Get Messy Podcast
017 Connection, structure and silliness with Sandra Busby and Tara Roskell
You are going to love this episode. I’m chatting with Tara and Sandra from Kick in the Creatives. And if you don’t know them yet, by the end of this episode, you’re going to fall just as in love with them as I have. And good news for you because they’ve got their own podcast and you can binge listen to them and just take in everything that they have.
Kick in the creatives is a place where you can find creative challenges, and they’re all listed by month. They’re all there for you so you never get that FOMO for missing out on a creative challenge. It’s run by Sandra Busby and Tara Roskell.
Sandra is a still life artist and she’s best known for her paintings which are incredible, like you should really check them out. I can’t understand how they are not photographs. But yeah, Sandra mainly does a lot of paintings of glass and other reflective objects. And she didn’t actually mean to get into fine art. It actually happened by accident. We’ll talk a little bit about her story in the episode.
Sandra found a partner in crime with Tara Roskell who took the traditional art college route. She didn’t really know what to do with her art and so she moved into graphic design. She’s been in that industry for over 20 years, and it’s now freelancing. When Sandra’s not designing, she’s scribbling, doodling and taking part in these creative challenges and you should really look at her work too. It’ll give you a good idea of the type of person you’re listening to and the person that I’m chatting to today. You should see her portraits. They are so unique. And they are so inspiring, and they definitely encourage me to hone in on my own style rather than trying someone else’s.
We had a wonderful chat, and I’m really excited for you to listen to it.
Sandra Busby + Tara Roskell
Sandra Busby is a Still-Life Artist and is best known for her paintings of glass and other reflective objects, which you can find on her website.
Sandra didn’t actually mean to get into ‘fine art.’ In fact, it happened quite by accident. She originally wanted to become a serious ‘sketcher’ but instead, she found herself on another path altogether. Sandra pretends she hates being on video, but her popular social media video “I have finished my painting dance” indicates otherwise.
Tara Roskell took the traditional art college route. Not really knowing what to do with her art, she moved into graphic design. She has worked in the design industry for over 20 years and is now a freelance graphic designer. You can find her work on her website.
When Tara is not designing, she will most likely be found scribbling, doodling and taking part in our creative challenges. She is also currently enjoying urban sketching and trying to improve her drawing on location.
Together, they host Kick in the Creatives.
Podcast Show Notes
In this episode, we discuss
- the absolute magic of Tara and Sandra’s friendship
- whether alcohol makes you more creative
- the beauty of creative challenges
- what having a creative friend can do for your art
- Tara + Sandra’s different creative stories and how their stories ended up as one
- what to do when you suck
- not being good enough, and how that’s really what art is about
- the difference between habit and sporadic creating
- trying out a bunch of styles vs. honing in on your style
- idea generation
- pencil miles
THE VIDEO VERSION OF THIS PODCAST IS AVAILABLE INSIDE OF Get Messy’s Library
Grab some supplies and create while you listen to Tara, Caylee, and Sandra discuss connection through art.
Hey, Tara. Hey Sandra, and welcome to the get messy podcast.
Hello. Thank you for inviting us. Yeah.
I’m really excited and we had a chat last week for me to be on your podcast, which was amazing, wonderful. And I love Both of your views on creativity and art and the creative process and all of that. So in this episode, I just want to really dig into them.
Well, let’s start off with each of you individually, and then we can get to why I’m talking to you as a pair. So maybe Tara, if you want to tell the person listening a little bit about you?
I did the traditional route and went to art college. I always wanted to do art. In fact, when I was about three, I wanted to be a famous artist, which is quite ambitious for a three year old I guess. Yeah, and then then, I guess I didn’t know which direction to go. Probably a bit like you’ve said before with your passive thing is like, I’ve no idea what to do with that. So someone just suggested, well, my tutor said, What about graphic design? So I was like, Okay, I’ll do graphic design, which was probably totally unsuitable for me. So I’ve basically done that for 25 years in freelance for the last 15 but my passion for it, I don’t know if I ever had total passion for it to be honest. But I’d stopped drawing. I still did a little bit of digital stuff and some ideas stuff, but I’d stopped drawing by hand. And, and I guess it was only when I met Sandra. I’d started a podcast. And I interviewed Sandra and it’s through as connecting, I actually started drawing again through a challenge actually. I don’t know if you want me to tell you what the challenge was.
That’s amazing, yes. Tell us the challenge. What was the challenge?
It was, does alcohol make you more creative? It was very scientific.
This is coffee, by the way, just want to point that out.
The idea was basically we would set ourselves a series of tasks, where we would do it without drinking anything and then drinking three units of alcohol. So one was to draw a bottle, to write a poem. We did about three different tasks.
Create an advert.
Oh, that was it, create ideas for an advert. So yes, we did these and it was probably the first time I tried to draw properly as in shade and everything – a bottle. I’d done you know, obviously little scribbles to work out designs for graphics. I thought it felt really alien to the drawing like that again, but I thought, you know, I quite like it. And I think from there that got me doing things by hand again. It was like the spark that started it off again.
That’s awesome. So okay, the main question I have from that was, did you meet Sandra when you were on the alcohol like drunk? Was that when you really connected?
No, I basically heard Sandra on another podcast. And at the time, I had my own podcast, and I was just interviewing different creatives from all different sort of areas of creativity, so I said, oh do you fancy coming to mine? So I interviewed Sandra all about her art. And then afterwards, I don’t know how long we were talking. It was a long time anyway. And then she said to me, because mine was a second podcast she’d done. And she was terrified in the first one – slightly less terrified during mine. And I said, well you talk, you talk so much, you should have your own thing along those lines? And she said, Oh, no, I’d never do that. But you know, I wouldn’t mind trying co-hosting one. And so we started co hosting a few of my episodes. And then we started our own. But the funny thing was, we hadn’t met we’d been doing the podcast, I guess for six months. Do you know Sandra? Maybe we hadn’t met.
