Kristen Fagan has always been a creator. Even when she was young, she would create coloring book drawings for her younger family members to color in. That creative mindset helped her get a degree and a job doing graphic design.

After a few years working in design, her interest in art was reignited. Her job allowed her to work on her art while also working in design, which fueled her interest in paintings and drawing. Her passion for art grew so much that it even led to creating her own painting workshops.

In this episode, Kristen talks about letting go of your perfectionism, the power of play, and following your intuition.

Here are three things you can learn from Kristen:

Let Go of Your Need to be Perfect

One thing that plagues many creatives is the idea of perfectionism. We spend all of our time worrying about making things just right, that we are petrified to make mistakes.

Kristen believes we need to stop worrying about making things perfect and just let go. “Just keep letting go. Just keep letting what happens, happen on the canvas. Paint dries. You can paint over it. You can always change the outcome… and that’s the same in life. You can always change the outcome. You can always do something different. Try something different. And that is so much more empowering and so much more exciting to me than being perfect.”

The way we let go of our perfectionism is by taking on the mindset of a beginner. Beginners aren’t afraid to screw up. They go into things head on without the fear of doing something wrong.

When you are a beginner, things are exciting and new. You get to experience things for the first time. Instead of worrying about how everything that can go wrong, look at how exciting it can be.

“You have to be a beginner. You have to allow yourself to be a beginner. And by being a beginner, then all of these wonderful things happen. If you just came in and knew how to do something right away, there you go, it’s done, what fun is in that? What did you really learn in that journey? What things did you take away in the end? Nothing. You just came in, created it, then you’re done.”

So stop creating unrealistic expectations for yourself. The harder the struggle, the more fulfilling and unexpected it will be.

“So I feel like it’s within those struggles that the reward is even greater and you feel like you were really able to express yourself in a way you didn’t even imagine because you didn’t come in with any expectation of what you were gonna do. You just let it happen.”

The Power of Play

One of the things that prevents many people from being truly creative, is their unwillingness to let go of their inhibitions and just play. As children, we let our imaginations run wild. We embrace the impossible. That all changes when we begin to grow up.

Kristen believes we need to let go of these imaginary restrictions and learn to just play again.

“As we get older… the world becomes labeled more with this and that, and good and bad, and right and wrong. And it becomes really difficult to remember that childlike wonder, and I think play is where that really brings you back.”

Kristen believes the symbolism of the paintbrush prevents many people from getting started. Instead of embracing the canvas, they are let the paintbrush and canvas intimidate them.

“You can almost finish an entire painting without picking up a paintbrush, and that kind of gets people out of that mind. It’s like when they pick up that paintbrush they get really nervous.”

When she removes the formality of the paintbrush people begin to let go.

“If you’re just playing with bubble wrap or you’re playing with tissue paper or all of these random items, you don’t really know what that outcome is, so you can kind of let go of it a little bit more.”

Once people figure this out, it becomes much easier to play. Instead of worrying about making the wrong choices, her students are able to embrace their choices. When they learn to trust their own intuition, it leads to some amazing results.

“You just figure things out… As you go, as you play, you just start to figure things out on the canvas. And I think in the long run, you start to build a… trust of yourself because you’re not worried about ‘Oh, I’m gonna make the wrong choice.’ You go ‘I’m just gonna make this choice and I’m gonna do it. If I don’t like it, I can paint over it… And other times you go ‘Wow, what did I just make? That’s amazing.’ And now you have this whole new feeling of trusting your intuition and that I can do this on my own. And you don’t have to show me every step. I can just play and see where this leads.”

Let Your Intuition Guide You

Early in our creative careers it’s easy to take every job that comes our way. We want to gain exposure and we want to open ourselves up to as many opportunities as possible.

But as we grow, and demand for our services grow, it becomes much harder to decide what we should work on. Kristen has solved this dilemma by relying on her intuition.

“You have to know what your mission is and not get too distracted. And I think the work on my intuition over the past two years with my painting practice has made it easier for me to feel like when something is right, or maybe something is a little bit off. And feeling a little nervous when you say yes to something is one thing, but if you feel sick… you should say no.”

Listening to your intuition is easier said than done. Some opportunities sound good on the surface, but they might also drive us crazy. In the end, it all comes down to being in touch with yourself.

“It really comes back to working on your intuition and being in touch with yourself, however that means for you… and when other things arise, you can say ‘Is this a feel good nervous yes or is this a uhh this sounds terrible,’ And really be able to tap into that and listen to yourself.”

It’s all about listening to what your mind and body are telling you. And just like other skills you want to perfect, honing your intuition takes practice.

“When you’re not practicing your intuition or you’re not in touch with it, sometimes it’s hard to tell. I think when you give yourself that space of self-care and all those things that allow you to make those choices when stuff comes up, because you can really listen to what it is your body is telling you.”

