CG | Episode 025 | Esté Macleod | Finding Your Own Artistic Style

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Finding Your Own Artistic Style

Have you been wondering how to find your own artistic style? Whether you are an established artist with a good sense of your own artistic voice ready to take the next step in licensing your work, or you’re just getting into creating art, this episode has so many wonderful things in store for you -  not least of which is the FREE art class today’s guest Este Macleod has given all the listeners of The Creative Genius Podcast (sign up for that here) 

Esté is a generous soul and inspired teacher. Her paintings ethereal and happy and her approach to art is a wonderful mix of thoughtful observation and working intuitively (which we talk about) Esté has worked with some large brands licensing her artwork and she tells us about the ups and downs of that so if that's something you're considering you're going to want to listen to this episode. 

Things Esté & I talk about 

  • The ups and downs of working with large partnerships like Crate & Barrel with her artwork
  • Why it is OH SO important to invest in good materials at the start
  • Some provocative questions to prompt the voice of your inner artist
  • The number one thing artists starting out should remind themselves every day (especially on days when they think they are not good enough, or think they will never sell anything) 
  • What to do if you feel really stuck, can’t find your creative voice and don’t know what to do. 
  • Why she thinks it can be ok to copy other artists work, but the number one absolute no-no when doing so
  • What to do when you run out of inspiration 
  • How to be inspired by other artists or themes and trends and adjust your work so it becomes yours/
  • How she found her own voice as an artist the ups and downs of that journey
  • The life changing dream that woke her up on a flight 
  • Creativity’s critical role in innovation and problem solving. 
  • Her recent project with Sketchbook Revival
  • All the reasons she feels our lives depend on creativity

blue flowery poster with inspiring quote about finding your artistic voice

Resources discussed in this episode



ABOUT Esté Macleod

Esté MacLeod is a visual artist, designer and creator of online art and creativity courses

Her paintings are informed by the real and the imaginary. A background in textile and ceramic design is evident in the stylised, abundant and colourful forms used in still life, landscape and floral paintings. She is a colourist painter, she uses a variety of painting and mark making techniques to layer colour and shapes, resulting in ethereal paintings. 

She draws inspiration from travel, nature, dreams, seasons, sentiments and thoughts as well as everyday surroundings. Observation and drawing are important parts of the creative process. Working intuitively, she allows paintings to develop over time. Her artworks are presented to convey intrinsic beauty, a feeling or memory of a place or impression.

Born in South Africa, Esté has lived in England since 1999, and been based in Berkshire since 2005

Esté MacLeod website | facebook | instagram

Kate Shepherd: art | website | instagram
Morning Moon Nature Jewelry | website |  instagram
Creative Genius Podcast | website | instagram

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Esté Macleod 0:02
I couldn't have known what I know. Now, when I was 20 or 30. And even 10 years ago, I was actually looking the other day at some of my older art and some I think, Oh, I'd like to really revisit that subject I had the or I'd like to do more figurative work landscapes I did in a particular way and other sorts of things. What was I thinking, but you have to go through that to find your style to find where you are going. It is a it's a fluid process. It's an organic, it's a journey. It's a creative journey, I would rather have that, then only have done one thing all along like my career because that's ever so boring. You don't just want to be a one trick pony.

Kate Shepherd 0:51
Hello there, welcome back. Season Two of the creative genius podcast is upon us, I can hardly believe it. I hope you've had a chance to revisit some of your favorite episodes from season one over the summer, I got quite a few messages from people last season saying they listen to some episodes over and over and over again. And that each time they get something new out of them, which is actually also true for me, you know, I listened to these shows quite a bit in the editing process. And every time I really listened to them i Something new grabs me. So if you're chomping at the bit for more episodes, and you just can't wait for two weeks in between these episodes, you can go back and re listen. And the other thing you can do is you can head over to Genius podcast, and sign up to support the show because on alternative weeks, I dropped private bonus episodes exclusively for supporters. These are everything from guided meditations to spark your creativity, to thoughts and musings just for me to outtakes and bonus moments from previous episodes. It's a lot of fun, and I think worth the cost, which is essentially the cost of a fancy coffee every month. So it's not that much. And it really helps us to keep the show going. We're an independent podcast with no outside funding, so every little bit counts. Over the summer, I had an opportunity to interview some downright incredible human beings. I mean, we've been so lucky to have incredible people on the show right from the very beginning. And I'm overjoyed to be kicking off season two of the creative genius podcast with Sj McLeod. Estee is a lovely, generous and incredibly talented human being, I can't wait for you to get to know her. And as a special gift to the creative genius listeners, she's given us all access to one of her amazing courses. This is normally a paid course. But she's giving it to you, as a member of this community and as a listener of this show for free. So be sure to listen to the end of the show for instructions on how you can access that. And I'm told it makes a really big difference when you hit that little subscribe button. In Apple podcasts, it looks like a little plus sign in around the Show page and rate and review the show the algorithm gods that dictate our fate, apparently favorite podcasts where our listeners are regularly rating and reviewing and are subscribed to the show, which means more people will discover and benefit from hearing these conversations. So please, if you haven't had a chance to do that, really it does just take a second. And it means so much to an independent podcast like this one. As these paintings are ethereal and happy, you can have a look at them on the show notes at Kate Shepherd as you're listening, and you'll see that her approach to art is a wonderful mix of thoughtful observation. And working intuitively, which we talk about. Esther has worked with some large brands licensing her artwork, and she tells us about the ups and downs of that. So if that's something you're considering, you're gonna want to listen to this episode. I don't want to keep you waiting any longer. So without further ado, here's my lovely conversation with the very talented, generous and kind. St. McLeod.

