Finding My Centre

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with my best pal in which he asked me why I can’t put the hours I spend on writing my blog into working on my art.

To which I had a few replies:

The first is that I have been trying this over the last year (minus my latest few weeks of entries) and it has left me in a state of flux.

My best mode of practice has always been – find what you want to do and do it until you get asked to do it for someone else. Say yes to opportunities, especially when they scare the sh*t out of you and then make them happen. I have had so many mind-blowing experiences based on this principle - most of them having come about simply from being in the right place at the right time, doing my thing. Saying yes has meant more opportunities than ever, but for someone like me who has a lot of different skills, this has meant at times spreading myself a bit thin and losing myself in some kind of mad artistic sprint to a finish line I’ve never been able to define.

For those of you who’ve ever wondered about the necessary components to thrive creatively; they don’t include fear-induced bouts of art-making or denying yourself permission to rest or take breaks. I know artistic stereotypes say otherwise. I will say it now – I refuse to believe any practicing artist ever wrote themselves these guidelines when they laid out their prerequisites for success.

Because of this, I find writing to be a rudimentary principle. I write in order to clear the debris that comes with the work and to check in with the person I want to be - underneath all the hype and the shows - because when I get busy, these are some of the first things that slip down my priority list.

Maybe there are some artists out there who don’t need to write a small essay every week in order to check in with themselves – or those who consider the making of art itself to be checking in - but this is not me. I have had bouts of seven-day workweeks solely devoted to my art and music practices - with no room for public posts or pondering why I continue to create tiny worlds out of paper - but I found these periods burnt me out big time.

With the rush of chasing and nailing new projects and opportunities comes the worry of the ever-present question.

“Can I do this?”

I don’t know if I can do this.

Yes. We’re doing it.



Progressing in your chosen field often feels exactly like that to me. Doing things you didn’t think were possible and then moving on to other seemingly insurmountable goals is one of the most exhilarating processes I have ever experienced.

I jumped out of a plane earlier this year and I still felt more of a rush from the work I have been involved in as an artist.

A deadline is that indefinable finish line I mentioned earlier. 

Taking on commissions that draw me out of my depth; getting onstage and performing with my band; saying yes to being part of a notable exhibition;

these make me sweat to deliver.

When you’ve got no fallback, everything you’re pouring yourself into seems to rest on that one performance or that one exhibition - because the alternative is a plane ticket home to start from square one. Skydiving’s got nothing on that.

When I used to contract as my only source of income, I often thought about my freelance lifestyle versus finding a job working for a larger agency as the difference between flying a small monoplane versus being a passenger in a Boeing 737 airliner.

When you hit turbulence it can be the scariest thing in the world and it’s your responsibility alone to keep the thing going, but the rewards when you’re flying solo are so much greater than when you’re sitting in a passenger seat.

I used to replay this analogy over and over in my head whenever things got tough and I considered taking ‘non-creative income’.

Now thinking back on this attitude I would say without hesitation that I was wrong.

Now I’d say working for a larger company is more like being a crew member on a sailing ship. No-one gets a free ride but if everyone onboard is doing their job and pulling their weight, there is give and take. If one person falls down, hopefully there is someone to help them up and keep the ship running smoothly The benefits of this are mutual.

So back to finding my centre. I’m sure I had it here somewhere…

I am currently living my dreams of being an artist and helping teenagers to express themselves creatively. Back in 2009 during my study in fine arts I had a dream to provide a safe haven for teenagers to make art in Romania – please don’t ask me why.

What matters is that my dreams hit reality and I’ve ended up running an art program once a week, in which a class of about twelve students turn up to my room on a Friday afternoon. We listen to music and work on creative projects in an environment that wouldn’t be the same if I failed to check in with myself

So there we are. There are more stories I could share with you on the subject of finding one’s centre, but I’ll save them for another day.

For now, I resolve to make sure that when I’m taking on new opportunities, I’m also taking the time to consult my own manual. Because let’s be realistic – No-one ever flew a plane without knowing where they were going.

New Starts & Old (but not forgotten) Ends

So I gave up blog posting about a year and a half ago as you’ll see if you check the date on my last entry.