I think it was closer to a year, don’t you?
Probably and then your husband secretly I knew about it, obviously, but secretly set up a meeting. So him and Sandra would come and meet me and my partner. And which was so weird.
It was, wasn’t it? Yeah, I turned up my husband said, Oh, I booked a spa weekend. Oh, how lovely. And then he said, we were driving for what seemed like hours. I was like why are we going to a spa hotel all the way up here when there’s thousands just around where we live. And then he said, Oh, no, it’s just this is a really nice hotel and there was an offer on. Okay, fair enough. And so we had the spa day and then we went into the bar that night, and I turned around and I had to do a double take cause I thought – I couldn’t believe it but I actually thought at that moment, that it was a coincidence. Which is so funny. I really did. I couldn’t believe it. And it turned out Yeah, my husband and my daughter actually had been sort of coerced into you know, I think my husband had got my daughter to text you or something and somehow contact you and it had all been arranged. And it was amazing but we didn’t stop talking that night either. And it’s quite funny because people say you know, that could have gone either way because it’s very different having a chemistry via computer/on the phone, and then meeting because it can – everything can be so different can’t it. And um, it was fine. It couldn’t have gone better, could it Tara, and I haven’t shut up ever since.
I love it. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that you have such a beautiful love story.
That was January 2018, wasn’t it Tara?
No, that’s -I dont know.
It would have been 2017 when we met and then 2018 when we launched kick in the creatives, yeah. And as Tara said it was that those challenges that triggered that little idea oh why don’t we do something with it because these challenges are obviously something they obviously really do something and trigger things so let’s let’s work on something so that’s how kick in the creatives was born.
And you’d done – Sandra had also done challenges in the past hadn’t you cause you’d gone through a bit of a slump with your art. So you’d years ago, got together another blogger hadn’t you and you started doing a painting , was it a painting a week that you were doing?
Um, so what happened was, yeah, I’d been doing a lot of painting and then I like Tara said, I just, you know, sometimes you just go through those dry spells and you panic. You think, Oh my god, you know what, why don’t I feel like painting today and you think there’s something wrong with you and you think you’ve lost it and you’ve lost the spark. And it just so happened I was in contact also with a friend in New York, another artist, brilliant artist. And we used to email to and fro still do from time to time. And she, it just so happened that when I emailed her and said I’m going through such a slump at the moment, and she said, I can’t believe it. You’ve literally just said exactly how I’m feeling. I feel exactly the same. I feel like I can’t/everything I do is rubbish. And I don’t even want to do it anyway, I don’t know what’s wrong with me , I don’t seem to have any inspiration. So we came up with this idea that we would each think of, we’d start a blog. And we would each think of five words. And then the five words out of the five words one of us would get to pick a word which we’d use for inspiration that month, and then we both had to create a painting during that month, or as many paintings as you wanted to around, you know, which was based around that word. It was so fun. And because I was only doing eight by eights about that big because they were I could do maybe four of them in a month. And I’ll tell you in that six month no, I think it was about a year we had that blog. And I had never been so productive and neither had she. So it was really, really good. And then it got to the point where we had our own blogs anyway. And we both said, you know, this is done exactly what we needed it to do for us, but we didn’t really want to turn it into something where, you know, it’s ongoing because we just wanted to do our own thing then so yeah, so we took the blog off. But yeah, it really kick started. You know, that wanting to paint again, which was great. But with Tara, you, you’d, you’d gone to the traditional route, I hadn’t, I was largely self taught. I tried the art school route. I didn’t really start painting or drawing till I was in my very early 30s. And I’m in my – now. I’m in my late 40s now, so it’s quite a long time, but I have been doing – because I’ve got two children, they’ve left home now but I’ve been doing murals on my kids walls with just emulsion paint and that was what triggered the spark for me to start painting. I really, really just got this bug and, and then I went on a little weekend away with a friend of mine who used to sketch and I remember saying to you know, can I have a little look through your sketchbook and she’s a very good friend of mine. So you know, it’s not like I was asking a stranger, but she said, Oh, no, that’s fine. So I had a look. But I was intrigued because she spent two days clutching this sketchbook and did not open it once and I just thought, Well, if I could do that, I would never stop and I just thought I really want I just really know that this is what I want to do. So I decided that I needed a piece of paper to prove that I could be an artist by going to an art school. So I enrolled in an art school absolutely hated every second of it – didn’t teach me anything I wanted to know. It was just wasn’t me. And I wanted to sort of learn the more traditional methods. And the art school was more about breaking the rules, which was great, but I wanted to learn what they were before I could break them, but they weren’t teaching that sort of thing. So shut myself away for a year, started all of those traditional methods and kind of just started owning my skills really, and just trying to just work and work and work really hard. But then I realised that when I met Tara, it was funny because what I wasn’t doing much of which I really wanted to do was some sketching, I really wanted to sketch that’s what I wanted to do, but I’d fallen into realism painting, which is completely different. And as much as I love it, I was missing that fun side. And when we did these little challenges that’s what sparked me to start being much more experimental and sketching a lot more. And so we’ve I feel have been really good for each other. We’ve brought something out in each other that wouldn’t we probably may not have found.
And probably really bad for each other.
And probably is very bad for each other. Yeah. I was at a disadvantage with that alcohol challenge though.
Yeah, It was your own fault though, wasn’t it?
It was my own fault. I totally miscalculated how many units were in a bottle of beer. I thought I’d try. I don’t like wine. I was on six units, which isn’t much if you think about it but when you’re trying to draw –
Yes it is.
So I was at a real disadvantage.
I think it’s very typical British to say six units of alcohol – not that much.
I’d be on the floor with six units of alcohol.