Welcome, St. Hello, okay.

Hello, thank you so much for making the time to chat with me today.

Este Macleod 4:05
Thank you for having me, it's really good to be at the beginning

Kate Shepherd 4:08
of every show, I like to sort of explain a little bit about what this is about. The creative genius podcast came from me wanting to address what I've come to see as the root of what's wrong with all of humanity today. And that may be a bold statement. But I really believe that it's true. And I think it's our collective attitudes and limiting beliefs around creativity and what it is and what it's for and how it works and what role it can play in our lives. Like we just have these extremely limiting beliefs around it. And you know, that I think, end up sort of excluding, well, people self exclude because they believe you know, what, what creativity is doesn't apply to them, who it's for who could access it, who gets to be a creative, you know, quote, unquote, creative person and what the products of creativity have to look like. So I think, and because of all these things, we feel this immense pressure to get it right aid or be good at it right away, often without even having practiced it, which then prevents us from equipping ourselves with the skills that we need to really express this amazing intelligence because it is it's an intelligence, I think that lives inside of us. And so when we cut ourselves off from that critical part of ourselves at the end result is that our lives glitch, and I say humanity's glitching, because we've cut ourselves off from this really, really, really important thing. So my mission now in life, when I as soon as I realized that my mission in life is okay, I need to, I need to divert so much of my attention to helping as many people as I can, in this lifetime, remember, because I think it's a remembering that we have this thing inside of us, and it wants to get out. And it's actually one of the most important things that we have to take us to living a healthy, happy and functional life and as a fulfilled human being. So I want to dig into that conversation, I would love it, if you would just start us off by telling us a little bit about you, and your creativity and your art career and your your world.

Este Macleod 6:02
Yeah, it's so interesting what you were saying there. And as you were thinking, I the thought in my head, or my, my, my connecting with that is, you know, they say animals we are we are the only animals that create as in really a that's how that's how that's how evolution happens. And that's how we get more and become more is, is our creativity is the fact that we can we can think things up we can better ourselves, I so agree with that. I think if I have to think of a superpower, I would think creativity is one of them. I don't have that many, but I I am creatively very, very in tune. And I really like to make people connect deeper with their own creativity. That's one of my goals. One of my one of the things that make me happy, it's something that I've realized it's very much part of my makeup is that I create an I make art and I've always done it and I am an artist, but it's also about inspiring others do to be more more creative. And, you know, from since my son was in primary school, and very little, I used to do projects in school and I was always so amazed at how creative children are, we are born creative. And we lose that as we become older because of as he said those things over it didn't look the way I intended it. So I'm obviously a bit rubbish. So I'm gonna do that again. We Rob ourselves of joy, it's we are happier if we are creative. We are. It's it's not a case of anybody having to be an artist, but you know, having creative activities in our life. You were asking me about what I do. So I am a creative. I've always been an artist, and my parents knew I would become an artist since I was two, quite literally, that age. And it was a case of okay, what do they need to do to help me become an artist? Ultimately, what do you you know, what what's the best route because it's not easy being an artist face it. It's not a it's not an easy career choice. It's there's so many variables, and it's it takes incredible determination and you know, a level of hard headedness and stubborn or your parents artists, no, no, they weren't academics. So but they acknowledged the fact that I would be, you know, the way you sometimes some children, you can just see it's I'm actually looking at the moment, I can see I'm in my studio, and I see on neighbor's son, and he's about 60 now, and he is sports mad, and he will just be kicking a ball, or running around and playing cricket and he plays all sports. And he as he does it, he talks to himself. And you can just see so in the moment and he and he's done it since he was little, but he can do it. And it's inherent, it cannot make somebody do that, that passion which is which is so important also to to carry you through as an artist to have that spark that you and love of being being being an artist and making art, which I would say is probably the thing that why I'm still an artist is that inherent love the love for you.

