Celebrating Creativity

Hi I'm Kadira Jennings, welcome to Unfolding Creativity, a portal to Abundance Through Creativity.

I am a creative artist celebrating and encouraging the creative in all of us.

My blog is a discussion, and creativity resource. Please take your time, look around and join the conversation if you would like to.
It is my passionate belief that we all have deep within us a creative genius just waiting for half a chance to get out no matter what field we work or play in.

''There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.''
Martha Graham

What is The Most Difficult Aspect Of Creating An Art Work?

the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork,kadira_jennings,diving deeper,art practice


What is the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork? Well I guess that’s a question that is open to interpretation and the answer quite probably depends on what stage of your art career you are at. Sometimes it would seem that the most enjoyable part of creating an artwork can be the conceptual part. During this phase, there is an excitement, a yearning to explore the new and uncharted regions where you have not been before.
To some, however, this can be quite scary because it means leaving behind the tried and true and dipping your toe into perhaps, murky waters you have not ventured forth before.

I find this beginning phase of the work quite wonderful full. I love to play with ideas and images. It has been a part of my art practice for some years to put an image into Photoshop and really explore it, do all kinds of things to it, before I decide on how to paint it. I might create several layers of the same image and subtly alter the colour on each one give me a brand new image. The concept of layering itself is something that has always fascinated me in many, different ways. This is quite clear when you look at my body of work because through most of it,  you will find the concept of layering turning up in one form or another.

Painting Elements

I digress, however. To get back to the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork lets consider the different elements required to complete a painting.

  • Choosing the subject
  • Conceptualizing that subject
  • Gathering your materials
  • Deciding how you will do your underpainting if you do one
  • Doing the underpainting
  •  Deciding on what technique you are going to use for the work
  • Figuring out which part of the work to paint first
  • Painting the work
  • Assessing the work

Choosing A Subject

I think for me, yes over the years, I have found the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork is often, choosing a subject. Once you know what you want to paint and you have the skills necessary to do so the rest is all pretty enjoyable. It’s not that it’s a piece of cake however because no matter how long you’ve painted there is always going to be challenges within every work that you do.
One of the great artists once said, ‘the best painting you will ever do is your next one.’

I have found one thing that makes this aspect of the work easier is to work in a series of paintings about one subject. There are a couple of reasons why this makes choosing your subject easier. The first one, obviously is that you have some idea of what you will paint next because you already have the subject. The other advantage to painting in this way is that it is a method of developing your work to a deeper level. Each painting can evolve from the previous one. This is particularly valuable when you are working with abstracts. You can actually take a small area of a painting that has worked particularly well and blow it up into a bigger painting. 

You then take the best area of the second painting and in turn expand that into a bigger painting and so on. It is quite amazing where this journey can take you. There is a series painted by Georgia O’Keeffe which began with a shell, a leaf and a wooden roof shingle. After painting four or five images she ended up with a really stunning abstract work, which she couldn’t have arrived at without her working through the previous paintings. You can see the beginning and finished ones here.


Shell leaf and shingle, georgia okeeffe,Most Difficult Aspect Of Creating An Art Work,Georgia_Okeeffe,Kadira_Jennings

Shell, leaf and shingle, Georgia O’Keeffe – beginning work


Georgia describes, how she came to paint this, indicating that she too had trouble with inspiration at times.

“We were shingling the barn and the old shingles, taken off, were free to fly around. Absent-mindedly I picked up a loose one and carried it into the house and up to the table in my room. On the table was a white clam shell brought from Maine in the spring. I had been painting it and it still lay there. The white shape of the shell and the gray shape of the weathered shingle were beautiful against the pale gray leaf on the faintly pink-lined pattern of the wallpaper. Adding the shingle got me painting again.”