Yeah. It’s obviously helped forge that like friendship and that bond that can never be broken ever.
I think we just get each other I think we have similar sense of humour.
Yeah, yeah. Sandra must be the only person who’s sent me the weirdest pictures like here’s rude vegetables. A text of some rude vegetables.
I get texts from Tara saying stop talking which is funny.
During a podcast that is.
So Sandra, you said that you look at your friend’s sketchbook and you said if I could do it like that I would never stop. So do you feel like now that you can do that, do you feel the same way?
I will never stop drawing. Now I know that I and if I don’t, for any length of time for more than a few days, then I will get. I don’t know what I can’t explain what it is. It’s like. So it’s just I’ve got this itch somewhere and I need to scratch it and it’s about the drawing. And there’s nothing else that can fill that void. There’s nothing else I can do that makes me feel the same way. So it’s an interesting thing. I don’t know whether there’s just a part of our brains that we all need a different way of stimulating but that’s my whether it’s painting or drawing. I do think that the two are quite different. I do feel a lot different when I’m sketching than I do whenI’m, you know, sitting there doing a realism painting. And I think sketching is more about personality and having a bit more fun and experimenting and not worrying about results. Now that was my problem in the beginning was I used to worry about the result all the time. Now, it’s not good enough and I’ve ruined the page but it’s totally not about that. And I’ve heard it before and it sounds really cliche, doesn’t it? Oh, it’s about the process, not the result. But it is really, and you can always do it again, if you have to, if it’s that bad, but actually, what I’ve learned doing so much more sketching and doing a lot more experimental things because of kick in creatives because obviously we can’t just preach it, we’ve got to practice it, we have to do these things. And when I look into old sketchbooks, there’s like a pencil sketch of maybe a horse on one page, and then there’s a pencil sketch of the person on the next and everything sort of quite well thought about and, and that was a very nice look through the book and it’s like, well, yeah, okay, it’s fine. But now there’s a blind contour drawing, a self portrait of blind contour, which is absolutely awful. But when you look at it it’s so fun and interesting to look at. And I’ll be oh just chuck a bit of colour and see what happens and it’s really strange because I said to you Tara the other day, I’ve got a page of blind contour self portraits one of them you don’t even think as a human and yet it’s probably one of my favourite pages in my sketchbook because it’s just so much. It’s just fun I’m not caring. Yeah, that aspect of it is what I liked. So it’s a very different feeling than painting.
You wouldn’t use anything really much more than pencil either, would you before. I tried to get you to use – so I really like the brush pen and I’d go Oh try this brush pen and she’d go no. No, but now you love them. Yeah, your brush pen. I still don’t like that horrible chunky marker you bought me though. We met in London we – that’s the first place we met. We’ve met lots and lots of times since. We go on for a few days. Yeah. So we go out – we’ve done Brighton, London, London a few times. And we went to the VNA museum where there’s all these casts and busts and statues and amazing place to sit and draw. And she just she got out of her bag this great big chunky marker which was one of those big chisel things Oh, she said you’ve gotta try that. It’s horrible, I hate it. Still got it, still don’t use it.
I was trying to make you loosen up though wasn’t I?
Yeah, cuz I was still very quite tight at that time. Since then, I decided I was never going to use pencil anymore. I wanted to use pen so I started using pen and I hate using pencil now I love using pen and I won’t use anything different than that. Well I’ll obviously colour and things like that. But yeah, so and with the challenges Tara’s mentioning I did before we met, I did something. It doesn’t exist now and it was called the 75 days sketch challenge and that got into thinking about how good challenges were, but what we found, what I found was that I was always late to these challenges that I see these weird hashtags flying around the internet. Like hashtag Inktober at the time didn’t know what that was and, and I went to check them out I think, Oh God, I wish I would have done that. But I’m like, Oh, it’s already a week into it. So we – when we were talking about our challenges, I don’t know if you want to go into that Tara because I feel like I’m talking a lot. I’m gonna get a text in a minute.
I want to see what Caylee wants to ask us first.
I’m just loving listening to you. I feel like I’m just – it’s just so nice taking it all in. I definitely there’s I mean, I’m writing my notes here. I want to hear about the challenges. I love – I think challenges are a great way to infuse creativity to make a really low pressure form of creating. So yeah, Tara, let’s talk about it.
Okay, so what we decided is we were going to start this website, where throughout the entire year, you would be asked to a challenge and it’d be easy to find. So we were going to show Inktober, all these big challenges alongside ones that we came up with. And we’d have a group and everything that went with it. So basically, if you turned up on our site at any point, you’ll be able to take part in something. And the idea was as well that it would get people trying different things. So we might have an abstract challenge for a month, then we might have a drawing faces. And then we had a bit of poetry. So we got all these people that are in our group group. Now we started off with about 30 people, I think it is like yeah, 30 people in there. And it was we’ve got people who they might have never tried to do an abstract, and then suddenly they’re trying and they’re like, I’m quite good at this actually, you know, they’ve done a few and maybe they weren’t very good at drawing as such, but they’re really good at getting a balance when they put colour down, stuff like that, so they’re trying all these interesting things they wouldn’t have done. And we have people that just regularly throughout the entire year, doing all these challenges, just keep coming back day after day to, I guess as well it’s good for you. A lot of people say it’s good for their well being. We’ve had people in the group say, one person actually said it got her off her antidepressants. Now, I’m not saying that’s something you should do and obviously she was doing it with other therapists and stuff as well. But it’s amazing what art has done for some people in that group.