Kate Shepherd 9:08
So they saw that in you. I mean, there's a lot of stories about you know, parents who who are academics or who were professionals, or who were who had kids who were, oh, here's an artist, oh, what do we do with you? And there's you know, a lot of people's story is that they had a lot of pressure to sort of dumb that part of themselves down or focus on other things or but it sounds like your parents fostered that in you and helped you to grow into that. And

Este Macleod 9:33
absolutely, it was a case of I think they both had latent abilities. But in Vienna for them, it was not really a possibility to to be that my my mother, I know would have liked to be an architect and her father died when she was I think 17 or 18. And it was not you have to go in a different direction and start training as a teacher and, you know, be in education and and it is something which as I said, they they recognized and, and even as a small child that always had good art materials, and I absolutely value art materials. And I say to people, it's not it's not beside the point, it's actually very important I say to people, if they, if they have a child who's interested in art, and making art and can, can keep themselves busy doing art, by them good materials, because if you look at what people spend on sports equipment, and clubs and teaching for, you know, or training and all kinds of sports, training, you know, give your child the best chance also, the stuff that they make is it's good to have it as you know, an archival quality paper, because if they, you know, whether they are or not art is ultimately it, those are wonderful keepsakes, it's an odd materials, yes, it's more expensive, but it's not. It's not that expensive. It's an it's a it's it values, what your child does, and, and I still have pencils that I had when I was five when I received when I when I got when I was five, and and I really do value the the fact that they sort of invested in in buying me good materials, it makes a difference. It's you can also you can paint with coffee and mud and things like that, but it is important.

Kate Shepherd 11:17
I'm so glad you said that. Because yeah, it is and I have to I have two little kids who are seven and nine. And I have this little sport guy I've little soccer player and my daughter is really in like she's just a natural artist, like you can see it in the way she just holds her materials. And, and I always one of my mottos in life is start as you mean to continue. And I always, I always buy the right tool the first time rather than buy the cheap one and then have a break. And then. And so I've always gotten them really great stuff. And I feel like that point is actually really useful for even if you don't have a kid who's naturally leaning towards art, or even if you aren't naturally leaning towards art, if you're if you're thinking because I think everybody can benefit from playing with art supplies. That's just that's just a truth that I believe about life. Whether you want to take it somewhere or not, it's fun. But if you are going to go out to the art supply store and buy yourself, even if you don't think you're an artist, get yourself the good stuff right away, get less of it maybe a bit don't think, oh, I want to experiment with watercolor and then go buy the cheapest ones, you're not going to enjoy it. You're not going to you're not going to Yeah, I'm so glad you said

Este Macleod 12:26
no, because I totally think that way, because, for instance, one of the things I like to teach in my courses is I like to people to buy, I like people to buy fewer items and buy, for instance for with color, buy fewer colors and mix color, because that's how that's what that's how you will learn about color. You don't have to buy oranges, purples, and, you know, you can buy them obviously, but you can you know, with by using a magenta and an a blue, you you can very possibly mix a better color. And you and it gives you knowledge. So yeah, buy fewer items, buy good materials and and learn from that. Yeah,

Kate Shepherd 13:06
a lot of our listeners, I think are curious about what it's like to work with big partnerships. I was reading that you've you did a big partnership with Crate and Barrel. And I was wondering if you might tell us what that experience is like, as a as an artist? Like how what is it like to work with a big brand and partner like that with your work? And even to see it out in the world? And what are the UPS? And what are the downs of that?

Este Macleod 13:32
Oh, the immediate answer is, it was like having climbed a mountain and reaching a summit, it's like, Ah, this is where it's a little bit like it was a bit like that. It was a bit of a that acknowledgement of that the fact that they didn't approach them, they, they they approached me and asked, you know, as if I'd like to do a collaboration with them, and it is the the joy of them, looking at the work and thinking that's going to be that it will work on this homeware collection and textiles and ceramics and such and so forth. And that is a little bit like a dream come true. And, and it's lovely. It's really nice because it gives you it adds to the confidence of you are doing something right. That said, I mean, I was trained as a textile designer, when I when I to get back to when you know I was telling you my parents knew I'd be an artist. So the key was, but what will you do to be an artist you know, what will you how will you create a living for yourself and, and this is the one of the sticky points with being an artist, it's quite difficult. When you start it's easier now I think because you can showcase your work to a much wider audience. But when you start being an artist, you need to develop your skill you develop and you only get better as an artist and you have to start somewhere and you have to have that inner knowledge almost that my work is going to get better. It's going to look better. It's He's going to develop and where I am today is not where I'm tomorrow, but I'm working on getting my way there I'm showing up, I'm there every day, putting in the work

Kate Shepherd 15:08
that is really important to be able to say that. So I feel like, I just want to put a pin in that for one second, because I think this goes back to a lot of these limiting beliefs that that we have culturally about creativity, we think I should just if I'm, if I'm gonna ever going to call myself a real artist, I can only do that if I was born with this natural raw talent. And I just come out of the gate, knowing how to do it all and, and, I mean, it's almost like expecting somebody to become a master at playing the piano just because they want to, or because they, you can have that desire, but you still have to put in the practice. Yeah, that and that every day showing up is so important.

