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Cassia Cogger on Being Open to New Ideas, Avoiding Complacency, Being Consistent, and the Art of Simplification – Cracking Creativity Episode 71

Cassia Cogger has created art ever since she was young. In middle school she won a national contest for a laundry detergent brand. And unlike most artists, she began selling her art early in life.

After college, Cassia abandoned her artistic pursuits and got a job as an editor at a trade magazine. It was during this time that Cassia realized she wanted to become a full-time artist. So she picked up a few odd jobs to support her painting business.

Before her daughter was born, Cassia was featured in a magazine as a rising star in water color. But after her daughter’s birth, she stopped painting as frequently.

It wasn’t until after her second child was born that Cassia got serious about art again. The same art magazine wanted to follow up with her to see what she had done in the past five years. This was the call to action she needed to get serious about art again.

In this episode, Cassia talks about why we need to be open to new ideas, the importance of avoiding complacency and being consistent, and the art of simplification, among many other things.

Here are three things you can learn from Cassia:

We Should Always be Open to New Ideas

One of the things that holds artists back from reaching their full potential is being too closed minded. Many artists only want to learn about one specific thing. They are not open to exploring new ideas.

Cassia used to have these closed minded ideas about art, but after a while, she started believing art can be enhanced by everything around us. “Art is everywhere and can be anything, and to limit it to something like a painting or a sculpture, I was really missing out at that time seeing work. And when I do think when you do say ‘I do this’ or ‘I do that’, you’re missing out as well.”

Many artists are afraid of exploring something new. We like the safety and comfort of the known. Cassia believes this mindset is holding us back. “That entire new world can be kinda scary, right? The unknown is scary. What we know is safe and it’s easy and it’s comfortable, but you’re not growing or shifting or changing or learning.”

During our conversation, Cassia realized that she wasn’t just an artist. She realized she was a learner and explorer. “Having this conversation right now, maybe even more than being an artist, I am a learner… I am the consummate student. I just love information and I love figuring things out, and I love coming to the next eureka phenomena until two minutes later when something else kind of hits me. There’s nothing that excites me more and maybe the creative process or making artwork is what keeps me in that state of openness that allows me to keep receiving new information again and again and again.”

Avoid Complacency and Become More Consistent

A lot of times, we try to do things the same way, even though they don’t work. We repeat the same mistakes because it’s easier than trying to forge a new path for ourselves.

Cassia believes we should stop being satisfied with the status quo. Instead, we need to try something new. “I think a lot of people hit a wall and they aren’t satisfied but… they think they need to go through it, right, instead figuring out that they can build something to go over it or carve a path go around it, or heck let’s burrow a tunnel to go under it. There are a number of people who reach that point and I think it’s very comfortable and it’s fine and wow, that would be awesome.”

Another thing holding artists back is their failure to develop a routine behind their work. Instead of learning how to create work consistently, we try to work when we feel inspired. But routine is essential to becoming a better artist. It’s the reason Cassia became a more creative and productive artist. “You reach this point where I have wanted to buck routine my entire life, and now I’m like so much more productive and creative and just a better person when I kinda have my systems and processes and routines and frameworks in place because I’m not wasting all this energy on trying to figure out the world around me.”

The Art of Simplification

One of the things that plagues most people, especially artists, is our tendency to complicate things unnecessarily. Often times we do so much planning and thinking that we over complicate things.

But the best solution is often the simplest one. Cassia’s art is the result of simplifying the things around her. “Art making for me is distilling my experience. It’s removing the non-essential from the world around me through the process of making, and maybe that’s expressed on the page, maybe I just experience it in the process, but it’s about simplification.”

That is why she relies on routine and consistency. When we create routines, we are able to be more productive. We are able to maximize our time because we are no longer wasting our time on the unnecessary. “In a perfect world, I do find in my perfect world, that routine and consistency just leads to far greater… productivity because I’m not wasting my time on all the other stuff.”

Shownotes

  • about Cassia
    • has always been a creative person
    • mother of two young children who wow her with their creativity
      • they push her to explore
    • background in 2D art and art history
    • got regular job, then turned to commissioned work
      • personal tragedies forced her to move away from it
      • started to paint for the sake of painting
      • realized the power of painting and exploring experiences
    • morphed into sacred geometrical and mandala painting
  • first piece of art she created
    • got in trouble for drawing on grandparents’ walls
    • turkey tracing and getting in trouble at school
    • not worrying about the consequences of your art making when you’re young
  • creating as a young artist
    • middle school art teacher gave assignments based on pop culture
    • won national competition for detergent and got $1,000 prize
      • started selling her work at a young age
      • didn’t develop her own voice until later in life
    • 13-14 yrs old painted floral but needed source material
      • found things in magazine and re-created things
      • gallery wanted her work when person went in to frame her art
    • stumbling on ways to make money even when she wasn’t looking for it
    • she was too young to have fear of selling
    • growing up in a supportive community
    • the beauty of not knowing what you’re doing wrong
    • calls herself a creative explorer

24:21 “When I was fourteen I was too young to have any fear or to know there would be any challenge. Now to think of approaching galleries, or this or that… once you know the fear of rejection, it becomes much more challenging than when you’re this kid and you’re like sure, what do I have to lose? Why not?”