I think we’ve got about 1500 people in the group. Obviously, everybody’s not active all the time, and people dip in and out. But yeah, we’ve got people we’ve had, like it’s a woman who’s had a stroke and she uses it for her well being. I think also it’s helped her probably coordination a little bit, you know, drawing regularly. We’ve had people and someone that suffered from dementia and she really liked, she liked the idea of the structure. Because I guess when you’re when your memory is going, you need that structure for your life. So she wanted to know exactly what she was supposed to do each day when she was taking part in the challenges. So lots of different people doing things we’ve had people also who I’m guessing, I’m reading into this, they’re perhaps a bit lonely as well, they’re at home is quite a solitary thing to do art. And they just come because they make friends there. And we’ve had people form collaborations. So there’s someone who’s put a book together of different people’s poetry, you know, within the group and outside so, and those little things like we’ve had people write a poem, and then another someone else comes along. Oh, can I, do you mind if I draw a picture based on your poem? So lovely little things like that happen in the group as well.
As much as there’s a lot of people in the group, some of them have actually been there from day one. And they’ve been doing every single month I’ve been doing a challenge. It’s incredible. But as much as it, there’s a lot more people now we’ve noticed that these connections that were made in the beginning have continued and there are people making new connections, which is lovely. It’s really lovely.
So tell me more about the challenges. Is it something every single day with an overarching theme for the month.
Yeah, so each month we will have four challenges, but one will simply be here’s a word of the month so you can use that. So if someone wants to spend longer on something might say you were doing painting like Sandra does quite detail paintings, you could spend a month doing that or write a song, whatever you like, really. But then we’ll have three other challenges that tend to be daily challenges. But obviously, it’s quite funny because we might say okay, it’s portraits this month. So everyday draw a face or draw a portrait, but you can take that in whatever direction you like. But of course, we don’t mind if you will do a face but take a week to draw one. But people do say, Oh, I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to do it everyday and it’s like, the whole idea is that we set these rules, but they’re just – each little thing, you take it any way you like, we don’t mind what you do really it’s just a bit of guidance, because I think people need a bit of structure. Yeah, I know I do anyway, so I definitely, to keep me drawing, I do need some sort of challenge, which is quite weird.
Yeah, it’s more about getting people to do something creative every day and build a creative habit. That’s that’s the message though. Some people dip in and out of various challenges, they might get a bit bored of drawing a face every day for a month, so halfway through they’ll think, okay well, the other challenge they’ve got going on is draw with your non dominant hand. So let’s, let’s switch over to that one. We’re fine with that we don’t mind. And it was in fact, because we say you know, this is more about having fun and creating every day and these challenges are – you make them work for you. And that’s when the lady with dementia said, No, I need the rules. So, we were like, okay, no, no, follow the rules if you need that follow them. But if you don’t need that, just make them work, make them work to fit around your lifestyle. And we have for that reason we’ve got, like Tara said, we’ve got one way you can do a whole month based around one word, we’ve got challenges that you can spend five minutes on, and we’ve got challenges that a lot, you know, sort of somewhere in between just daily challenges, but every challenge that we’ve designed has been -not designed just to have fun. There is a reason behind each one and, for instance, you know, people might think well, why, why? What is drawing with my left hand going to do for me, it’s just gonna make me do rubbish drawings. But there’s two reasons really. The first one is it takes that pressure off straight away. You already know It’s going to be a bad drawing. So that takes that side of things out of the equation, you totally forgive yourself. And the second thing is, because by drawing with your non dominant hand, you are stimulating the right side of your brain or your creative side of your brain. And that’s, I believe, been something that’s sort of been proved scientifically that when people draw/when people do something with their left hand, it’s something more to do with the creative side of the brain. So it triggers more of those signals. So it’s quite an interesting thing. So we don’t just think oh, well, that’ll be a bit of fun. Let’s try this. It’s, there’s always something behind it that will help. Even if they don’t realise it will, it will help their skills develop.
Yeah. So what do you think the difference is between I mean, you obviously very big proponents of a creative habit, what would be the difference between having that daily habit and maybe using five minutes a day every day compared to like sporadic bursts of creativity where, I don’t know once every six months, you hold yourself down for a whole day and just create.
It’s like the gym is now isn’t it? I think it’s like if you go to the gym one day, you just end up a sweaty mess, don’t you? You don’t actually do anything much at all beyond being a sweaty mess. So I think you just end up being a drawing mess, really, if you do it for a day, don’t you? Whereas if you, I think you get a continuous improvement if you do that little bit each day. So I know personally that if I set myself a challenge to do a watercolour, where I want to improve my watercolour faces and the first few days is just a nightmare. And it’s like, these are shocking. And if you were doing that in one day’s period, by the end of the day, they’d probably still be shocking, because I think your mind thinks about it when you’re not literally thinking about it if you know I mean, so I might sit down on day seven, and suddenly my brains thinking, I think I know what you’re doing wrong, you know, it’s kind of clicked. And then suddenly they’ll start getting better and they might have a little bit of a dip, and then they’ll get better. So I definitely think that continuous practice really improves. And if you’ve got to have that improvement haven’t you, to spur you on to do more, I think. Definitely.
Sandra, you feel the same way?
Yeah, I do. I think Tara has got it spot on that if you – even if it’s just once a week and you think right, I’m going to draw for five hours on Saturday. Trouble is actually quite hard to draw for five hours, it’s actually quite hard to stay in that frame of mind for so long. And whereas if you, if you do 15 minutes a day, you’re going to get more out of it. Because you’re, you’re developing the habit and you’re just getting a bit of practising every day. So yeah, I think that’s where these challenges are so good to work alongside what you do, if you, I mean like, I paint and yeah, I still do that. And generally speaking, I do a few hours on a Saturday and a few hours on a Sunday of painting, depending if I’ve got something on the go. And then that’s completely different. But I want to in order to be able to do those kinds of paintings you’ve got to have, you’ve got to keep your skills up, your drawing skills up because people say it’s like riding a bike, but I don’t. What do you think about that, Tara? Do you think it’s like riding a bike? I think you can really get rusty if you don’t use it, use it or lose it. I think, you know, I’ve heard the expression. And I know it comes back easier if you kind of know the basics, but you do go rusty. So I think just by doing that a little bit every day you’re keeping the cogs oiled. And I mean, it certainly works for me that way.
