Professional Practice

Continuing to Stay Creative (Ep. 253)

During Friday night’s NOW Conference, Tim and co-host Amanda Heyn spent some time talking about creativity with art teachers and artists Candido Crespo and Sarah Krajewski. That conversation makes up the bulk of today’s podcast. Listen as they discuss simple ways to stay creative, the easiest ways to consistently make art, and how staying creative can help you in the classroom. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

I hope you were able to join us for the NOW Conference this weekend. It was a great day with so much learning, so many amazing presentations and just quality time with artists and our teachers that we love, which is something that everybody needs right now. Something that we’re all, I think, still craving that kind of connection. So it was really good to just spend some time with other art teachers and just kind of feed off of that energy. But kind of a fun part of the conference weekend was the pre-conference, which we did on Friday night. We did some trivia, which was a lot of fun. We did some art making, which is very much needed to have some time to do that. And we had a great conversation on creativity, and that conversation from Friday is something I want to share with you in the podcast today.

So you will hear four people in this conversation. I’m on there. Amanda, my conference cohost, frequent podcast guest is on there, and we’re kind of guiding the conversation. More importantly, though, we have two wonderful guests, Sarah Krajewski and Candido Crespo who are both art teachers and practicing artists. They had wonderful advice about art making and finding ways to stay creative. And I think it’s worth hearing. So we’re going to replay that discussion for you now. Now, this was live on camera so you may hear a couple of things that don’t translate perfectly to a podcast, but again, I think the conversation is worth your time. So here is our discussion on creativity from Friday night with Sarah Krajewski and Candido Crespo.

So in just a second I’ll let these two introduce themselves a little bit more, but I’ll give a very quick intro. Sarah Krajewski, probably a familiar face. She’s been at the conference a lot before. She does Instagram Live like Amanda mentioned, a lot of other things. She’s going to be presenting tomorrow with a really cool lesson. And then Candido is also going to be presenting tomorrow. His first time at the conference. He’s got a really cool presentation on monoprinting. You might have also heard him on an episode of Everyday Art Room with Nic Hahn or seen him on Instagram Live with Sarah. I’m really excited that we can introduce him to a lot more people tonight and tomorrow.

Also, if you have questions for either of these two, as the discussion gets going, ask them in the chat. Amanda and I will keep an eye on that. And if there are some good questions, we may ask it here a lot. So, Sarah, I’ll go to you first. Can you fill in your bio a little bit? What else do we need know about you?

Sarah: Yes. So I’m an elementary art educator. So I teach in Wisconsin. This is my 10th year teaching although as we know it feels like your first or like your half a year. It’s just so totally weird. So it is a very interesting year. I’m having a lot of fun running the IG Lives. That’s why I’m showing you my like, just stickers waiting to be given to you all. Like look at them-

Amanda: So many.

Sarah: … stickers you guys. So if you join the chats on Monday and just watch the chat live, then I always do a question at the end for people to answer. Candido was recently on one a few weeks ago, super fun. And it’s just a really great way for us to kind of like have a conversation with art teachers and other creatives and other things like that too. So yeah. I’m excited to talk about art making as well because I’ve got some tips.

Tim: Nice. All right. Candido same question for you. What do you need us to know about you?

Candido: Oh, I’m a 14-year art teacher, husband, father. I love making art whenever and however I can post a podcast, and yeah, if I have the opportunity to be creative, I’m definitely going to do it.

Tim: Nice.

Amanda: Awesome. So the reason we wanted to bring you two on specifically, like everybody who’s an art teacher is creative, but I feel like you two are sort of like on another level, like you’re in the stratosphere of like you have to be making something every minute of every day. But as we know, like you’re teaching full time, it’s a pandemic, so when and where do you even find the time to be creative? Or how do you make sure that it stays a part of your life when there are so many different things going on? Sarah, I’ll throw the question to you first.