25:32 “I’m so pleased that I had the experience at the time. But to think of doing it now, it just makes me shudder.”

  • sharing her work
    • tries to work from a place of experimentation
    • introduces herself a creative explorer
    • doesn’t like to call herself an artist because it can be limiting
    • loves to push the envelope and explore things from a place of curiosity
    • used to consider herself a painter

28:38 “At some point you realize that the excitement and that the learning and that the benefit comes through the act of curiosity and of exploring, and if you can’t go in with an open mind, then you are missing out on so so so so much. I would say it’s that shifting from being product driven or product focused, to being processed focused. I often say now that my work is more of an artifact of whatever happens in the making of it versus me coming in with a very concrete idea about what it was I wanted to make.”

  • the line between being open to creativity and the use of restraints
    • going deep versus wide and focusing on one thing
    • likes to work on 100 day projects
      • it forces you to become creative

30:27 “That has been one of the most powerful choices that I could have ever made because it does force you within those confines to become creative. Because if you can go anywhere, you can scratch the surface on things and not really learn anything from them, but when you have to sit with something and visit with it every single day for three and a half months, you get to know a lot about what it is you are exploring and experimenting with as well as yourself through the process.”

  • how looking outside of your area of expertise makes you more creative
    • came from a closed/archaic environment
    • moving to NYC changed the way she viewed art/creativity
    • new words can be scary

33:55 “Art is everywhere and can be anything, and to limit it to something like a painting or a sculpture, I was really missing out at that time seeing work. And when I do think when you do say ‘I do this’ or ‘I do that’, you’re missing out as well.”

34:38 “That entire new world can be kinda scary, right? The unknown is scary. What we know is safe and it’s easy and it’s comfortable, but you’re not growing or shifting or changing or learning.”

35:00 “Having this conversation right now, maybe even more than being an artist, I am a learner… I am the consummate student. I just love information and I love figuring things out, and I love coming to the next eureka phenomena until two minutes later when something else kind of hits me. There’s nothing that excites me more and maybe the creative process or making artwork is what keeps me in that state of openness that allows me to keep receiving new information again and again and again.”

  • choosing to learn vs. choosing to stop learning
    • she envies people who can find satisfaction
    • the serenity some people find in being content
    • exploration leading to further exploration
    • Cassia being lost in being who she wanted to be as an artist

36:22 “I think a lot of people hit a wall and they aren’t satisfied but… they think they need to go through it, right, instead figuring out that they can build something to go over it or carve a path go around it, or heck let’s burrow a tunnel to go under it. There are a number of people who reach that point and I think it’s very comfortable and it’s fine and wow, that would be awesome.”

38:31 “You need to have discipline and you need to have direction and it is incredibly easy to get lost.”

39:59 “You reach this point where I have wanted to buck routine my entire life, and now I’m like so much more productive and creative and just a better person when I kinda have my systems and processes and routines and frameworks in place because I’m not wasting all this energy on trying to figure out the world around me.”

  • building a strong container around your life/art
    • framework/rules/expectations
    • instructor believes we lack masterpieces because people didn’t have distractions, they had no options
      • people had to paint during a set time because they had no other options
    • 100 day project and committing to creative daily expression
      • painting 100 circles
        • figured out different ways to use paint

42:34 “I know when I have a tight constraint or deadlines, I am so prolific. But if I’m wide open, it’s kinda like ‘Uh, tomorrow. Oh yeah, I’m going to get to it.'”

43:04 “If you can commit to anything… a creative daily expression can do so much because you’re tapping in consistently and each time you tap in, you tap in a little to the left or a little to the right, or you might go in a little deeper and you just learn something every single day.”

44:07 “Being open to what other people might deem failures, you know aesthetically, but really huge successes in the learning that comes from them.”

  • doing things when you feel inspiration vs. doing them every day
    • Muses will only show up if you do
    • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    • maintaining a clear work space

45:48 “Art making for me is distilling my experience. It’s removing the non-essential from the world around me through the process of making, and maybe that’s expressed on the page, maybe I just experience it in the process, but it’s about simplification.”

46:26 “In a perfect world, I do find in my perfect world, that routine and consistency just leads to far greater… productivity because I’m not wasting my time on all the other stuff.”