Yeah, I think when I first did that when we did the alcohol challenge, the drawing one, and when I drew that bottle, the first time doing that shading, that’s almost like what you’re saying just now, I hadn’t drawn by hand for years and it did feel alien. It was like, this is just unnatural. And I think you’d have a little bit of that if you’re only drawing that cramming that once a week on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s not obviously going to be as severe. But it now feels to me that if I, I don’t want to draw digitally anymore, and drawing by hand feels so much more natural than drawing digital except that I still do that on my sketchpad sometimes.
There’s no undo button on a sketchpad. Wouldn’t that be great.
Yeah, I’ve got two questions about your challenges. First question is do you ever do the same challenge again, and second is when are you doing the alcohol one again?
Oh, no, the alcohol one was the one we just did together. And I couldn’t really do that because there might be people who develop alcohol issues because of us. We would not recommend that. And so no, that’s not a challenge we do publicly.
Were you in on that one Caylee?
Totally, like basically, that’s my new life goal. I want to know – but you didn’t tell us the results, then. What were the results?
The results were very funny. And we think that you are a little bit more creative, with alcohol, but we’d actually probably need to rerun under more scientific conditions, shouldn’t we Sandra?
Yeah, I think so. I think maybe we need to just up the unit slightly because I’m not sure it made enough difference. But we did things like I’ll tell you what these challenges are for Tara and I as well, we’ve done things like because challenges aren’t just sketching challenges. There’s also challenges for writers as well. So we do one February fables, which is where you write your first draft of a children’s book in one month. So that was one. There’s poetry challenges, isn’t there, Tara? There’s linocutting challenges, things like that. Well, you know, I love writing. I’ve always loved writing, but I’ve never really had that sort of chance to do it as I’d like to. But Tara and I decided we would do this February fables challenge, because it’s only right. There’s so much work that goes on besides behind the scenes in kick in the creative so that we can’t obviously do all the challenges as well. It would be well, it would be bonkers. We just couldn’t. But sometimes we’re like, we have to, we’ve got to do some of this stuff, too. Because it’s only right that we do and we actually, what did I persuade you to do Tara? I said, let’s do February fables. Let’s write a children’s book. Which is definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. But obviously, because the time for us is a lot of it is absorbed on all of the background work that goes on behind the scenes. We didn’t, you know, have a huge amount of time to do that as well. So what we decided to do, we’d do it b a fun way, where we decided we needed to write 500 words a day. Was that right, Tara?
I think it was 250. I can’t remember if it was 500 or 250.
It was 500 words a day but what we would do is I would write 250 words. And then –
Oh I see, 500 between us.
Yeah, yeah, between us. So I do 250 words. And then even if the sentence stopped at the word and or box or whatever, it stopped and then I had to then send those words to Tara. And then she would add her 250 words. We had a character obviously, but we didn’t really have a story. But weirdly, I think we were kind of on the way to the same place. Tara’s way was different than mine and mine was different to hers. So we’d, I’d get her words back and I’d go what, why would she do this? And, vice versa, she’d go, oh, I can’t believe you’ve done this, you know, but somehow when you – because we wrote this book, and actually we’re, I’m in the process of trying to illustrate it even though I’m not an illustrator, but I’m having a go. Because we’d love to publish it. But somehow at the end of this, this thing, we came to the conclusion of the book and it reads as one person has written it, because we write quite similarly in a way and I love that now that’s something we would never have done.
I didn’t love it after a while, did I?
You got bored more towards the end didn’t you?
I did get bored because I’m not very good at sticking with one, I like to change and experiment more.
So she handed the editing part to me. So I did the editing at the end just to make sure it all knitted together and sent it off actually to a proper editor who looks at it and said, oh, you know are you going to do a sequel. But she just checked out that it was all laid out correctly, which is great. So yeah, but that’s like, like I said, it’s something we would never have done. I really enjoyed when we did that alcohol one of doing the adverts creating adverts for the most ridiculous thing and just being, having – using your imagination in a way that you’d never normally would. Which, I think Tara is the genius with imagination. Yeah, you really are. She did an episode once on generating ideas.
Was this one we did together or it’s just the one we, we’ve done one since, we’ve done one together haven’t we?
So I mean, you – I said to Tara take the lead on this episode because you are so she’s so clever like that. She really is. She would never say it but she’s so, I don’t know how her mind works sometimes. Sometimes it’s quite worrying like really? Your mind works like that? I don’t know how it works like that. It’s just, it’s just unbelievable. And it does help me sometimes because I think oh, what would Tyra think? But you talked about mind mapping and yeah, just really interesting ways of –
Yeah, to stimulate ideas because I got to a point in my graphics work. That was before I went freelance, and I’d be working, you know, within a company, and you’d get the same job again. So you might have done it before, and then you get the following year, or you get it six months later. And it’s like a revamp, and it’s like, oh, no, I have to think of more ideas for the same thing again. So I started reading loads of books on idea generation. And there’s so many ways you can do it. But one of the ways I found really useful was this random word idea where you take whatever problem you’re working on and then to, because what you tend to do is you tend to go for the predictables, even if you’re mind mapping or you’ll go to what you already think of. There’s no way of breaking you out unless you’ve got other people there. So if you suddenly introduce this random word, and say, how can this random word affect my problem? Or how can I introduce an element of that? That tends to spur something new. It’s probably not making sense. Am I? How am I explaining this.
How do you get your random word?
I use a random word generator.
which is, which is basically online, yeah.
Yeah. You released a podcast episode on this, right?