Shownotes

  • about Kristen
    • has always liked to create
    • chose graphic design path because of stability
    • got to dabble in art while doing graphic design
    • halfway through, decided to stop design and switch to illustration, but chickened out
    • got internship at jewelry maker working on their catalog
    • second design job was with manufacturer of beading wire as graphic designer
    • job has allowed her to take on artistic pursuits too
    • after children were born, she got back into painting/drawing
    • started off with paintings, then moved to small furniture
    • after second child, she realized how hard it was to do everything involved with shows/selling
  • creative things she did when she was younger
    • taught herself to draw through coloring books
    • sat for hours and copied drawings
    • cousins asked her to draw things for them
  • difference between fine art and graphic design and how they influence each other
    • for a long time, kept them separate in her mind
    • loves marrying the two now
    • has taken ten years to let them influence each other
    • art is intuitive and intentional
      • she does it through feeling
    • design is used to communicate something, usually marketing
    • both used for visual communication
      • design prompts an action
      • art prompts a feeling
  • using design knowledge to promote her art
    • suffers from having too many ideas
    • consistency is key in design
    • getting tired of your own design work vs. what audiences will think
    • lots of testing/trial and error go into design work
  • having a design mindset as an artist
    • separation of mindsets helps
    • works well as a collaborator
    • for art she lets go of perfection and just lets it be
    • paying attention to how people react and letting go of ego
    • criticizing ourselves more than others
    • creating art that’s about play, intuition, and using colors

16:10 “When it comes to my artwork, I’m much more let go of perfection, let it be what it is, and I do like some feedback. You know, we all have our social media, that we like to post things and if people don’t, I get a lot of likes on that or I didn’t get any likes on that, maybe people aren’t into it. I’ve had to really pay attention to how I feel with that and let go of the ego in that part, and just try and let the art be what it wants to be without worrying about how much people are maybe into it. While on the design side, if your client isn’t happy, it’s a problem… and that’s probably a big reason why they’ve been separate for me.”

17:15 “Taking constructive criticism in design is super easy for me. I don’t get worked up about it, but taking criticism from my artwork is a whole different thing… It’s a harder thing to swallow for sure.”

18:44 “The purpose of being here was to actually step out of your comfort zone, do this creative journey, and in the process, you’ll learn something about yourself. And letting go of that perfectionist side is huge and it totally carries into a million other places in your life. If you can do it on the canvas, you can do it other places too.”

  • dealing with her perfectionism and helping others
    • when she was younger, it was a huge stumbling block
    • had anxiety/frustration when things didn’t go right
      • mom worried about her and how she handled things
    • you have more than one chance, you can always get better or try again
    • people expecting to be perfect from the beginning

20:06 “Just keep letting go. Just keep letting what happens, happen on the canvas. Paint dries. You can paint over it. You can always change the outcome… and that’s the same in life. You can always change the outcome. You can always do something different. Try something different. And that is so much more empowering and so much more exciting to me than being perfect.”

21:15 “You have to be a beginner. You have to allow yourself to be a beginner. And by being a beginner, then all of these wonderful things happen. If you just came in and knew how to do something right away, there you go, it’s done, what fun is in that? What did you really learn in that journey? What things did you take away in the end? Nothing. You just came in, created it, then you’re done.”

21:42 “So I feel like it’s within those struggles that the reward is even greater and you feel like you were really able to express yourself in a way you didn’t even imagine because you didn’t come in with any expectation of what you were gonna do. You just let it happen.”

  • becoming complacent

22:23 “If you’re not growing in some way, if you’re not pushing yourself in some way, you’re just sort of sleepwalking. Right? You’re not really here. Your senses are not heightened to the fact that when you’re really feeling alive, when you’re really doing something that is a little bit out of your comfort zone or a little bit scary, that’s when the real magic shows up.”

  • beginner’s mindset and play
    • kid’s ability to create freely
    • using household items to her creation classes
    • being nervous when using a paintbrush
    • empty canvas being a scary thing
    • figuring things out as you play
    • Bob Ross and happy accidents
    • surrender and play

23:35 “As we get older… the world becomes labeled more with this and that, and good and bad, and right and wrong. And it becomes really difficult to remember that childlike wonder, and I think play is where that really brings you back.”

24:18 “You can almost finish an entire painting without picking up a paintbrush, and that kind of gets people out of that mind. It’s like when they pick up that paintbrush they get really nervous.”

24:33 “If you’re just playing with bubble wrap or you’re playing with tissue paper or all of these random items, you don’t really know what that outcome is, so you can kind of let go of it a little bit more.”

25:59 “You just figure things out… As you go, as you play, you just start to figure things out on the canvas. And I think in the long run, you start to build a… trust of yourself because you’re not worried about ‘Oh, I’m gonna make the wrong choice.’ You go ‘I’m just gonna make this choice and I’m gonna do it. If I don’t like it, I can paint over it… And other times you go ‘Wow, what did I just make? That’s amazing.’ And now you have this whole new feeling of trusting your intuition and that I can do this on my own. And you don’t have to show me every step. I can just play and see where this leads.”