Este Macleod 15:43
Absolutely, this is what I say to people, like, when I teach as well is like you would never expect, you know, if you look at an athlete, or a gymnast, musician, they it takes a lot of effort it does it, you see it, and it looks like it's something that's flawless and done, but you don't you don't realize the work that had gone in to get there it is that it is the constant showing up you know, when I when my parents realized I will be an artist, it was a case of finding something that that means I can I can make money as an artist. So I can use theory in a direction that it is a it is a career. So I turned it, I studied textile design. And then I also studied Fine Art printmaking after that. And that meant I could actually create products as well, I would print textiles i i made products straight away. But I was working as a designer as well as a freelance textile designer. But that was long ago. And that was before digital, print digital. And I'm actually very grateful for that. Because I don't work digitally. Even though I work in a in a digital. Ultimately, in a digital format. My work all starts off all my work starts off as actual paintings, it's on Canvas, I don't work, I don't create digitally, I can't I just it doesn't work for me. So I will adjust things digitally. But I don't It's my happy place is paint on canvas and paint and paper, there is a commercial component to my work. And I was I was trained to make art, it just took a long time for me to to do projects like bigger bigger collaborations with like Crate and Barrel. But I've done some other more wall art or route specific projects with with other department stores in the UK, and I've done jewelry partnerships and collaborations before as well with department stores. So I have a strong design, discipline or leaning to it. It's something that I I naturally like doing as well as, as being a painter Painter is the is almost the ultimate is the thing I always do. I'll never, you know that I cannot imagine not not painting. But meanwhile I have all these other strands that I can turn the paintings into. And that's wonderful is is absolutely wonderful that you can take a painting and go okay, fine, that's going to become a repeat pattern that can be combined with textile, it will become a quilt fabric. And then the same design can be used as wallpaper. And as a embossed cover for for book it's going to be used as a puzzle. And you see this life of a product in different guises, you know, in different ways. And it is it is lovely to see that it is so when I see it. It's such a thrill when I get samples into me. Oh, I can't even I mean, it's really nice. It's like, Wow, is that really meek? Yeah.

Kate Shepherd 18:37
So I'm thinking for the person who's listening to this, who's maybe daydreamed about the possibility of licensing their work, or even maybe just starting a business with their own with their own artwork. But But again, has this idea that it's impossible. That's it, that would be impossible for me. You know, what would you tell them? What would you want somebody who had that dream? What would you want them to know?

Este Macleod 19:00
I'll start off by saying I think it's easier. It's both easier and harder. Now to do that. It's easier in that you have this platform, you can you can showcase your work on social media, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, you can show yourself that is that is the key people will see you people will find you it simply wasn't there before you know you you know where do you show your work? I had to sort of get my work into a gallery and would be one gallery See what your your eyes on your work used to be? It's much more limited, whereas now it is open. But of course there are millions of other people as well. But I don't think one should be one should be inhibited by that. It's just how it is. And then and this is something that I am very adamant about is to develop your your voice, authentically. And I think this is where people sometimes stumble because they think they need to reinvent the wheel. Are they not going to be good enough, or it's not going to be, or they have to work and create work exactly like somebody else, somebody else already created that. But let that be something that guide you, you can you can take what another what an artist has done it, follow the follow the path, but do it in your own way. Because if you don't, you will always be seen as you will be an imposter you will be, you will be copying what somebody else is doing. So, what I'm saying to people, when I, you know, when people feel a bit lost is have a look at people whose work inspire you, and have a look at a number of them, never just look at one artist and go, Oh, I wanted my paperwork exactly like that, because then it will start looking like a copy of that person, and you're gonna be stuck because you're, you're in copy mode. And it's, it will always be a copy of somebody else's work. Whereas if you look at, you know, four or five contemporaries or you know, other artists making similar work, and then, you know, throw in a wildcard and, and play and explore, and allow your creativity develop, because it does, and it will change. And and this is something I've said before as well, if you are so totally, totally stuck, and you feel you don't have your own voice, if you cannot, you still in in the mode of learning, and you don't have the confidence and all you can do is to copy another artist, then that is fine. On the caveat that you never ever share that you're not allowed to sell it, you're not allowed to put the moment you put it online. Even if you say I did this as any I was inspired by this order that I made this painting. It's not it don't do that, because that it's going to be taken out of context, somebody can take a screenshot of that and put it on, you know, it's just once it's out of Pandora's box. That's that's that's it. And it's, it's dangerous. It's not a good thing to do. Work has copyright very, you know, often all my work has caught copyrights on them, because it's used for licensing, you know, somebody can actually get into trouble for for copying a specific design.

Kate Shepherd 22:02
I'm wondering about this a little bit, I went to a show in New York, I flew from Vancouver to New York, and I was at the show and it was like emerging artists. And I walked up to this table and there was this woman, and she was wearing the jewelry that I made. And I was wearing my version of it. And she was wearing her version of it. And we just kind of looked at each other like, how did that happen? Like I didn't know about her online? She didn't like we didn't we were just we just happen to both have very similar inspiration moving through us. Yeah, it was back in my very early days of being a jeweler, it was very basic shapes. Like it wasn't that hard to imagine that, that we could have both kind of arrived there. But it does kind of make me wonder about where the lines are, because I'm inspired by so many of the things around me. And I've made pieces before unintentionally, and then looked at them and gone. Oh, I see where that came from. And it wasn't I was really in the moment when it happened. You know, I was really letting something my voice was speaking. And, and I so there's a couple things I feel like creativity is this intelligence that we tap into that sort of exists. And I don't know if I want to say outside of us, but it seems to be something that, to me, it's like a living breathing thing. And we're tapping into it. And it wants to come alive. And it needs us to, you know, it has ideas and it needs us to come to. And so it makes sense that maybe because of that need it would want to try to come out in a couple different places at once. And how do we walk that line of like, This is mine? And this came through me? And I don't know the answer. I'm truly asking you because I do agree with you on one hand like we do, it's not okay to just copy someone and try to sell what they either agree like fully agree. And where's the what's the line? How do we find that line?