I’ve decided to give this blog another crack, simply because I really miss writing publicly, and the simple act of writing about some of my experiences as a creative person was extremely cathartic and regularly brought me back down to earth in terms of my creative goals and expectations for myself as an artist and musician - Note: It’s a lot harder to let your dreams & expectations of being a rich and famous artist run away with you when you’re checking in weekly with yourself and others through a current blog.

I’d really like to treat this entry as a re-introduction of myself since leaving off in 2017. I’m sorry it’s been such a while, and I hope to hear your own stories in response to what you read of mine here.

Quick download: Since leaving you I’ve been making art and music - exhibiting at Backspace Gallery with Zlatko and Margie Balazic among others, as well as performing my first music and storytelling set at The Lost Ones Basement Bar with Jonathon Griggs who joined Shadow Feet in November last year. In between that I flew to NZ last month where I surprised my Mum for her 70th birthday by jumping out from behind my parents’ carport. There’s been some pretty fun birthday adventures including a husky sled ride in Victoria and jumping out of a plane with my best bud in September. In between that I’ve played a lot of Doctor Mario and watched more Netflix than I care to mention in this very creative blog post. I did a course on children’s book illustration and writing at RMIT earlier this year in which I met a group of amazing women who love to tell stories and illustrate books. I’ve since begun writing three different children’s books, on top of my Mon-Fri working with teenagers as an education support and stage lighting jobs in Melbourne and Ballarat.

If this sounds like a lot to keep going while retaining sanity I can assure you, you’re right, and I must tell you the later has been slipping from my grasp of late.

All in all there hasn’t been a whole heap of balance. I’m lucky I have a hugely supportive partner (my best bud) and because he’s got his own creative projects going we’ve managed to keep spinning our own plates as it were… But lately I’ve felt like that’s all I do, and part of me has forgotten why, in all the work I’ve been doing I’ve been feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the outcomes. I guess that’s partly what’s brought me back here to this blog - To recalibrate my view of creativity means to me and get back to what it is that most brings me to life (if I could only remember where I put it…) In short, I know that if I don’t have that, my version of creativity is only going to feel like more pressure to produce. Thinking back, it’s been feeling this way since I stopped writing for fear of running out of time to get everything DONE. Hmmm.

One of recent event which led me to this conclusion happened yesterday when I had the immense pleasure of playing with Lottie Liams who asked Shadow Feet to open for her E.P Release tour at The Eastern in Ballarat.

It was an afternoon show, and as we did our soundcheck there were maybe five people at the venue as well as Lottie, her Mum/roadie and a friend who’d come up to support. Some stragglers wandered in and out of the venue, one or two who I knew but not well gave me a smile as they disappeared out to the beer garden. I’d been feeling performance nerves for the past few weeks as Jono and I had rehearsed leading up to the gig, and all of a sudden circumstances completely changed on us. I had just about lost my voice the day before with a bad case of the flu but forced myself to sing through our set, even if it meant adjusting the melodies to suit my severely limited vocal range. Then two of the other acts ended up cancelling last minute, which left us and Lottie to carry the show.

Halfway through our set there was a low cacophony of voices and a flurry of footsteps as about fifteen people piled in to watch us play amidst hugs and kisses and greetings between Lottie and her crew. I soon realised almost everyone there had been her family, including her cousins who were ecstatic with the mention they got in her set. This combined with the raw power and vulnerability of an impromptu acapella performance as she talked about how music had kept her hopeful through illness, had me seriously missing my own family back in NZ and wondering how I’d strayed so far in thinking I had to nail a perfect set and achieve unsurmountable odds in order to feel deserving of my own families’ love & support.

It was clear to me that Lottie’s success as a musician wasn’t just about her, but about everyone around her sharing in her success. It all made far too much sense to me, and I resolved after that to make much more of an effort to cultivate community and to value myself not based on what I could do, but on myself as a human being as opposed to working my ass off and hoping people noticed how great I was while slowly suffocating under the weight of my own expectations.

So here goes.. I’ll be back in a week with another entry as I try and nut out this artist-musician thing as I make some steady moves toward reconnecting with those other parts of myself which are just as valuable, if not more so.

x ES