Shell leaf and shingle, georgia okeeffe,Most Difficult Aspect Of Creating An Art Work,Georgia_Okeeffe,Kadira_Jennings

Shell, leaf and shingle, Georgia O’Keeffe – final work

Conceptualizing The Subject

So if choosing a subject is difficult, conceptualizing it can be even harder. The two seem to go hand in hand and are really separate parts of the one thing. However, you can’t work with the concept of something until you actually have that something. So for example, relating to the series on refugees I painted last year, I had to come up with the idea in the first place of doing some works relating to the refugee situation. Once I had decided to work on that, it was then necessary to think about what angle I wanted to come from. There are so many different things I might have chosen from, I could have made the series about:

  • the impact on children
  • The trauma of leaving one’s country forever
  • The trauma of being in a war torn country and having to come to that decision of leaving one’s homeland
  • The hopes and dreams of someone who becomes a refugee
  • The political climate in this country, Australia, regarding refugees, which incidentally has an appalling refugee track record I’m saddened to say

And the above are only a few ideas about this topic. Interestingly enough what made me choose to work on this topic was a news bulletin I heard while visiting New Zealand, which related to how wonderfully a planeload of refugees was welcomed and treated in Dunedin. This contrasted so much with the way Australia treats refugees that I felt moved to paint about the subject. 

Then, of course, the challenge was to figure out how I wanted to put that into visual images. I found that inspiration from a highly unlikely place,  a photograph of the mist over some hot pools in Rotorua. The first painting I did of this was quite abstract but grew from there and then the series itself evolved from that. I found that I also wanted to make a comment in the series about the way in which people lose not only their birth place but so much of their culture as well. We often find that the aggressors in wars will try to completely obliterate the cultural heritage of the country they are invading. This has been happening in Syria, with places like Palmyra being vandalized and priceless artifacts and art works being destroyed. Some of the paintings in my series addressed this issue.


From Palmyra to a New Land

In conclusion, I would suggest that we have so far only examined the tip of the iceberg and regard to what might be considered the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork. I will continue this discussion in a further blog post.


Pix Credit: ElisaRiva

deepen my creative practice,meditation,kadira_jennings


How do I deepen my creative practice?

This is a question relevant to many artistic disciplines. It does not matter what line of creativity you happen to be pursuing, there will be some point in your journey, where you decide that you want to dive deeper. Of course, this will look different depending on how far along that path you are.

What does diving deeper look like?

It might look like any one of the following things –

  • Plucking up the courage to go and take a class – i.e. pottery, painting, or sculpture.
  • Enrolling in a semester of life drawing classes to up skill in your figure drawing
  • Studying some technical aspect of your medium
  • Making art journaling part of your daily creative practice
  • Taking time to really think about what your creative practice means to you
  • Working with a mentor to help you gain insights into things that are difficult to see for yourself
  • Joining a creative Mastermind group or creating one of your own

There are so many aspects to one’s creative practice that can be delved into in more detail. One of the areas that I would like to explore with you is the ways you can tap into your greater creative potential and look at ‘how can I deepen my creative practice?’

deepen my creative practice,meditation,kadira_jennings
Creative Practice – What Is It?

In order to talk about deepening your creative practice, we need to begin with the concept of what it actually is.  Why do we call it a Creative Practice?  What does that really mean?

Unless we understand the nature of a thing, it is impossible to try to think about changing it in some way. If we fail to understand the inherent qualities in that thing, in this case, our Creative Practice, any changes we might make, can often be counterproductive, because we are not looking at the big picture. That is why we must begin with a discussion on the nature of creative practice in order to go deeper into its meaning in our creative life.

Before going further, I would refer you to two earlier posts on this subject for an overview of the topic. These discussions are about the surface levels of Creative Practice.

Creative Practice Part I

Creative Practice Part II

The distinction I want to pursue in this post is a discussion of how we can tap into our own creative depths and why that is important. The term Creative Practice, itself suggests that it is an ongoing process, which indeed it is. When we practice something we keep refining and readjusting it, looking to make it the best that we can. 

In the pursuit of artistic excellence, therefore, we engage in a practice which calls to something deeper within us. It is not only concerned with practicing and perfecting techniques.  This may occur in the beginning, however, as we move past that stage, we find ourselves drawn to creating something meaningful to us and possibly others as well.

