Elechi Todd is an artist who works cross mediums with an interest in painting primarily, he also expresses his creativity with street art and film. He has co-curated and participated in several shows in collaboration with other young artists from Trinidad, most notably The Paper Show, 2015 and Common Thread, 2018. He has also exhibited internationally in group shows in Portugal 2014 and London, 2017.
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
I don’t really think about being creative but I believe it has a lot to do with uniqueness and I guess how effectively that unique approach works in delivering whatever message you’re trying to get across.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
I’m not sure but it helps as a start, but the more you work the deeper you dig and really tap into the good stuff.
When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I was in school doing art, I was more into sports at the time, but around the time I had to choose my subjects I was recommended to pursue art and I wasn’t going to but a teacher who gave me some guidance while choosing subjects encouraged me to pursue it so I thought I’d give it a try.
What is your standard for evaluating your creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are financial rewards relevant to your projects?
I want my work to be memorable and striking so that it really earns a spot in someone’s memory and forces them to think about. The closer or further I am to achieving that arresting image will determine my judgement of the work. I usually won’t stop working on a piece until I feel as though I’ve achieved that or I’m close enough and if I touch it again I’ll ruin it. I’m slow in judging the work of others at times, I try to let the work sit with me for a while before I make my judgement. However, different kinds of work solicit various responses. I don’t think one can look at all artwork in the same way or judge on the same scale whether it’s good or bad.
Financial rewards are relevant yes because everyone needs money to buy the things needed to survive.
Do you think your perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you believe the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
To some degree I guess, you can’t really control the kinds of opinions you’re exposed to in the developmental stages but your ideas about things change over time, you form your own opinions and sometimes the opinions of others reinforce or influence this thinking in some way.
My culture doesn’t really play a direct role in my work right now. Of course my environment influences my work in some ways but I’m still inside my head, almost like an embryo. I haven’t been born yet. I’m still dealing with what’s going on inside of me and in my immediate space and coming to terms with that before I make any comments on what’s going on outside.
Does your creative work come easily or do you struggle with your ideas? What obstacles (if any) do you experience when you are creating? If you do face obstacles, how do you get past them?
I don’t struggle with making work, I wouldn’t call it a struggle. I enjoy the challenges that come along with painting and have learned to trust myself and be confident in my abilities. However the more difficult part of making work is figuring out why anyone would care for the images, is it important? Why should someone spend time looking at it? Yes I enjoy it and it means something to me but how does this impact others? It’s a lot like a signal I’m putting out to see if anyone else can understand my language.
Is there something that you do to put yourself into a creative state of mind? If so, what? How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
I wouldn’t call it “putting myself in a creative state of mind” but more of a ritual of calming my mind and getting ready to enter a state of hyperfocus. I like a cup of tea or coffee, maybe a glass of rum. The leap from spark to action... there’s a lot of thinking that goes on between the time of the spark and actual execution, but it varies. Sometimes I work completely without any plan, I just go. Usually though, I do a very crudely drawn sketch think think think, maybe in a few months, weeks, days sometimes years, I lay out a blank canvas or paper and I get started. I’m not very formulaic in my approach so there have been several kinds of beginnings.
What has been the most significant sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Maybe maintaining friendships, but I think they understand. I need time to myself, it’s a solitary activity so I can’t really have people around me like that.
Which creative people do you admire? Why?
I admire many creatives I wouldn’t name any in particular, Trinidad is overflowing with them. It’s usually for their unique take on things in whatever their practice might be.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
Myself first, and my family. I’ve also had support over the years from different people in the form encouraging words or them acquiring some of my work, that’s the best form of encouragement. It says a lot more than just “here’s some money for your painting” for me it feels more like a gesture that says “keep going” which is of supreme importance.
Do you believe that it is essential to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
Depends on who you look to for acceptance, for me it makes life easier when people established in the field you’re pursuing “accept” you, it’s easy to feel overlooked or ignored by the people you hope would have some input or something to say about anything you’re doing like an “I see you, I see what you’re doing”. Wanting to make a career out of something like being an artist takes a lot of courage I think, and it’s not the easiest thing to figure out on your own. However, you still need to be sure of yourself and act as your own support system to be able to keep going and believe in yourself so when you’re alone you can still continue.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
It’s made me work 10x harder and put together my own shows in collaboration with my friends, we don’t really rely on being accepted by any galleries or anyone to have shows and that’s helped us grow in many ways. Rejection makes me want to be in greater control. If I get rejected from something I applied to my response is to head back in the studio and keep at it and try again next time. You’re only defeated when you accept defeat.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I have, I wrote about it in a personal journal, stayed in my head overthinking, beat myself up about it, that’s debilitating and stressful, but eventually I shake it off after some time and get back in the studio and make work, that’s the best way to get through anything, just go to a piece and do something. I try to continuously remind myself where I started and how much growth has happened since then and then it’s not so bad, because I understand that it’s a process and you can’t just jump to the end. Unless you’re Basquiat.
What piece of work are you most proud? Why?
I haven’t made it yet.
What is your ultimate creative goal and how attainable do you think it is?
Hmm that’s a secret, but anything is possible.
What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
Have fun, don’t take it so seriously.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you give them?
You haven’t made your best work yet so be humble and keep at it.
For what would you like to be most remembered?
The work I’ve made.
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
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