1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
To me creativity is putting your own spin on a new or existing idea. I don't actually know if I can define what it means in my life, sometimes it feels like it's not optional but a pull that I need to respond to - like part of who I am.
2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
I think it's a combination for me. The desire to create has always been there and I would say that my father fostered that in my early years - there was always something that needed fixing or modifying and I was challenged to think outside the box. When it comes to my work in the creative areas whether it's writing, drawing, painting or photography, I can't say how much is innate because looking back on my past work, I can see the distance traveled and know that I have grown as an artist by learning so much along the way.
3. When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I was a top art student in primary school and a top literary student in secondary school. A few of my teachers directly encouraged it and my parents did so unintentionally by allowing me to challenge myself in my formative years. I was enrolled in ballet at one point, then modern dance, then stopped halfway through to learn the guitar (which was abandoned for drums). Anything I wanted to try, my dad would say "give it a go". So yes I was always experimenting to find where I fit - my parents never forced me to finish any of these if I didn't like it and looking back I sometimes wish they made me stick with at least one, but I know all this has contributed to the person I am right now
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 standard I set keeps changing and always is just out of reach as personally I want to and feel that I could do better. One of the things I love about photography is there is so much left for me to learn. There are artists that I admire that inspire me to be better and not settle for where I am. When it comes to other's work, I simply go with my emotion - how does this work affect me? How do I feel? And once there is some emotion involved, even if just the admiration of a skill properly executed, I appreciate it.
Hmmm...can monetary rewards be compatible with creativity, that I don't have the answer to - I mean it's great getting paid, so not arguing with that at all, but I have always been lousy at pricing - that is another area I am still learning. That being said, I remember the first piece of photography I sold in 2008, I was ecstatic - the pure shock of it was "wait, someone likes my work enough to pay money for it?" That piece was a photo of a boat in Cedros and it was sold to a law firm in Miami :)
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 creative endeavours are hugely influenced by magazines and names I grew up with - National Geographic is at the top of the list. I remember reading them and thinking "wow look at this place, I wish I could be there". Later on my influences were appended to include people I read about (both famous and not) whose work gave me those same emotions I referred to above.
I love Trinidad but honestly I don't think artists are respected the way they should be in our culture. In 2014, I was part of Miami Art Basel week and the way they treat artists - the way they treated me - left me in awe that we could be so revered. It felt almost like it was too much because I was not used to it.
6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?
I use other art forms to get over creative blocks - So for example if I am writing and I hit a snag, usually it means it's time for a break so I pick up my camera and venture out - other days (especially rainy ones), I might pick up a paintbrush or pencil and try to create something different. If photography wise I feel like my work is missing that push, I write. And on those few days I don't feel like creating, I do something Math related lol - seriously I love Math, always have ...
7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
Self talks. As crazy as that sounds, that's the best way I can put it - because to me no matter how many people push you, you have to know your own buttons and how to push yourself. My latest endeavour (getting my first children's book published) was just that. Always writing, always loved to write and when I met a children's book illustrator last year, it felt like the stars aligned - I wrote the book and then we came up with illustrations together and kept pushing each other until the end of it, when I started the whole publishing process. I was initially going to try self-publishing since it seemed easy enough, but that ended up not being cost effective, so I got myself a publishing house and now my book is on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and a few other websites for sale.
The "Spark" that started 6 months ago came to fruition by perseverance and plenty self talks (especially those days when I was tired and busy with all my other projects and clients). I had to say to myself "see this through Nisha" and I said it many many times ...
8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
I must have music ... even if it's my head. Music is a huge part of my life and it helps me decipher at times what I want to portray and how - it does this by quieting all the other thoughts that fight for my attention and hones my focus to what I am working on
9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
Wow. Yes. I feel all of it is still me, but as I have gotten older and had new and different life experiences - these have also coloured (whether added or detracted from) my work - and yes in all aspects of my work from writing to photography (the two dominant ones). Also learning new skill sets along the way contributed to the change in the way I create and portray my work over time.