In order to understand how to deepen our Creative Practice, I will be offering you over the course of this series, some suggestions.

What are some techniques we can use to achieve this?

Our Beginnings

To know clearly where we are now, it is often necessary to look backward. If we have an understanding of the journey that has brought us to the point we are currently standing, we will have a great deal more insight than we might otherwise have had.
This, therefore, brings me to the first technique, which can be a rich mine of information to support your Creative Practice.

Exercise 1
The Timeline
  1. I would like you to take a piece of A4 paper, turn it sideways and rule two lines on it, one of them at the top and one just over halfway down it.
  2.  At the beginning of the top line I want you to write Birth and at the end of the second, I want you to write your current age.
  3. Now, think back through your life to the major events that have occurred. The first one on your line – after your birth, should be your earliest memory.
    Apart from major life events the other things you might consider putting on this timeline, are moments that have really stood out for you for some reason.
  4. Do you have any memories that are like beautiful jewels? For example, one that springs to mind in my own life was not a major event, and yet I can still see the image so clearly in my mind’s eye. This took place when I was about eight. We lived in Blenheim in New Zealand at the time. One Sunday morning as we were driving to church, I remember looking out the back window of the car and seeing the moon sitting on the mountains in the distance. It looked absolutely enormous as it nestled in the sky, glowing pink with the sunrise. The beauty of that immense, luminous moon, resting on top of the snow-capped mountains has always stayed with me. This experience was I think, one of my first awakenings to the immensity and beauty of the natural environment.
  5. Below, I have shared my timeline with you. As you can see there are challenging times on it.  These events have definitely influenced how my life has unfolded, and the way my creative practice has grown out of my dealing with those events. There are in all of our lives moments that may have been incredibly challenging and how we have dealt with those moments has defined who we were and how we moved forward from there.
  6. My Timeline,kadira_jennings

      My Timeline

If we think about our lives as a series of moments, when we look at these moments on our timeline, we find that some have gained much more significance than others, within the landscape of our lives. It is these significant moments that can offer a Treasure House of things for us to base our creative practice around, for they contain an essence of who we were – and offer us the ability to question if we are still that person and how we might feel about that.


Empty Vessel Beautiful Place

When I look at my timeline and think about my body of work, I can see a correlation between my emotional states and the works I’ve produced at different points along this timeline. I also see that there are some areas that I have created series of paintings around. For example the paintings I did dealing with the death of my father. Empty Vessel Beautiful Place  – is one of the works from that series. Another important series within my body of work was done in 2014 when I was experiencing a huge gulf in my creative practice and working through a period which I called my ‘ dark night of the Soul.’ The work below is from this period.

Dancing In The Dark, Kadira Jennings

Dancing In The Dark -Oils on Canvas

It is interesting for me to also see that there are some areas of my early life that I have not dealt with in my artwork and I am wondering what I have missed. What is there that is unique within my experience that can be gifted to the world?

Furthermore, I would suggest that if we look at the timeline as a whole, we will see patterns begin to emerge. Patterns which speak to us of the joys and challenges we have experienced. On looking more closely we can often see repeating patterns. It is these repeating patterns that offer clarity, wisdom, and insights into how we might proceed forward with a greater level of understanding in the future.

If you wish to learn more about how to deepen your creative practice, this is the first in a series I plan to post, so stay tuned.





Pix: realworkhard

Photo by erix!


 artists biggest fear,kadira_jennings

Are you the Eagle or the Little Guy?

An artist’s biggest fear, what do you think it is? Of course there are many different fears that an artist or a creative person might have, however, I think the magnitude of them depends on whether the artist is a hobby artist or a professional artist. The challenges that are presented to a professional artist, of course, are a lot different to the hobby artist, although I can see how some might overlap.

Let’s take a look at some of the fears that lurk beneath the surface.

  • Failing as a creator – a biggie.
  • Not being able to support one’s self financially – an even bigger biggie!
  • Fear of the competition
  • I’m not enough or not good enough.
  • I won’t be able to sell my work
  • No one will like what I paint
  • I won’t be able to find a gallery to accept me
  • I can’t become an artist – people will think I’m weird and different
  • I will have to dress weird
  • People will tell me to get a ‘real job’
  • I can’t afford the art materials
  • How will I find a good teacher?