Yeah, I think we’ve done one. I know there was definitely one of mine. But that’s not up anymore but I think we could –
If someone wanted to dig into learning how to generate ideas. Where would they go?
Look, can we give you a link for the show notes or something? Do you put show notes up as well. Yeah, we can tell you what the episode is called.
Yeah, great. So I’ll put it in the show notes and then if you want to dig into that, you’ve got your guides. Great. I want to talk about, I think it’s interesting to me the way you separate all of your creative endeavours. For me, personally, I just see everything as creative. It’s either creative or it’s not creative. So I don’t like go okay, this is sketching, this is illustrating, this is painting all of that. What, I don’t know, what makes you like, decide today I’m going to paint rather than illustrate or draw or sketch. For me, it’s just like, I’m going to create now. How do you know which category to go down?
On how you feel, I guess. Yeah.
I mean, if I’ve got a painting on the go, I’ve got to do it. It’s not gonna paint itself so I’ll know that well today I really need to get on with it otherwise it’s just gonna sit there so that’s quite easy. If I haven’t worked on it from one weekend to the next and I’ll make sure that I get back to that but generally all of the weekdays I tend to spend on just drawing and sketching really. And you’re the same, because you paint as well Tara, you don’t paint but you do paintings with –
Yeah, I do phases I use neo colours. I don’t know if you’ve used those, do you use those for the journals? Neo colours, they’re like sort of water…
People do, but I do not. Your faces are insane, I mean both of your art is just like next level to me, it’s like goals. But you rock the neo colours.
Yes, she does.
I have a weird way of doing it, so I’ll. For me it’s either a face or, I love sketching outside but I don’t do that enough and I should make myself do that more. But sometimes it depends where I want to sit which sounds bonkers, because basically I’ve got a converted garage as my office and I’ve got a little side of it has my art stuff. But I don’t always like sitting in here. If I sit in here this is where I do the faces because they’re a bit messy. But then I just love sometimes just sitting on the sofa or sitting outside and then I’ll just do a more sketch type thing. Because then it’s a lap, a pen – it’s not too messy. I think what I don’t like about this office is sometimes it feels like work work. Sometimes it feels like graphic design because it’s my ‘office’ and it’s not separate if that makes sense. Whereas outside it says this is just for fun.
And sketching outdoors is something that we love doing but again it’s not quite the same when you’re on your own and funny enough, well, they’ve relaxed the rules slightly for lockdown because obviously when we’re filming this it’s Coronavirus and all that. And we were actually due to meet because we’d sort of go three times a year, maybe a bit more, four times a year to go out sketching. We’d meet up. We were due to go out in March but of course they shut London down so we couldn’t go.
That was a week before lockdown I think.
Yeah. So we, but generally speaking, that’s what we love to do. We love to go out and sketch together. And there’s nothing like going outside and, you know, sketching outdoors, because it’s so easy when you’re in a studio to look at photographs and think, I’m going to sketch a person today and look for some inspiration on Google or wherever and it’s not the same at all. It really isn’t. Getting out there and doing it from life is a completely different experience and you get totally different results. So, yeah. We both love doing that don’t we Tara. But it could get quite boring if you only ever work in the same room all the time. It can almost – you’ve got to switch it up a bit, I think.
And sketching outside with someone as well, you’re – so we can go out and obviously we’re chatting. But when we’re drawing, we’re not chatting, necessarily, cause you might be doing a slightly different view to me. So we might be a few meters apart – social distancing – and we’ll both be drawing but you don’t need to say anything because you’re both in that dual moment of doing something you love and it’s just easy like that whereas, if you’re sitting there on your own sketching, sometimes you feel quite self-conscious.
Also, I think when you’re on your own, you tend to be much more critical of your own stuff and you don’t look at it properly before you think it’s a write off. Having someone else’s opinion there sometimes helps. I think what’s great about Tara and I is that neither one of us – we know each other well enough where, if she said to me, ‘look, really, honestly, what do you think of this?’, I can say to her: I’ve seen better actually, than that one. I don’t generally ever say that but I could. It’s like that, ‘Does your bum look big in this?’ and a real friend will say ‘Yes it does, take it off’. And so I think we’re well past that level now. And the same vice versa. Tara will tell me if she thinks, ‘Maybe you need to try this or-”
When you need to stop talking –
Yeah. But what is good about going out together like that with someone you’re very confident with and actually you don’t mind if you produce something really bad, you’re not embarrassed because you know the person well enough. They know you well enough – you can draw- you just happened to have done a dud one. You know, so that’s all good. But, interesting, when – I was just going to say about when we went to London, Tara. Remember? So we decided, I think it was about March time so it was Spring. We had gone to London and it was quite a nice day. And we found this little street and we thought, ‘Ooh, this would be a nice little street to draw’. And I don’t like drawing buildings at all, it’s not something I’m interested in. I know I should work on those things more and we sat at the end of this street and started drawing and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, probably about five minutes into the drawing. The heavens opened and it wasn’t just a little shower. It was just torrential, wasn’t it, Tara? So we found ourselves running down the street – didn’t even have time to shut our sketchbooks and just getting under the nearest little porch, in a doorway. And of course, I’d actually been using a water soluble pen to draw my outlines and I looked down and it was just a big dribbly mess. And I was like, it’s ruined. I mean I didn’t like it in the first place really, but I thought oh my gosh this is ruined, and Tara looked at it and said oh my gosh, I love that! And the more I looked at this sketch, the more I could see in it what perhaps Tara had seen and it’s so interesting because now in that whole sketchbook, it’s my favourite one. And at the time, it would have just been an absolute write off so it’s interesting how just someone else’s opinion can actually, you know, make you see things slightly differently in your own work.
Ah, I love that.
Like that thing isn’t it. Where you do two drawings, you could think, ‘ah I love this one’. If I put it on Instagram, people are going to say ‘ oh, I love it’. You’ll put that one up and like – crickets. The one that you don’t like, people think it’s amazing. It’s so weird.