Sarah: Okay. So here’s my first and most helpful trick that helps me is A well, first… See I’m like going to list them. I’m like A, one, A, B, okay. Basically, I have some sort of piece of art that I’m working on in like multiple places. So like for example, this is an embroidery that is my like couch art. So when I’m like, I don’t want to be in my studio, I don’t want to be comfy under a blanket, I don’t want to be watching a movie, which can we just do a shout out for my like needle holder?

Amanda: Wow!

Tim: Hey.

Sarah: Guys, come on. It’s so good. So this is like not what I usually paint, but like as Candido and I had chatted about before you can make art however you want. So this is my like comfy art making thing. I’ve got a bunch of half-made pieces of art that are always like, okay, I just want to paint on abstraction, but I don’t really want to start from nothing. So I can just like make something from nothing. And then the other thing, too, that I was going to share with you that’s one of my favorite things is bullet journaling. Because I just put into my bullet journal, which if anybody… Shout out to people that are like in the chat here that have bullet journals, and I know coach T is rocking it, but I just make like a little spot for me to make a doodle each day in my journal.

Amanda: I literally gasped when I saw that on your Instagram, I was like, “Oh, my gosh!”

Sarah: Yeah, it’s so fun to set up the pages because I’m like kind of meticulous and it’s like fun to sort of grid stuff out. But also it’s really fun to be able to just like decide what you want your pages to look like. So those are my three main things, is always have couch art, always have like a little, like if you can have something small that’s not stressful, and then trying to always keep things like in progress too.

Amanda: I love that. I love the idea of couch art. So Candido, now I know you have an extra layer. I have two little kids. I know you’re a dad. I feel like that adds an extra level of complexity and time stuck. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

Candido: No, it’s not.

Amanda: So how do you stay creative and find time especially right now?

Candido: Right, I didn’t figure it out immediately, but once I did, I definitely have been able to enjoy being creative much more. So what I realized was staying up late it really isn’t sustainable as far as being a maker and a teacher at the same time. So what I’ve decided to do instead was make my son a part of my creative experience. So he loves to color draw, he loves to make me draw a lot of things over and over. And so I use that as an opportunity to just shake off any rust, try new things, try new materials. Actually, as a result of him watching me editing the monoprinting video, he asked me if he can try it. So I actually had an opportunity to do that with him. So that was pretty fun.

So yeah, just instead of me trying to find additional time, just brought him along for the ride and he seems to be enjoying it. And when he’s over it, that’s my time to stop. But then if he asks again, then I go for it. And then I always just have the sketchbook and the iPad handy so that if I want to work on additional stuff, maybe when he’s taking a nap or something, I go for it, or in the classroom my professional lunch period. My PD is really that. Is me making or me studying somebody else who’s making, that pretty much sums it up.

Amanda: That’s awesome.

Tim: Awesome. What was I going to say? I was just going to mention, my kids watched your monoprinting video, too, and they wanted to do it too. So we got some of those done at my house too.

Candido: Excellent.

Tim: We had a question in the chat, Candido, how old are your kids or your kid?

Candido: I have a son. He’s about to turn three in April.

Tim: Okay, nice. All right. Sarah, I want to come back to you because I know you wrote a book recently. Can you share just a little bit about how that fits into the whole big picture of creativity? And just tell us a little bit about that process and what you did to create that.

Sarah: I’m going to, first of all, do a little shout out to Jennifer Ferriday’s son. Hey buddy! Apparently he’s in the chat because he’s read my book in his art class. Are you okay, buddy? Hope you’re always exactly you.

Amanda: He is shocked and waving. This is exciting.

Sarah: I know. Yes, so I wrote a book basically within the last year. So once quarantine hit, I had always wanted to write a book but I had kind of a connection with a publisher and I basically just started storyboarding and got it all out in one day. It’s all about big feelings, but sort of through like my happy collage abstraction so that we could talk about stuff that’s a little bit deeper. I mentioned the words depression, anxiety, confidence, things that I find important to teach students and to have a conversation about, but are sort of more of an elementary level. Although I’ve read it to many people and all of my adult friends are like, “Oh yeah, this is not like elementary.”