There are probably a great many more than these but they are some of the more common ones that spring to mind.  I think I’ve thought every one of them at some point in my art career. However, obviously, some of them are much more gut-wrenching than others.

I would say that the financial problem is probably the biggest fear that budding artists face. It is no easy task to become a professional artist where your sole income is earned from your paintings. One of my mentors, It was pointed out to me, that this attitude is, in fact, a very unfair one to burden your fledgling paintings with.

What Would The Ideal Situation Be?

Therefore, in the beginning, most of us need to have an independent source of income, which in fact will fund the launching of our art careers. Now the ideal situation is, of course, to have that funding come from a source that is Allied to the Arts sector in some way. In my case, I have built a reasonably sized art school and my income from this funds my lifestyle and the development of my professional art career.

Now the ideal situation is, of course, to have that funding come from a source that is allied to the Arts sector in some way.  In my case, I have built an art school into a viable income stream, and my income from this funds my lifestyle and the development of my professional art career.  I am lucky in that this is aligned with what I like to do. I don’t have to go out and scrub floors, do ironing or something awful like that. Not only that, but I have found over the years that teaching is very good for maintaining your technical art skills and keeping your eye and hand in practice for your own artwork.

In the future, I will expand on the ideas in this post in more depth.


Pix Credits: bwj727


if you could,job,artists

If you could do any Job In The World, What Would It Be?

If you could do – Any Job – at all, you say. Well let me see, I actually quite like the job I have now. Gracie, my granddaughter brought this subject up the other day.  We were at the dinner table when she asked John and me how many jobs we’ve had. So I began making a list  – and the more I thought about it the more surprised I was. – Here is the list from the time I was 11. Some were paid, some were not. I never realized until I made this list, how many skills I’ve acquired as I’ve gone through life.

1. A paper round

2. Picking strawberries

3. Working for a clothing shop like Lowes – called Williams outfitters. ( I was about 15 and got sacked because I wore my hair in  a beehive to work one day!)

4. Picking apples – a uni holiday job – that came with its own set of perils in the form of an overly amorous owner who had a wife and 6 kids, but thought I might like a dalliance with him – NOT!

5. Working on a bulb farm that sold daffodils and jonquils –  another uni holiday job

6. Working in an electrical components factory ( the most boring job on earth, winding wire around  little plastic coils all day long) – yet another uni holiday job

7. Running a small private school in New Zealand

8. Working in the office of the Poultry Men’s Coop.

9. Office work at Heards Sweet factory in Parnell which is now a bunch of fancy warehouse apartments.

10. Home Schooling my kids

11. Running a business doing painted finishes and wall murals

12. Partner in a luxury fabric, dying and printing business after the style of Fortuny.

Luxury fabric

13. Liming floors  – you know that trendy look of milky white floors. – A back-breaking job if ever there was one

14. Staining floors

15. Making Jewellery – several different incarnations of this  took place over time, – liquid silver necklaces – back in the 80’s, silver smithing, cast resin – hand painted jewellery, Fimo jewellery — made like Venetian glass and then when we came to Australia, Australiana animals, and birds, as well as full on flower creations i.e.  roses, fuschias etc.

16. Creativity coach

17. Published poet

18. And last but not least, winding through much of the above – being an artist and art teacher.

I would have to say that I feel very blessed to have ended up doing a job that is so connected to my passion – creativity and helping others to grow that passion in their own lives. So I’m not sure that if I could choose any job in the world, that I would choose any job other than the one I have now.

This Weeks Question: So I ask you againIf you could do any Job In The World, What Would It Be?

Look For Next Week’s PostAn artist’s biggest fear, what do you think it is?

Photo by allspice1

starving artist photo

An Artists Biggest Fear? What Do You Think It Is?

An artists biggest fear, what is it? This is an interesting question. If you are an artist, and I’m using the term loosely here,  there are several fears which might come in at number one.