That’s so great. That happens with me too. It’s the weirdest thing.
Yeah, don’t get it at all.
I mean, people are going to take it differently every time and every time, they’re going to react the way they’ve been brought up and their whole life until this point. But aren’t people great? I think that’s such a good thing to add to your art, is having other people around you who can help you see things differently and who can even tell you when something is bad, you know? There’s just – we live in a world where we’re so lucky to be able to have that and you guys are both in England. But people who are in a tiny little village are able to connect with someone who has the same mindset around art and who has the same values.
Exactly, I think that’s where having a Facebook group is so good for that. You know, cause people can really join in and get to know everybody in there and encourage each other to try things they wouldn’t. I mean there’s materials I’ve tried that I would have never tried in my sketchbook. I would never have fallen in love with my brush pen. Tara, you started using – when you wanted to get more into painting, didn’t you say you were trying things like gouache and all these things and you’ve settled on neo colours which you love. It’s just nice to have other people encourage you to try things that you might not have otherwise. Even if it is writing like you Tara, don’t particularly love doing but you did it and we’ve written a book together and it’s, you know, I think it’s a good book. So um, yeah, having people around I think is good.
So where’s the balance then? Where do you say ‘I should learn to draw buildings’ and also ‘I never want to touch that again’.
I think I had this -not so much for the buildings thing, I had it more with – the should mindset like you were saying about ‘I should use paint’. So, I have, in the past, years ago I used to use watercolours – when I was in school. And then I tried acrylics. But I’ve never fallen in love with them. But I kept feeling like to be a ‘proper artist’ I need to use paint. And I’d try and try and you don’t. In the end, I realised that I like doing things with immediacy. So, I like doing things that you can – like pastel or crayon or pen or anything like that. Where you can immediately put colour down. I don’t mind adding water afterwards but I don’t like the whole paint thing. Now whether I’ll try it again or not, I don’t know but I realised that I don’t have to try it. There are people who do very well making things with just a bit of charcoal and a pen. You know, people who are selling their work for thousands who do that. So, it doesn’t matter. It’s what works for you but I think you shouldn’t limit yourself at first so I think it’s important to try them and not just once. Because you have that problem where it’s, ‘do I not like this because I don’t know how to use it properly and I’m not good at it yet’ or do I not like it because I just don’t plain like it. So, I had to get through that really I think as well.
I think that word ‘should’ as well, you know, that’s the word I heard all the time when I started painting, because I paint in a realism style but in my head, and not just in my head, there were actual people saying, ‘you should loosen up’, ‘you need to loosen up’, you know. ‘You need to lunge at your canvas’ and all this and I got quite defiant about it, I was like, ‘well, why? Who says I should? Who made these rules?’ I don’t want to do that, thank you very much. And it’s quite funny because I knew that naturally, that was never going to be a natural thing for me to do on a canvas. It just wasn’t me. I ignored absolutely everybody and I’m really glad I did because now, I still don’t think, ‘I want to loosen up when I paint’ because I just paint how I feel it comes natural to me, whereas sketching I think is a whole different thing. That’s where you can experiment and have fun and you can loosen up – or not, whatever. But I hate that word ‘should’. You know, nobody should feel any need to do something because they feel they should when it comes to creating. They should just do what they feel they want to do at the time. And that’s the only should there should be. I think.
But you should try things first, shouldn’t you?
Oh yes. You should try things. Definitely try things. Absolutely try things, 100%.
And more than once. Because like, we go back to stuff like the brush pen. You now love it and yet the first time, second time you used it, you hated it. And how, I used to only ever draw one thing on a page. So, if I’ve got a sketchbook page, and I go outside, I’ll draw the building or if there’s a person, I’ll draw a person and then have one thing on the page. And Sandra says to me, ‘You should -’. Should.
How about. I suggest –
Maybe put a few different drawings on the page. And I said, ‘No, no, I don’t want to do that’. Anyway, sure enough – a month later – when it was no longer Sandra’s idea, I then tried doing it and I thought, ‘I really like that’. That worked really well, so. So there is something to trying something. But then you have to decide, ‘do I reject this? Or do I not reject this?’
Yeah and I wouldn’t have a page full of blind contour portraits in my sketchbook, which I love, if I had not been, ‘why don’t you do this?’. Sometimes it’s just, ‘ah try this’, it’s not asking even necessarily it’s just that we throw ideas around and say ‘we’ll try that’ and it’s just fun, you know?
So I mean, humanity in general has a very precise idea of what being an artist is like and we’ve touched on it already but tell me other ways in which you are not a ‘ real artist’.
Well we have both now got beret’s cause I bought us some when we went to London.
Beret’s, you know – French hats.
Oh beret, okay.
Do I say it wrong? Beret?
You probably say it correctly because my accent is always wrong. So you do have them?
She bought me this beret when we were in London at the time and it was so funny because um she said I’ve got a present for you. I unwrapped it and it was this pink beret – she got a black one. So we had to put them on and drink our coffee in this coffee shop. It must have looked nutters. We definitely didn’t look like artists. So we’ve got that – I don’t know, what would you call a stereotype artist? Well, I can say what I think. And this probably won’t win me any fans from the art world but I do know that a lot of people from art school, they tend to – I don’t know what it is – if you think about somebody maybe who loves to wear maybe the big scarves wrapped around and plaits and wooly hats and all this and they just. I don’t know what it is, they just seem to have this persona and it’s almost like – I remember when I started painting and I had this feeling that I was never going to fit in cause, you know, I wasn’t mysterious enough and to this day, I can’t tell you how many times – well I can actually – not much. It’s three. Three times. Three times I’ve heard someone say, ‘you don’t look like an artist’. What does an artist look like then? Am I supposed to be backcombing my hair and having blue and yellow strands. I don’t know. What do you think, Tara? It’s like – sometimes I don’t think people think they should look like that.