Amanda: Oh, I found it very helpful, personally.

Sarah: Oh, yeah, because it reminds you like it’s okay to feel things and your feelings are beautiful and they make you who you are. But it was super fun to illustrate. And it gave me… I like having reasons to create something because sometimes like couch art is fun, but no one’s making me do this, you know what I mean? Like just doing it. But when you’re creating something for a bigger, you have an end goal in mind or like for a publisher, whatever, it feels like you have more of a timeline. So there’s kind of that motivation to continue working. So that was super fun to work on. And I’m really proud of it.

Amanda: That’s awesome. And Candido, some people were asking you to say the name of your podcast again, so we know you’re doing that. So can you talk just a little bit about that? And then what else are you working on these days?

Candido: So just to backtrack the debt, the father experience I have as a creator is actually creatividad, which is Spanish for creativity, but there’s an emphasis on the dad part of that word. So it’s CreativiDAD project that’s on Instagram. I just document our experience there. The podcast is the One Love Art Sessions podcasts. And what we do there is we actually just bring on guests, anybody who is actually a creative. So it’s not specific to fine arts or performing arts. They can be content creators, poets, and we give them a specific topic and we just engage in the conversation that way. Ultimately, what it does is just break down any kind of walls that exist between the people who love art and the artists themselves. So that’s what we have going on there.

As far as what I’m creating on my own time, I’m actually just developing stickers. I’m playing around with a character called Scaredy Pants. It’s just three ghosts in a pair of pants. And then I’m just like taking them and possessing pop culture characters like Bart Simpson and Mario and just replacing it and just having some fun with that. I never created some kind of iconic character like that. And I’ve always been fascinated by street artists that do it or just like Disney and Mickey. So I wanted to give that a chance and just play around with that idea.

Someone I think actually in the chat asked about drawing challenges. And I just wanted to answer that because I think that plays a huge role in as far as teachers remaining creative. Those are just pretty much presets for you, you can ask for a better way to have prompts and keep us stay organized. So yeah, I’ve done Inktober, I’ve done draw Halloween. I’ve done my own, like 25 days of Christmas where while my wife was pregnant, I took photos of her weekly and then just continuously drew over them. And so those were pretty fun. 11 days of gratitude for November. So just creating them for myself if I don’t find my own or if I don’t find preexisting ones. Yeah, that’s what I’m doing.

Amanda: Awesome. Thank you for sharing.

Tim: Yeah, that’s cool. A lot of good advice there. I want to ask you for more advice for people, actually, both of you. Candido, I’ll start with you. What is your best advice for people who maybe have lapsed with art making, like they haven’t been making for a while they want to get back into it, like where would you recommend they start? And like what kind of habits do you think people can or should get into to make sure they kind of keep going?

Candido: So one of my biggest issues is probably dealing with ideas, just collecting them and not actually acting upon them. So for me, sketchbook is top. Just keeping one available around even if it’s just on your nightstand just so you could get some an idea out. You don’t want to lose them so that when it’s time it does become available for you to work larger or to work in a complete process, you have those ideas already set. So if I had to give advice to somebody, I would say, grab that sketchbook that you should be probably have laying around already and start working in there because it’s for yourself, right? So you don’t necessarily have to share that. And also find a community that is creating and just dig in there and share or just learn, they exist. So definitely capitalize on that.

Amanda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim: That’s good. Sarah, same question for you. Like what advice do you have to people who want to start creating again?

Sarah: I think part of it is trying to surround yourself with inspiration so that you’ll be sort of reminded to create granted we’re teaching art every day, so there’s clearly a lot of inspiration there, but when we’re teaching, it’s not exactly the same as creating ourselves and sort of thinking inward. So if you’re part of social media follow a bunch of artists you really love so that your feed is not just education, but filled with artists, and styles, and drawings, or things that you really love to just see. So you’re surrounded by that beautiful art.

