Fast becoming known for her artistic expressions of mandalas, Trinidadian artist and art instructor Marsha Bhagwansingh shares with us the hues that make up her 20 shades.
1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity is expressed in many forms: dance, writing, painting, singing, photography, culinary arts. I think it is important for everyone, even those not employed in a creative field, to explore creative interests because there are benefits to be gained. Creative expression fosters peace of mind and can be therapeutic. Having a creative outlet can help you to deal with the rigours of the day. We each go through difficult periods in our lives and through creative expression, as a healthy outlet, a balance can be found.
2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity
a skill that you have developed?
I do believe creative ability is innate but you can develop techniques to become skilled in whichever creative outlet you choose.
3. When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity?
Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
It’s a difficult question to answer specifically because as children most of us express ourselves creatively fairly easily. Imagination and creativity go hand in hand when we are very young. As we get older, when we think of creativity we tend to think about art and craft or professional painters, writers, musicians and the like. But I think everyone has the desire to express themselves creatively. Most are unaware of the many different ways they can do that.
When I realized I wanted to choose painting and drawing as my expressive medium I was in my last year of high school. I was fortunate to have been encouraged by both parents.
4. What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
The process of creating a piece for me is the most enjoyable part and the pieces which become the most valuable to me are usually the ones I truly enjoyed producing. When I’ve created a piece for sale or a piece which has been commissioned I value it based on materials, time, and profit.
Most of the commissions I have done have been specifically requested. People request a specific image: their house, boat, a scene which invokes a memory etc. For me, there is little room for full creative expression. In these cases there is more technique involved. So for me monetary rewards cannot always be compatible with creativity. When I accept a commission it becomes a job. For me, true creativity feels less like work.
Monetary rewards are sometimes necessary to make a living but most of my income comes from teaching others to express themselves through art. I do exhibit every couple of years but the pieces are a labour of love and I usually keep my pieces affordable so others can share.
5. Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
My subjects of my pieces are not often culturally driven. They are mostly more expressive and not representations of what I see with my physical eyes. On occasion I will produce such a piece for a themed exhibition.
6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?
Oh that has always been easy: I’ll play Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd never fails to pull me out of a creative block. Music puts me in a creative frame of mind. Meditation also helps. When my students encounter creative blocks I advise them to attend exhibitions, look at art, listen to music, or go to the beach or any flowing water source or surround themselves with nature.
7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
If I can, I just get started. But I do have a project notebook in which I doodle, write or sketch ideas and make notes on colour scheme s etc. With my mandalas there is usually sketching involved at first which is always enjoyable and relaxing.
8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
Meditation sometimes. Music throughout the process is important to me.
9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured?
Definitely. I think that is a normal evolution for any person who expresses themselves creatively. Our interests and what inspires us changes as our journey goes on. We have more experiences, meet new people and are constantly exposed to new ideas as life changes. So there will always be new stimuli. For me, there has been continuous movement and change in my life so my manners of expression change along with it.
10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Some may say that I have given up on socially accepted norms of financial security, (day job), but to me it has never been a sacrifice. I do what I do because it brings me joy. I am fortunate that my life has been such that I have been allowed to do this and that my creative endevours have proved financially sustainable. It is unfortunate that so many people’s lives are only about working to survive or to provide for dependents.
11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
My students, my support networks (family and friends), fellow creatives and artists, my college art teacher Robert Huff, my love for what I do and the joy it brings to me and to others. I love seeing someone discover their true creative outlet. It is incredibly fulfilling. At times, few and far between, I feel like I have to persevere, to push through when things are difficult, but mostly this journey has been a joy.
12. Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
At this stage I don’t really seek approval or confirmation from others that I am an artist. When I first started out 20 years ago, sure, I needed confirmation from galleries that my work was exhibition worthy, and for buyers to say that my work was of value to them. But today, it’s more about the creative expression than the sales. At some point, every creative person will produce pieces from which fulfilment is derived from the process of creation rather than the end result. This, to me, is what make creative expression a joy. The process is the purpose, not the end result. I am fortunate enough to do this because my teaching of art pays my bills.
13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
Perhaps when I was in college. I applied for scholarships at three US schools that I had hoped to attend after college and did not win. At the age of 19, I let that disappointment overwhelm me and I was ready to change my major. My art teacher sat me down and we had a long talk about what art meant to me.
14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
I wouldn’t change anything. My journey has led me here and if there were changes I would not be at this place. Even if this place was not so fulfilling I would not change anything. I accept that everything is as it should be. We always have a choice to learn and grow or to resist and stagnate. If I absolutely had to change something I would change the fact that the Colorado Avalanche beat the Florida Panthers in the 1996 Stanley cup ice hockey playoffs.
15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
The only time I really doubted that my future path included art was when I was not offered the scholarships. That was doubt but not disbelief. Getting back on track did not take very long. I knew art was for me, so it did not take really long to realign with what I thought was my dharma (life’s purpose).
16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
My squishy, (2.5 year old son). Ok seriously, I am most proud of the fact that I have helped almost 2000 people discover and foster their creative expression. I’m not sure if pride is what I feel, but at the moment I have really connected with producing the mandalas. I did not expect to respond to this creative process the way I have and did not expect people to respond to them the way they have either. But I had read about them I liked their aesthetic value and even from sketching the first one the magic of it had an effect on me and my students that were in the studio at the time. I think that the mandalas are a significant part of my future, for me personally and in terms of teaching. I hope to share this meditative form of therapy with others.
17. Have you helped or mentored anyone else? Is there someone that you see
that you would like to Mentor?
Of all the students I’ve taught in the last fifteen years, many have been around for my creative journey and a lot have influenced that journey as well. It is a form of co-mentoring perhaps. I am open to mentoring. I do believe that the creative process has tremendous healing qualities and I would like the opportunity to work with adults who face challenges overcoming difficult experiences in traditional ways.
18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Be true to yourself and focus on the creative process itself rather only the end result. Be open to learning and evolving. You don’t have to stay in the same place as change is necessary and ultimately rewarding. Spend time in nature as often as possible as nature always brings inspiration. Trust more in what brings you joy, not so much what people tell you that you should create. Experiment. Learn as much as you can, from all resources. Talk to other artists, go to exhibitions, look up painting videos on youtube, sign up for more classes. Be exposed to many different teachers wherever your interests lie. Find what resonates with your heart and not only with your wallet.
19. What would you most like to be remembered for?
Following my heart and helping others to get in touch with their creative sides and allowing that part of them to become a way to find balance in their lives.
20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
You can find out more about Marsha, her artwork and her classes on her Facebook page: The Sculptor’s Workshop.