Yeah, I think – we don’t use fancy words like that. I listen to some podcasts and they always talk about juxtaposition and I’m like -. Some people have got to be pretentious about art and I don’t. I don’t think of it as pretentious – do you like doing it? Do you not like doing it? Look at other people’s work and you can talk about it but don’t get all arty farty about it. I don’t think we’re arty farty at all are we?
No, not at all. Everybody is on the same path. A few of us are on different parts of it, we’re all on the same path. It’s just where you decide to take it but we all start at the beginning at the end of the day and that’s the point with Kick in the Creatives I think we try and press the fact that everybody is a beginner and unless you get past that stage where you are ‘bad’ at it if there is such a thing as being bad. I’ve always said you’ve got to accept that you’re going to be bad at something before you’re ever going to be good at it. And the hardest part is getting through that part where you are creating drawings or sketches or paintings that you think, ‘ah that will never see the light of day’. It’s hard not to get disheartened by that but all it takes is pencil miles. It just takes time and it takes courage to look at those and not be in a permanent state of self-criticizing. We’re still going to have failures but you just treat them like a lesson and move on. It’s quite hard to do that in the beginning I think.
I think it’s in a safe place isn’t it? Probably groups like ours, they’re places where no ones going to come ocn and say ‘that’s terrible’, you know, because you’ve done it for fun and you’re sharing because you don’t mind constructive criticism but like if anyone ever says anything rude, we’re not standing for people like that. Because people are doing this just for enjoyment. If they then go on and take it somewhere else and you know, make it into a career, that’s fine. But don’t knock someone down – that’s not helping, that’s not encouraging. And I know from what people have said to me in the past – that’s not going to make me better, that’s going to make you stop.
Yeah. And the telling thing is, people who have been in the group from the beginning – say three years ago – the improvement we’ve seen in some of them is phenomenal, isn’t it Tara? From the beginning to what they’re doing now – it’s amazing. It’s just taken them time and dedication I think.
I love it. So what would you tell a beginner then?
Start. And I think if you get some structure – cause I’m so unstructured – I need structure so I need a challenge of some sort. So I think if you join some sort of challenge or a group like yours where you’ve got that encouragement and a reason to create, because I think if you decide you’re going to draw on your own without some sort of support, unless you’re incredibly driven, you’re probably not going to do it. You’ll probably do it for a few days and then collapse so I definitely think you need some sort of support. Whether that’s one friend, whether that’s a group, because I know I need that extra push.
And I would say, as well, that practice is absolutely paramount – it’s the most important thing but also actively learning as well. So you’ll hear it a lot that practice makes perfect but it’s no good if you are practicing something over and over again and you’re not actually trying to learn what was wrong with it the first time. So go on You Tube, read books, you know, seek out tutorials. Try and actively learn as well. That’s kind of a big part of it. But yeah, Tara I think you had the most important part. Pick up the pencil in the first place and start. Because so many people I know go, ‘I wish I knew how to draw – I’d love to have done that’ and it’s like, ‘Do it, do it’. You’re alive, so do it. Actually, I was listening to a podcast not long ago and there was a guy on it and um – it might have been a TV programme – I can’t remember exactly but he was 90. And he’d not long started painting and he’d just done his first gallery exhibition.
And he started painting in his late 80’s. Incredible. It’s never too late.
I’ve got a friend and she didn’t think she could draw really and I said to her, ’Imagine if you had been drawing for the last 20 years – imagine if you had thought of that 20 years ago – how good you’d be now.’ And she actually repeated that to me the other day and she’s just been following little tutorials on You Tube. She was saying it helped. But she was following little YouTube tutorials and you can see she’s gradually getting better. But she never thought she could draw at all. And she came onto one of our Zoom drawing calls. And she started drawing something and she was showing me afterwards and one of them did actually look like a face.
Ah, I love that. So if someone wanted to join – yeah, we were speaking about the drawing Zoom’s before we hit record – do you briefly want to say what they rae and how people can join them?
Yeah, we’ve done, I think we’ve just done two so far and all it is, is, within that group, we organised a zoom call where we would – Sandra actually posed for the first Zoom and everybody else would draw her. So we would do timed drawings like five minutes of poses but we’re going to do some more in the future where everybody draws each other. So yeah, if you join the group, you’ll find out about those.
So how would they join your group?
They just go to kickinthecreatives.com that’s our main website but we’ve also got a Facebook group of the same name. So if you go to Facebook, search Kick in the Creatives and you’ll find it there.
You’ll find it but there’s also a page so don’t get confused. The page is one thing, the group is where you’ll have to answer a couple of questions to be able to join just so we can rule out anyone who’s there for the wrong reasons and then, yeah, you’re in.
And your personal instagrams?
@tararoskell just my name basically.
And mine is @sandra.busby . I’m not the most active person on my personal one because I’m a bit slack with social media. I really need to sort that out. But yeah, I’m on it. I always put my latest paintings up on it and things like that.
I’ll be sure to put all of your links, everything in the show notes.
Brilliant, thank you.
Thank you so much for chatting with me today. You ladies are so wise and I feel like your connection and your community and everything together excites me so much. Thank you so much for chatting today.
Ah, thanks for having us.
Yeah, you called us wise, I think that’s a first as well.
Wow, yeah. That’s a first for me.
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Your podcast host, Caylee Grey
I'm Caylee Grey. Creator of Get Messy, official fairy freaking artmother and your pro excuse-squashing ninja.
In the Get Messy podcast I’ll be chatting to a selection of amazing, real-life humans just like you are who are dealing with the very same barriers … but overcoming them to create their art.
Together, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.
No more excuses. Okay? Okay.