  • her job before becoming an artist
    • lived with people who got business degrees
    • interviewed to be editor at a trade magazine
      • turned out to be a cold calling job
      • told them she wasn’t doing the job they hired her for, and they fired her
      • decided then that she would do art full time
      • had to take odd jobs, but realized she wasn’t being creative
    • got a job working in policies/procedures
      • worked there while building painting business
    • moved form Colorado to New York
      • painted only for herself because she thought she couldn’t sell in NY
      • studied at Artist Students League
      • created a lot of work but only showed work to mentors
      • found her voice and started sharing it again
    • had kids, and lost/re-found her voice
  • finding her way back to her art
    • painted after having daughter but not with the same energy
    • had boy 3.5 years later
    • was in magazine before daughter was born as a rising star in water color
    • stopped painting frequently when she was born
    • contacted her five years later for a follow up
    • decided she needed a project
      • what could she consistently dedicate herself to
      • chose to do sacred geometry
    • found connection with herself and a voice that she could sustain
    • creating a sacred container/vessel and exploring within it
  • forcing herself to be consistent
    • What will it take to be consistent?
    • staging her own show
    • creating accountability by forcing herself to do a show

56:44 “I think everybody’s different, but for me, having an end goal with a definitive timeline to be accountable to, really helped me. And… I wasn’t willing to put out crap work. So that meant I had to slow down and really tap back into the technical skills that I already possessed but maybe the new knowledge that I had gathered since I had created my last serious body of paintings.”

  • how Cassia’s class came to be
    • early 2000’s – opened online store that turned into a big online store
    • ignored people’s pleas for her to use the internet to sell her work
      • friend told her to use Etsy and she ignored her
    • years later she knew she needed to use the internet to teach
    • was excited to teach about symbols and colors, etc.
      • brought together all parts of herself to create the class
  • people who take her classes
    • thought she was teaching an art class
      • it wasn’t a class for artists it was a class for the “disconnected”
      • she was using the process for her own benefit
      • offering to people to use artwork to find a way back to themselves
    • class for people who have ever felt creative urge
    • likens it to yoga
    • teaches class at entrepreneurial business class
    • has taught at womens’ groups
    • circle as a container to express in
    • some people need very little direction (permission/direction)
    • others require methodical instruction
      • as an instructor, you offer enough to get them started
    • making authentic art for herself and not worrying about the outcome
      • not allowing her creations to be precious/or shown to others
    • approaching artists and non-artists differently
      • artists – doing the work and not worrying about the outcome
      • non-artists – just look for permission

1:03:00 “In this case I see the art making… of your mandala as a form of yoga in that it unites… your physical body… to that deep expressive soul or spirit within that maybe you don’t often slow down and listen to.”

1:04:34 “I think so many people just need permission and direction, so as an instructor, I’m just here to say it’s okay. It’s okay to scribble, to paint, to draw, or be methodical, or express in any way you want on the page.”

1:08:48 “It’s really a fine line when you make art for a living, and you teach art for a living, and then you’re having to step back and be like ‘Oh, I’m not doing what I’m teaching’ or ‘I’m not doing it to the full extent that I could be, so let’s change it up.'”

  • being comfortable with the uncomfortable/unfamiliar
    • giving permission to lose control and the safe space of the container

1:11:54 “Just setting an expectation that allows for something that they wouldn’t typically let happen to happen, I think that’s kinda where the magic is.”

  • storytelling aspect of art
    • circle as a primordial symbol
    • pre-programmed universal associations within us
    • responding well to the circular form
  • how Cassia came to write her book
    • was blogging/sending out newsletter
    • was consistent with releasing work
    • was approached by an acquisitions editor
    • being open to experimentation and trying
    • changing her thought patterns to be open to possibilities
      • used to be closed off
      • being open to whatever comes
    • Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project
      • curiosity is the opposite of depression
      • curiosity leading to openings and expansiveness
    • story circles being an exploration of ourselves

1:17:08 “So I’ve had these little inklings about things that I’ve said yes to and they just kind of roll in to the next thing.”

1:17:55 “It’s right down to the way the book came about. I didn’t sit around for years thinking I wanted to write books. I didn’t have a proposal that I went nuts over… It just happened, and I said yes because it was in alignment with what I was already creating.”

  • favorite quote
    • “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin
    • came across it when she was getting back into art
  • morning routine
    • sits and makes time to breath/make coffee
    • finishes up projects/journals
    • if kids wake up at the same time, they will also do creative work
      • not quite as calm or peaceful
    • exercises then heads to studio
  • recommendations for books, podcasts, documentaries

1:30:51 “It’s all about the balance… I can only spend so much time in this state of thought and introspection and expression. And you need some levity.”

  • creative people
    • her kids – constant desire to make new things
      • use creative problem solving/thinking/approaches
    • Sean Platt is constantly creating Kindle books
      • thought process and volume of books is impressive
  • definition of creativity

1:34:25 “I think creativity is just a way of being… Creativity works in tandem with curiosity… It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of acting. It’s a way of interacting. I don’t think it’s a thing. I don’t think it’s necessarily art because people can make art and be very much not creative… It’s a way of approaching the world and it’s an openness.”

  • challenge
    • sit down with materials and mandalas
    • see what comes
    • do it every day for a week
    • do it in 5 minutes
    • it’s a gateway to creativity

http://www.cassiacogger.com/  |  Instagram  |  Creating Personal Mandalas

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