To find strength and encouragement in the stories of others, and seek inspiration from their creative practice, you can read more Maker Interviews on the blog.
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