10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Time with my mother. Although it feels like yesterday sometimes, I lost my dad many years ago and he was my biggest hero - after him, it's my mother. My craft takes time, whether it be learning, applying, experimenting or traveling and since I do have a regular 9 to 5 job, that leaves only evenings, nights and weekends. I never realised how much time I had lost with her until she got a stroke last year - then everything had to stop so she was at the forefront. I have since learned from that and I try to balance it by making more time for her and scheduling everything else accordingly. She is very understanding most days because she is very proud of all I have achieved but I know she loves our time together too. I can't get back the time that has been lost, but I have the opportunity now to do better.
11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
Every time I have wanted to quit, the thought that keeps me going is "what would my father think?"
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?
All human beings want some sort of acceptance and even if they just love what they are doing, they belong to a group of people who feel the same way. My standards for me mean that someday the work I aspire to do will be at very least recognized by the people who inspired it. One of the things I recently heard a friend say when I got my book published is "so what, you're a writer now? what about photography?" And my first thought was "why do I have to be one or the other?" I love to create - write, draw, paint and take photos - I see myself as an artist, so why do I have to put myself in one category? So for the latter, loving what you do is an important factor to not limiting yourself.
13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process?
It has - both in negative and positive ways over the years. When I started doing photography, it was all for fun and as a hobby and then when my work started selling online, I made attempts to get it locally recognized. I was told that photographers were a dime a dozen and that my work wasn't worth much and at times not even good enough. It gives you that bitter taste at the back of your throat and it's up to you to determine how long you let it affect you - is it the water that puts out your fire or the fuel that fires you up to burn brighter?
As I get older, rejection is no longer a big deal - once I it hit home how much all art is subjective, I am ok if my work doesn't fit someone's expectations - take the lesson and move on.
14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
I feel like there must be something that I could or should change but I honestly can't think of anything right now. When I look at some of my older work, I think "really I did that and shared it with the world?" but say what it's been a nice ride and I get to see where I was and where I am now.
15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I still doubt and still work through this some days :) I am always aspiring to do better and more and many times I stop and wonder if or when I will get there and it sometimes gets frustrating. I work through this by reminding myself that it is a journey that needs time and patience and that certain steps need to be taken before some leaps. It's a lesson in patience and helps me keep pushing on.
16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
That's like asking someone to choose their favourite child, but yes if I had to choose one today it would be my photo of the Horseshoe River bend in Page, Arizona. Everything about it from the day itself holds good memories - from lying on the ground, leaning over the side of a cliff with someone holding onto my ankles for grounding against the 25 mph wind to take it to seeing it reach places before I did.
That piece was featured in The Louvre Paris in July this year as part of The Exposure Awards and is now featured in a book with all the Exposure Awardees for Landscape photography. Then, it was on display again at Miami Art Basel 2015 for Art Week - a most proud moment to stand there with other artists and look at it.
17. Have you helped or mentored anyone else? Is there someone that you see (name drop) that you would like to Mentor?
I have mentored a few people over the years and it is an immense satisfaction that is hard to describe and something I wish I made more time to do. I teach landscape photography on the odd weekends and have small classes of about 5 or so, where we take a small field trip which involves a lot of discussion and hands on work. One of the best things about this is I learn how much I actually know and what I myself need to keep working on.
I have been approached by a number of foreigners who want to learn landscape photography and in the coming years, I will be doing photography field trips outside of Trinidad.
18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
In the field of photography, my advice would firstly learn your camera!! Then practice practice practice and know that there is always something to learn so stay humble. Lastly, don't give up when you get turned down - let that be the thing that drives you further. In the field of writing, drawing and painting, definitely don't give up and stay persistent.
And for any creative in Trinidad, don't let the market here be your only source of aspiration - with the Internet, the world is your playground.
19. What would you most like to be remembered for?
If you asked me this five years ago, I would have said that I wanted to be remembered for my work but that has since changed. Honestly, I would love to just be remembered as the girl who lived life to the fullest - the trini girl who could (hmm, might be an interesting book title) :)
20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
The name of my colour would be "traveler blue"
Blue has always been my favourite colour because to me it's nature and occurs so vibrantly in the world that I love, in the sky and ocean. It says Caribbean, it says journey, it says sunny happy day and there are so many beautiful variations of blue. "Traveler blue" would be the colour of the sky on a sunny Trinidad Maracas beach day.
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