  • getting into teaching workshops
    • people told her she should teach
    • first one was max of five people around her kitchen table
    • only invited people who would be supportive
    • never thought holding a workshop was what she wanted to do
    • after she did it, she wondered why it took so long
    • change/growth through sharing
    • making connections and being an outcast
      • never felt like she was part of a tribe
      • workshops made her feel part of a tribe
    • plans on growing her workshops
    • using creativity as a catalyst of self-discovery and transformation
  • parallels teaching people to paint and running workshops
    • getting people to relax and go with the flow
    • letting go of judgement and expectation

31:06 “I mean that is really a biggie, is getting people in our society to relax and just kind of go with the flow and let down the guard of judgement and expectation, and things that people come in with, and hopefully by the end of the class they’ve really, totally transformed that and let that all out.”

31:38 “It’s really cathartic to create, to paint, to just, you don’t even have to make anything that’s really great… just the practice of doing it is just a release and we can all use that in different areas of our life. And if you can make something wonderful that you love and you can hang up, I mean that’s just even more empowering… You get to release in the process and then empower every time you look at it, you can be empowered.”

  • the ability to let go of a painting
    • it’s okay to come back to a piece
    • never being done with a painting, just stopping
    • knowing when something is finished
      • when it stops talking to me
      • each time is different
      • like having a conversation with it

32:56 “There doesn’t need to be an end with your creativity. You don’t have to say ‘I’ve gotten to the end and failed because I’m not happy with this. There’s always a new beginning. There’s always a fresh start. You can always start again and that I think is pretty cool.”

  • her art classes changing or affecting people
    • people coming in with expectations and difficulty loosening up
      • some people are able to free themselves
    • helping people in ways she didn’t expect

36:05 “They can live a little bit more freely because they’ve given themselves the opportunity to paint away and let go. And I think that is just so exciting, and that’s the part that gets me.”

36:38 “When I first started teaching workshops, it was just about ‘Oh, we’re just going to play and make art,” and now I feel like it’s really more that ‘You’re going to come and you’re going to transform things, and you’re gonna transform yourself in the process, and you’re going to become braver in your everyday life, and you’re going to become freer in your everyday life.”

  • letting things evolve
    • living in the moment and not worrying about everything else
    • being distracted by all the things around us
    • not rushing and taking your time with things
    • Kristen’s word of the year: presence

38:10 “To give ourselves presence is really a gift. And if you can do that in settings like in a workshop or in a painting, I think you find value in other areas… If I just gave this particular part of the day a little more presence… I could really enjoy what that moment is.”

  • balancing time between all the things she does
    • works on things when she has the time
    • constantly working on projects
    • shifting what she works on

40:13 “Balance can not be achieved is what I’ve sort come to find out. There’s no such thing as total balance, but there is a such thing as balancing things over time. So there’s sort of an ebb and a flow of how things work.”

  • self-care and doing things you enjoy
    • taking care of yourself before taking care of others
    • using planners and to-do lists
    • likes to have physical lists/planners
  • business/money aspect of creativity
    • has always had strong entrepreneurial spirit
    • mental blocks when it comes to value and money blocks
    • difficulty of pricing things what they’re worth
      • needing to change her perceived value
    • testing pricing models
      • formula for making incremental price increases
    • the difficulty of taking your own advice
    • felt comfortable charging for freelance design work, but not with art
      • there aren’t any industry standards for art
      • has sold consistently enough so that she doesn’t have to change prices

46:07 “I have always had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and I’ve always felt like money is an exchange of energy and I do what I do… and I’m able to do it because I have that exchange of money, but valuing myself and my worth, and what that means has been very long. I’m still figuring it out.”

51:22 “When you’re balancing so much stuff… it’s harder to stay on track with everything. It’s harder to decide where the priority is and what to focus on and what to give the time to.”

  • having people help you
    • being a complete do it yourselfer
    • Kerry Burki – mindful pricing
      • how connections can help us
      • Kerry’s superpower of connecting people
  • power of experimentation
    • if something feels good, you have to say yes
    • Kristen writing a jewelry making how-to book
    • staying still does nothing for us
    • listening to your gut

55:52 “It’s pretty cool when you just say yes and let something just kind of blossom from that.”

56:46 “It’s really fun to do something new and exciting, and take that risk.”

57:20 “You have to know what your mission is and not get too distracted. And I think the work on my intuition over the past two years with my painting practice has made it easier for me to feel like when something is right, or maybe something is a little bit off. And feeling a little nervous when you say yes to something is one thing, but if you feel sick… you should say no.”

58:02 “It really comes back to working on your intuition and being in touch with yourself, however that means for you… and when other things arise, you can say ‘Is this a feel good nervous yes or is this a uhh this sounds terrible,’ And really be able to tap into that and listen to yourself.”

58:49 “When you’re not practicing your intuition or you’re not in touch with it, sometimes it’s hard to tell. I think when you give yourself that space of self-care and all those things that allow you to make those choices when stuff comes up, because you can really listen to what it is your body is telling you.”

1:08:38 “Be in a state of play and discovery and presence. And you know, that can happen in so many different ways in your life, but just by going out and taking a walk and really looking at what you see… that to me is being creative. When you take the time to take in your surroundings and just be present.”

  • challenge
    • Sign up for her email and receive a free 7 Day to Awaken Your Creativity Challenge
      • different ways to play with what’s available to you

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