Calista Cooper: artist, art educator, wife, creative spirit.
I first met Cali at a school here in the city. Instantly I gravitated towards her kind soul and thoughtful energy. In simple conversations, she told me she wanted to teach art, exclusively. The words I believe I heard her speak were, art gives me life. Fast forward three years later to today.
Being driven by creative expression is what made me want to dig deeper into why Cali creates and who she creates for. In our fast paced society, the most awakening moments can be those filled with the utmost silence, or perhaps the most intense chaos. Some days, surrounded by mounds of notes and drawings can spark creativity, while other days four simple walls with no resources does the trick. I have been in both the former and the latter and the one conclusion that always remains is – your mindset determines your outcome. Not merely with creative expression, but in all facets of life.
Virtually connecting with Cali pulled out an inner desire to challenge my creative mindset.
1 – You practice creative living, both internally and externally. How can creative living help to fuel the mindsets for individuals, and specifically women, of today?
I believe creativity is what allows people to transform into who they are truly meant to be. This doesn’t mean literal, artistic creation for everybody. Creative living means using original ideas to guide you through your own life. This means breaking away from the mould society has cast(e) you in or the parameters you have built around your own success. Please remember that everyone has unique barriers to what they define as ’success’ – and I can only speak from my own experience.
2 – “Planning and meaning-making is a large part of what I do. Of course, viewers of my work are encouraged to find their own meaning in what they see or feel.” With our world advancing in every way possible, criticisms will unfortunately always be on the rise, particularly on social media. Why is meaning-making and personal advocacy important in today’s society?
I take this to mean the kinds of actions I take to make my own life meaningful. As an artist I struggle with consistent meaning-making. At times I feel like my work lacks a deeper meaning or profound impact on society. But I challenge my way of thinking by holding myself accountable and sharing my joy for creating with others.
Some days the meaning behind my work is happiness. It’s the happiness in the moments I get to create something special for someone. I feel truly honored every time someone trusts me to creatively capture their pet or create something special that will bring energy into their home. Because of this, I try to only paint when I can feel positive about what I am making. I try not to force it. Watercolor can be a fickle friend ;). When it doesn’t come, I pause, and try the next day. This isn’t failure, it is knowing your limits and emotions and honoring them. I try to mirror this self acceptance in other aspects of my life as well. There will always be people who don’t agree with your perspective, image, creative process, etc. Surround yourself with people who honor your emotions and always try to remember that the only acceptance you need is from yourself. One of my nearest and dearest (who is an incredibly successful boss, woman, partner, and friend) always reminds me that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and I try to live by that. When I need help, she is there to remind me while honoring my emotions.
3 – “The artistic process allows me work on my holistic self. Mentally and emotionally I use the creative process as a way to calm my nerves and release anxiety.” What advice do you have for readers who are currently in search of a calming outlet to release nerves and anxiety, in order to be their best self?
An activity or skill that brings relaxation and peace to someone, only brings that feeling because they will let it. There are often times when I have been painting for hours without realizing how high my energy levels are (not a bad thing) and how much angst is tied together with that energy! I often have to choose to have calming feelings – and the choice is sometimes a tough one. If I take a step back and create for the sake of creating that often brings me back. For example, one of my favorite activities is color mixing. I paint using a multitude of brands, mediums, etc. so learning how pigments and mediums work together is so much fun. This is a calming ritual for me because I can only control what I put into it. The action and reaction lies with the paint.
4 – You mention that you focus on the artistic process and the meaning behind your work rather than the ‘success’ of the final product. How can this be applied to a variety of professions and why is this an important rule to live by?
Rather than perfection, I believe practice makes process, and process makes growth. If you work at something you enjoy, the process in itself will bring you peace.
5 – Going forward, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received and/or learned and why?
My father always reminds me that life is simple. I often vibrate at a higher frequency than I would like (which is why I am grateful for painting) and he brings me back down. Stop and be grateful for small moments, time spent with family, and learning new (even small) things. These are the gifts we have to celebrate and share with one another.
Our most sacred energy goes out to Cali for sharing her story with us. Click here to learn more about Calista and her story.
Always be kind. More to come,
Image credits: @calistagrams