Este Macleod 23:47
Okay, some thoughts on that? So the one is absolutely there are trends and certain creative styles which will be copied. It's you cannot be over precious about it. If somebody said Oh, well I made a I made a slot. And there is a slot in jewelry and I've never seen a slot made in jewelry in as a silver charm. I've never seen one in there somebody else did it. It's quite simply because it's a trend. It's been a trend. You know, same same with llamas and owl. So if you you know, that kind of thing, you cannot you cannot claim it. It's not yours. It's a trend. You saw it in a trend. Even if you saw it in a coloring book or in your kid's toys or on a program or something, you know, it sticks you don't always know where you've seen something like that. So there has to be flexibility on something like that. And I as much as it is important not to copy. I've also learned that people shouldn't be too precious about it. Don't Don't let it rob you of your energy. So okay, that's for the person who feel they've been copied. But if you are inspiring artists designer, you have a voice that guides you, you you have to be in tune with that voice and you know When you have copied too closely, you know I am, I like to think I am, call me a little bit naive. But I would like to think that a person will know if somebody say to you, listen, that is your cloud too closely inspired, you will know, unless you are, if you're overly defensive, then it means you've done it before, and somebody else have told you and you've started to develop a bit of a thicker skin, possibly. But I'd like to think as long as as long as you are in tune with that. And that, again, is not like Don't be super sensitive, but see how you can change it? And how can you say if think, so how do I know this? Ask other people, not your mother, not your best friend. Ask people, they are groups, your peer groups, there are so many artists and design groups on Facebook, and you can quite honestly say, if you belong to whatever group of illustrators would usually say, this is what I'm doing, I feel this is my unique design, would you think, you know, I want to copyright it or something like that, or, or somebody has copied me, or I am inspired by this, do you think this looks too closely to a an Art Nouveau piece, and should I you know, ask people's opinion, or ask people's opinion, whose work you you know, and, or whose judgment you trust. Again, I say not your not your best friend and your mother, because they will just love what you do most probably so,

you know, go a little bit wider, and then listen to that, and adjust. And don't you as an as an artist, you have to be able to take criticism as well as creative, you have to be able to, to deal with, you know, other people's opinion of your work, ultimately. And yes, they will be overlaps, but it's what you do about it. And, and you have to, I don't want to say you have to live with yourself, but you have to make, make sure that you are that it is your thing, your own authentic way coming through. So you can take something, for example, and design of a bird. And it's a stylized design of a bird, it's it has to go through you. And you have to you have to digest it, you have to deliver it in a way that it's a visual outcome that's come through you. And the alterations could be slight. But this is where you go, Okay, I am I'm drawing in a sketchbook I'm looking at where I found my inspiration from when they find the inspiration from maybe I should actually look at a real book, whatever the bird is, or maybe I should look at other stylized birds and just inform yourself, don't be don't be lazy. That's the other thing. Don't Don't go for the first best options like, well, this is good enough, I like that I want to make something like that they but I've done it. Develop your work in your own way. What I what I would say to people as well is. So for example, you look at an illustrator, illustrators done lots of watercolor piece Dubs, which is actually quite new, see quite a lot of that at the moment with what's going on in the world. If you if you if that appeals to you, then maybe try and do it in a different medium. Use your own colors, don't copy what that artist has done. So if it's somebody who clearly works in a very particular watercolor or guasha style thing, you know, try pastels. Try doing a wood cut from that design. If it's a simple design, you get away I've never done a word cut, well, maybe you should then you should you know what I mean by that is always try something. Something that will make it a little bit different from what you've seen. If you feel it is too generic, but it's something you like they are always ways to, to, to adjust so it becomes yours. Originality is is an over, it's overhyped, it's, it's almost impossible to create something that's original, but it's always possible to create something that's authentic.

Kate Shepherd 29:01
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Este Macleod 29:45
Totally, I think rubbish art. Yeah, it's like I would like some time I think well wish I could buy that painting and find over you know, I know work that I sold.

Kate Shepherd 29:56
Yes, like looking at the high school yearbook.