  • Is my work good enough?
  • No one will like my work
  • My work won’t sell
  • I’ll never be able to make a living from it
  • No one will take me seriously
  • I’m too old to begin an art career
  • How can I make enough money and still have time to paint/craft/act…………
  • There is so much competition out there and everyone seems to be better than me

And the list goes on.

I think it is hard to really put any one of these at the top of the list. If I was challenged to do so, I think I would have to say that one of the biggest concerns I have had as an artist has been how can I find time to paint and support myself as well. This was particularly challenging for me because I was never really trained in anything. However, when I look back this was perhaps a blessing in disguise because I was encouraged by one of my mentors to think about teaching art. I was very reluctant to do so in the beginning as I felt I wasn’t skilled enough. But, I did what I usually do and threw myself in at the deep end and did my best to stay a step or two ahead of my students. This was pretty challenging at the beginning.
Nevertheless, I now have an art school, with a fluctuating role of between 35 and 40 students. This provides me with a reasonable income, at the same time allowing me time to paint, although probably not as much time to paint as I would like. Still, I consider myself to be fortunate because the work I do is something that I love to do, plus I don’t have to leave home to do it.

For a long time, there has been The Starving artist myth floating around, and this is probably one of those urban legends that would best be put to bed. If you know anything about the law of attraction, then you know that focusing on the fact that you’re a starving artist really contributes to that reality. It is time that artists started thinking of themselves as successful contributors to society instead of focusing on the fear of being hungry and homeless. And the problem with this fear is that it stops us from doing our art, from taking those sometimes scary steps into the bigger reality of who we might be.

This Weeks Question: What is your biggest fear around your creativity and how do you deal with it?

Look For Next Week’s Post: What’s the best job I’ve ever done?

Photo by sonewfangled

comforting criticism,criticism,critics

Cut To The Quick – Is There Such a Thing as Comforting Criticism?

Comforting Criticism – well that’s a kind of paradox, isn’t it? Nobody really wants criticism – we don’t want to be told that our fledgling creations aren’t quite up to scratch, that we didn’t get it right.  Is there any value in criticism at all, we might ask? There are two things at stake here – one is our precious ego, and the other is our fear.  That fear that we are being seen for the fraud that we really are ( well so we tell ourselves), and the fear that we won’t be able to get it right at all. The fear that we are so bad, so dumb that we won’t ever get it right stops creativity in its tracks.

Man, that gremlin – does he sit on your shoulder sometimes, because he’s certainly spent a lot of time sitting on mine in the past? So this leads me to Comforting Criticism. – Just what is that really?  I have heard it described as an Oreo™ cookie. Why? Because you give some pithy comments upfront, followed by something mushier and follow-up with a last, slightly challenging sentence. In other words, your criticism is offset by some encouraging comments.

There are different ways to view criticism. We can take it too hard and get upset and even angry with the other person about their observations. Or we can be a bit thick skinned and say to ourselves ‘well is that true? What do I honestly think about that? Of course, any persons critical viewpoint is their opinion about the matter at hand. So obviously some criticism is going to be more valuable than others. If you are taking an art class and your tutor comments about something in your work that could perhaps be changed, and they explain why it needs to be, this is a lot more useful than one of your classmates commenting on your work, when they don’t necessarily have that much experience. However, that doesn’t mean to say that you have to dismiss the criticism out of hand, particularly if they have painted for longer than you have.
The trouble with criticism is that our fragile egos don’t like to think that we haven’t got it right, and it’ll go to bat for us, when that may not even be helpful at all. And the problem with comforting criticism is that we may be receiving a watered down version of the truth, which is not helpful either.

It is my belief that criticism certainly has its place in the scheme of things. And my positive response to it rises in direct proportion to the regard with which I hold the criticizer.  If it’s someone who I consider knows more about the subject than I do, I’m very happy to listen to their thoughts on the subject at hand.  

This Weeks Question: What has been your reaction to criticism of your work? Do you find it useful or do you fear it?

Look For Next Week’s PostAn artist’s biggest fear, what do you think it is?


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