And then also just kind of giving yourself permission to start small a little bit, like you don’t have to have this big goal, but I just like the idea of keeping some sort of simple tool next to you. So I know a few people were asking about bullet journaling. It’s basically just like you get to invent it, how you want to do an analog journal. Mine is super simple. I just keep track of like a couple of little things in my journal and then just write down like do my grid. And then I have a little square at the bottom. So this starts as a dotted page. And then you can just build it how you want.

So if you’re kind of like, “I don’t really know what I want to do. I don’t really know what my style is or what I like.” Then you can just find something really simple, like a journal. Or I also think it really helps my mental health, too, because it kind of helps me track my days. So that will be like, “Okay, what was Monday? This is sort of how I felt when I sort of let that out of my drawing or just make a couple bullet points to PenceBullet journal. So to just keep it kind of small and surround yourself with things that inspire you.

Amanda: I love that. I heard something, I should say recently, about building trust with yourself, which I think is sort of what Sarah is, and Candido, both are saying. And this woman’s advice was to start with something so small that it would be like ridiculous if you failed. So she was talking about exercise and she was like, “Just step outside your door every day.” Like that’s all you need to do is like put on your exercise clothes and step outside your door. And like if you do nothing else, you’ve succeeded. Or like if you want to drink more water, don’t say like, “I’m going to drink a gallon of water a day.” It’s like, “I’m going to drink one glass of water a day.” Like something that’s so simple. And then you can do that and you build trust with yourself and then you can sort of ratchet it up from there, which I thought was really cool and something that you guys are both kind of talking about with these little small things that you can start with.

Tim: Yeah, for sure. All right. Now last question, Sarah, we’ll start with you on this one. Do you have just any words of encouragement for people? Like if people are hesitant to get back into art making, to get back to doing creative things, what would you say to them about why they should be making art?

Sarah: I would say just think about why you love art and why you specifically love it. I know I sometimes get sucked into like the comparison world a little bit, and I’m like, “I’m not embroidering like that person, or I’m not painting like that person. I’m not writing like that person.” And it’s hard to not compare, but there’s nobody like you, so you might as well just do it because you love it. And then if you want to share, awesome. And if you don’t, it doesn’t have to be for anybody else except for you because we know that art can be so therapeutic, especially now that if you can do anything to sort of just lift yourself up a little bit or hold yourself accountable for something. I think that’s what it’s all about. And to try not to get sucked into too much comparison, but instead reframing that comparison in to like just love and affection for someone else having a successful piece of art that you really love, you know what I mean? So that’s always helpful advice for me.

In fact, even in my studio right across me right now, one of my favorite printmakers has a print that says comparison is the thief of joy. And that is something that I always remember because it will just suck it right out of you. So you might as well just practice not comparing.

Tim: Yeah, one of my favorite quotes and something I tell my high school students all the time, right? It’s important. Candido, same question for you. Like words of encouragement for people or you want to tell them why they need to get back into being creative?

Candido: Yeah. So I think my words of encouragement are a little bit more like pressure because every day we go into the classroom and we have these high expectations of our students, and I’m saying that I have those same expectations of all the art teachers, remember what you’re saying, practice what you preach. And also the more you create, the greater trust that you build with your students. You have an opportunity for them to say like, “Oh, he or she does know what they’re talking about because look at them practicing.” So yeah, I’m going to say, you know what you need to make your art.

Tim: That’s good. Cool. Well, thank you both for taking the time to talk to us. Great advice. I think everyone appreciates it and we will look forward to seeing you both with your presentation.

Candido: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Amanda: Thank you all so much.

Tim: I hope you found that conversation enlightening and maybe inspiring. It was a lot of fun to talk to the both of them and just kind of get their perspectives on the how and the why of staying creative when it’s not necessarily easy to be staying creative right now. So whether you need the understanding and the kind of suggestions from Sarah, or whether you need the kick in the butt and the call to action from Candido right there at the end, I hope listening to this can help you with some suggestions and help you find the time to do a little more creating in your life.

Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering by Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening, and we’ll talk to you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.