Este Macleod 29:59
Yes. It is and and be kind to yourself because, you know, it's like that thing they say about comparing don't compare yourself to other people compare yourself, now are we to compare to what you've done before, see how far you've come and rejoice in that I couldn't have known what I know. Now, when I was 20 or 30. And even 10 years ago, I was actually looking the other day at some of my older art. And some I think, Oh, I'd like to really revisit that subject, I had the or I'd like to do more figurative work landscapes I did in a particular way. And others, I was thinking, what was I thinking, but you have to go through there to find your style to find where you are going. It is a it's a fluid process, it's an organic, it's a journey, it's a creative journey, I would rather have that then only have done one thing all along my my career because that's ever so boring, you don't just want to be a one trick pony. The other thing that comes into that I've always had to make work that sells. So there's, there's an element of commercial reality to that, by that I mean, the work has to go to Gallery and the gallery must be able to, to sell it, this is how I sell most of my work. And then also, obviously, because I'm a designer, the design has to be appealing enough to be used on on the products, where I, I'd like it to be if I had my way, maybe I'd like to be more of an abstract painter, but I might still become that it's just not I'm not so I'm not there yet, in my journey, maybe I'll do that, you know, in 10 years time or something I was reading,

Kate Shepherd 31:28
that you are inspired by your dreams sometimes in your artwork. And I thought that was really fascinating. And I wondered if you could say a little bit about that,

Este Macleod 31:36
that probably also depends on on where time of year how well rested I am. It depends on my on what the output needs to be. But definitely I will have elements that are I it a lot of it comes down to the image to imagination. So it might be for example, if I've been somewhere on holiday, I will dream of where I've been as well. So that becomes skewed to what I actually saw. So I would I would never necessarily paint something to look exactly like, you know, I've seen that I've seen even though I will make drawings while I'm there, and I'll get to work in a sketchbook and so on and so forth. But ultimately, it is a process of, of looking at work, and then thinking about dreaming about it sketching, painting, putting out, you know, having the output and yeah, there are you know, dreams are a part of that, because it's part of part of your, I actually want to say part of your creativity, you know, part of your imagination, part of how you see things. The one thing that I did you know that come to me in a dream that was a very clear thing and had a very has a very definite outcome is I drained my studio up, I was on a plane and I woke up and I had to turn the light on. And I had to get my sketchbook out because I realized the studio that I had planned, actually is the shape that I like to work in which is a it's a think shape, which is like a teardrop. But if you think of a think drawn with a with a ruler kind of thing, it has angles and that way and it just all slotted together. And i i then design the studio with that in mind, and it then became the reality. So yeah, it does. I think it's good to allow your dreams to sometimes guide you

Kate Shepherd 33:23
I wanted to go back to like this, what is creativity question because I feel like creativity really is this entity, it feels like this invisible, but it's palpable. Like you can feel it when it's in the room with you. And it has this presents with it, you know, and and it's not tangible. We can't grab it with our rational mind. We can't grab it. We can't see it. You can't conjure it, you can't control it. It has a mind of its own. But it definitely wants to speak to us. And it certainly seems to be trying to tell us something or show us something. And so I wanted to ask you, what do you think creativity wants us to know. And and then also, what is creativity specifically trying to do through you and your work?

Este Macleod 34:12
Oh, that's a big question. Thinking about what you said in the beginning. We are are all creative we are we are born with creativity. That is what makes us as humans, different from animals. Creativity is the way we innovate. And we problem solve part of how I how I work and how I teach is I call it creative problem solving. Put a project out and I will guide it in such a way that people will find it easier to almost solve a problem. It sounds a little bit abstract when I put it like this, but we all have a creative ability and how you allow yourself to engage with that will have different outcomes. Sometimes you see people on Instagram and they will show things people came up With his like, how on earth did you manage to figure out a way for mushrooms to be used in packaging? And also eat plastic? And, you know, I mean, these are things we don't know yet. But it's because of creative problem solving and creative engagement. And that what if and curiosity that these things are solved, knowledge isn't solving it, because knowledge based on what we know now, creativity is a you know, you were saying that you when you think about what creativity is, and what is creativity want us to do. Creativity is making connections. And that's something I've been thinking of today. And I don't know why I've been thinking about it. Now. So many times it is about Newton, and the apple that dropped and him going, why the apple drop is because of gravity. And then, you know, if it wasn't for him, seeing that visual thing, making that connection, if we would have come round to that some other point, but it is about being open and curious and open to ideas. That's always been the case. You know, that's how people find out what things are, you know, things being poisonous and nutrition. And it's, it's by being open, open to to the world around you creativity is making connections. And yes, it is dumbed down so often in schools and in education, and like that kind of do, as you told, you know, just do do what's already been established. Don't think further. I do think of it as an energy as a, you know, they said think creativity is contagious. And that is a thing that once you start once once it's allowed into the room, then it will have more of a life. And I can illustrate it in a simpler way. I once had something called the creative question mark challenge. I did it with 1000s of kids where I would give them a question mark on a page, and they had to turn it into a drawing. And there were 1000s of difference of drawings. And they're all different. And they were four guidelines. One is like natural world imagining world, miniature world, and I actually can't remember the other one, it's now it's over 10 years ago, but then I did it with schools. And it was really an eye that I did online as well. And I was so amazed at what children could come up with because it was it was not like you have to draw this you have to what do you see? What are you What do you think this could be? Also is not a question mark as in the direction of the question mark being the obvious one, you can turn it on its side upside down, you can make it you know, it's just a symbol is this a shape and that's just an example of of showing that if if you allow people to just to engage with their but obviously with with a kind of guideline, you know, that is this is that a tangible example of creativity need not be a big and difficult and attainable idea. It starts with small things and an attitude as well.

