7 Creative Questions is an ongoing series of interviews with everyday creative artists.
Today’s artist is Cherry Jeffs (aka WildCherry)
Cherry, would you like to introduce yourself?
I’m a UK-born, mixed media artist and I’ve been living in Spain for the past 14 years with all the joys and challenges that that implies. I studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art and I have always earned my living using my creative skills – having worked as a graphic designer in both print and web design and also as a jewellery-designer maker.
My current passions are making collages together with my nascent potager – both of which I love to blog about on DialogVisual and WhatWeGrow. I use my work as a narrative to explore my feelings about my life – particularly that of being a native English speaker, living in a Spanish-speaking culture. I am a big fan of magic realism in literature and that’s the genre I see my artwork falling into.
Thanks Cherry. Ok, on with the interview questions.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
These days its generally accepted that ‘being creative’ isn’t just confined to some kind of artistic activity but can be how we cook and arrange our food, how we place plant pots on a balcony or flowers in vase, how we think of innovative solutions for our business or even how we manage our time.
However I think there is a danger of confusion about being creative in a general sense as opposed to carrying out a specific creative activity that we have set ourselves to do – such as making a collage every week or writing a poem every day. It doesn’t matter how creative I am with my cooking if I’ve promised myself I’ll work on a collage piece I won’t feel completely creatively satisfied by doing anything else.
Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
I’ve always been creative in that general sense I just talked about. I come from a family environment where people were always baking, cooking, sewing, gardening, doing bits of DIY etc so it was natural to do the same. Like most children I enjoyed drawing and making up stories but I guess, unlike some people I never really stopped!
However, in terms of making art, it was something that always called to me and at various times in my life I tried to dedicate myself to it but I wasn’t really confident and I kept returning to design because I felt more confident with that and I could always earn my living that way.
Then about seven years ago I started to suffer from RSI in my shoulder and arm and I had to stop working for a while. I realised that all these years I’d kept on believing I would return to making art; that, although I really enjoyed design work, to some extent I had been what Julia Cameron calls a ‘shadow artist’ (i.e. someone who does a job very close to their passion but that isn’t their passion) and I felt that this time it would be different, that somehow this was my last chance and I couldn’t afford to waste it.
I’m now a lot more confident with my artwork than I used to be and although I’m still less regular with my art-making than I’d like, if I go too long without doing it I start to feel desperate and have to run up to my studio and bolt the door!
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I seem to have quite long incubatory cycles for bigger projects. It can be anywhere from three months to sometimes up to two or three years from having an idea and starting to collect material for it and actually bringing it to fruition as finished work. Of course I do other smaller projects in between – particularly journalling and blogging – and I’m always collecting collage material.
I’m also pretty seasonal so that winters are fallow times where I write, read and think a lot (and spend more time working on the garden because summer is too hot) while spring and summer – and to a lesser extent autumn – are productive and energetic and I make more art. Naturally I can’t wait for Spring to come and, although I don’t like the winter down time, I’ve learnt to accept that its probably a necessary component of my creative cycle.
What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever created?
I’m not sure I really have a favourite. I like to look back at what I’ve done but only to get an overview of my trajectory to help me figure out where I’m going next. I’m developing all the time and fixing on one thing would feel like saying “That’s it, I’ve arrived!” and I’d be afraid of trying to somehow repeat on that for ever after. I’m not trying to sound trite but it really is the process and not the product that motivates me now; its the journey of discovery –when I’m transported into a parallel universe – that I love.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
This is a particularly poignant question now because I have just embarked on a project which does have a particular message: Its a series of three paintings VERY loosely based on the story of Noah and in my mind it is linked to the climate challenges we are facing as a planet. I’ve had a couple of forrays into more global themes before – one of which was number seven in the Tree Series which touched on the subject of water shortages – and I knew when I did that piece that it represented a possible direction for me but I haven’t taken it up until now.
Thanks to the experience of my Paper Dolls series – which represented a new epiphany for me when I discovered humour as an extra weapon in my creative arsenal (!) – I am using a more tongue-in cheek approach to address this very serious issue than I would have done previously.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I definitely have an outstanding engagement with short film. When I was at art college I had two ‘film disasters’: The first short film I was making got burnt in a fire in the college and the second, which was a music video, the musician ran off with the only copy before I could even present it for my course! So I’m due for third time lucky! I can’t do anything too complex due to my RSI but I’d like to combine my collages with music somehow.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
‘You can’t express yourself until you have a self to express.’ Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.
That one little phrase holds a multitude of nuances for me: Firstly, that in order to create well we have to know ourselves – which sometimes takes a lot of deep work in places we don’t want to visit but from which, if we have the courage, we really do return reborn; Secondly, that we have to learn to love ourselves – and by extension, the things we create; And finally, that we have to reaffirm our uniqueness, our essence, every single day – both in the things we do that help keep us feeling alive and vibrant as well as in everything we create. It is in this uniqueness that our creative strength lies if only we are brave enough to recognize it.
Thanks Cherry for taking the time for the interview.
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