Kate Shepherd 37:46
So if creativity was on a, on a mission, and it was, you know, I mean, what I'm hearing you saying is one of creativity emmos is to help us navigate life, it's to help us solve problems, it's to help us innovate. It's like a GPS system and an idea generator and, uh, you know, helps us navigate life. And that's kind of one of its overall, that was what I heard you sort of answered my overall question of like, what is creativity? What is it trying to do? I'm curious, what is it? Because I feel like it goes like, we're all these little channels and it finds us all it's like, I'm gonna find Kate over here, and we're gonna do a podcast, it's gonna, you know, wake people up about creativity in it. And then st over here, what is what is creativity doing? through you? What is it coming through you

Este Macleod 38:28
in this lifetime? Okay, I, I,

I don't know, but it is my superpower. Basically, it is something that changes and it comes out in different guises all the time. The one thing that I managed to do is to turn it into into a positive experience for others. And that is my I can I can combine it for me specifically, creativity is about art. In that says visual visual outcomes as well as visual engagement, I should say not outcomes. So that is my creative. Link my connection. And for me, I was saying earlier on my parents were academics and they basically realized I will be an artist and then they also thought like, okay, then you can train as an artist and maybe you can become a lecturer. It's like no, no, no, no, no, no, I don't want to do that. I don't want to teach anyone anything. I just want to be an artist. That was I was so adamant. I was so Oh God, I don't want to be anything other than an artist. I can remember thinking to myself, like, oh, well, that's gonna be really hard. Why don't you just teach, you know, I don't want to teach anyone anything. I just want to be an artist. And it was only much later in my life that I sought and that I had been basically questioned to do and people I had asked me to be, you know, to do art courses, and I thought, okay, if enough people are asking me I'll do that, but not in real life. It had to be online because I couldn't do the you know, weekly. I couldn't commit to doing a weekly class for nine people that kind of thing. I wanted it to be different and I And that is, again, the beauty of connecting through through the internet. And that is my avenue of, of spreading creativity. So I was telling you about the creative question, more creative challenge. And I've done it in other ways as well. And I like to utilize that which is common and and I think of myself as very practical. So again, I'll give it a tangible example of one of the things I thought how I can help directly show people how they can be more creative. It's like as simple as taking a question mark and turning it into a drawing. So it then evolved from there to taking handwriting numbers and letters, and turning those into things. And I've done, I know, I teach other courses, I teach a painting course, but they will, they will come into it, because that is a way for people to create their own authentic drawings, because you take a symbol, which we all are familiar with, as I said, letters and numbers. And then handwriting, which is your unique one, because no two is the same. And then you just turn it into a drawing. So I'm taking that, which I see as a crisis point for children when we little, and all of a sudden you learn to write so when you small, you're creative, and you can draw, and then you you put in the school system is like oh, no, but now we're going to teach how to write and you can communicate that way, then we take this new code, and then all of a sudden, from that point, visual communication drops. Because you can now tell you the story you can explain you can answer on a form, you can write down a line, that what the answer is, but if you always take it back, if you go, okay, instead of just take that power that you have of being able to make that Mark already. That's your that's the anchor point. That's the catalyst, that's what you need to then become another drawing to actually become a drawing. Just take that mark and go with it. If you can, if you can draw the way you write, then you can draw because handwriting becomes automatic, it's it's you do it you can do with the eyes close. It's a magic power. It's like a it is a superpower. And so that is my cue. And I've I've done courses, and I've done this outreach programs. And and it's a simple, it's a very, very simple way of doing it. But it's incredibly powerful. And it's enabling people giving people confidence. And I did something very recently with skateboard revival. And that was where I invited people to use the numbers one to nine, draw it on a paper, and in turn each and every number into a cat's face like a portrait. It sounds quite simple. And it is quite simple. But the result is very different. Because each number dictate what happens to the cat's face. And it's it's just one way of connecting and doing it in a creative way. Because if I say to you draw nine cats, you're gonna go Yeah, sure, I can draw that will have to be different if you're on a Mac in different. But you can do it in such a way that you've always done it. But if I say you have to incorporate one ear, that's easy to Yeah, that's quite easy as well, because it becomes the sort of eyebrow nose and three, ooh, that's a bit difficult. I'll have to draw the three lying down that comes a cat's mouth. Yeah, that can work for all that's well tricky. Cat mug has to be also side of his head, or maybe it can be a year so and then people go, ah, and then they get into the mode of, Okay, what if I turn all my numbers upside down as a start? And it's playing playing is so important playing and being playful and not everything having to have the serious, a serious outcome of having to be perfect we are so we're so conditioned to that. It mustn't look wrong. It's good to make mistakes, because that's how you learn. It's it's ridiculous to think you will always go oh, that's the correct answer. That's the that's the best way there's best outcome. If you think our scientists do things, you know, how many scientific tests do they do that then doesn't give you that that the correct outcome? Great. Science is extremely creative. There's that's that's what makes science work. You know that? That's because it is about finding answers, and then disproving them and trying to get a better answer better solution better, a better outcome.

Kate Shepherd 44:23
Oh, that's so beautiful. We're kind of we're running to the end of the show. I can't believe it. It's gone by so quickly, as you're talking about these cats and the numbers. And I wondered if that was you mentioned before the show that when COVID hit you went online and started offering those kinds of like your answer to how could you be of service in in that time? Is that? Is that what you're offering during that time? Or was that something

Este Macleod 44:44
that was a different course? So the first one, the first one was, again, I use numbers, but they were turned into plant shapes. I thought okay, I want to create something which is a cause it's so anyone can do it. All you need is a piece of paper. If you have paintings, that's good, if you don't have paint, you can use food coloring. And potato, it's it's taking the very basics and giving giving it a life, you know, giving it options you don't need always, you know, as much as I'm really into good artist materials, this was not about that it's about engaging with your creativity. And it was such a joy for me to see people sending me outcomes of them sitting around the table and kids engaging and grandparents and parents and and just playing with these ideas. So I did those, that one called zest because of all the lemons we got during lockdown. And at the moment, I've got the CAD scores, which is it's actually called 123. Let's paint cats, but it's it also explains the process of drawing it as well explain it all there. And it's a it's a paid for course, but I'll can share link that is that as a free?

Kate Shepherd 45:52
Can they find that on your website? Yeah,

Este Macleod 45:55
yeah. Yeah, they can. It's the link is they all? Oh, yeah, I'll give you the link for that. Okay. And we'll put that in the show notes. It's something that gives me It energizes me to see how people are happier being creative. It's such as some it sounds, some very simplified, but it actually it makes people happier. So that

Kate Shepherd 46:15
really beautifully leads us to the last question that I asked everybody on the show, which is, if you had a billboard that everybody in the world who longed to be more creative, or to be an artist, or to just practice this muscle inside themselves, but just didn't believe that it was in them, or that it was possible for them, or whatever those beliefs are, but that they would read this message and be and it would reach them, what would you what would you say, I have

Este Macleod 46:43
to have two bold words sorry, or two, one is a bit more positive, the one will this be creativity matters. And then in brackets, our lives depend on it, which is pretty much what it is, you know, we keep on having to resolve things. And for that you need creativity. And the other one is something, I see it on a poster, I get on my yoga class, and it just says you are capable of incredible things. And I when I see it, I always smile. And it's like an inherent, you know, it's like a it's like a little reinforcement, I think, oh, that's, that's wonderful. You are capable of incredible things. And I think we are that is the thing about us as humans, I'm always I'm so amazed at what people create. And I'm so inspired by by the ingenuity of, of humans, you know, we it's often we get disparaged. But people also are capable of such incredible, clever, creative ways of solving things.

Kate Shepherd 47:44
Thank you. That's so true. And thank you for coming and for being here and making time for us today.

Este Macleod 47:49
Thank you so much for having me. It was really good. I really enjoyed it. Katie

Kate Shepherd 47:54
isn't SD, just a wonderful, charming, delightful human being, I thought it was so generous of her to give us all access to her class. And I know it comes from a place in her heart of wanting everybody to have access to that joy that comes from creative freedom. So thank you SD for that. And for you, the listener, head over to Kate Shepherd, and search for SD, you'll find her show notes page, where we've given you instructions on how to access your free class, I was so glad she named how important it is to get good materials. You know, I've always said if you buy crappy materials and crappy tools, you're probably going to have a crappy experience with a crappy outcome. And it's gonna set you up to believe that you weren't good at whatever that thing was anyway, makes everything harder than it has to be scrappy, does thinking if we pair this idea of buying good materials and good tools, with the questions that she gave us around what is that thing? You've had an inherent love for all your life? What is the thing that nobody can ever stop you from wanting to do as a kid? What's the thing you do when you have time off? Now? What is the thing that always grabs your interest in that you want to do? And so I was thinking what might be available to you. If you were to give yourself a moment to reflect on what that thing is? What is that thing that you really love to do? And what if you were to treat yourself to just one thing, it doesn't have to be massive. But one thing one really well made beautiful tool or material that would take you one step closer to mastering that thing. Make sure you're signed up for my newsletter. I pick a random person from my email list once every month and send them an original piece of my artwork. It's one of my favorite things to do. It takes a lot to put together the show. Please consider supporting me to do it. You can visit Genius podcast to find out more and please keep my jewelry or paintings and especially gratitude birds which keeps selling out in mind. Next time you're looking for a treat for yourself or for a loved one. You can find everything I've mentioned on Kate Shepherd Thank you for being here, for opening your heart and for listening. My wish and intention for this show is that it reach into your heart and stir the beautiful thing that lives in there. May you find and unleash your creative genius

1 comment

  • Pat

    Love Este’s work!

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