THE CREATIVE MIND - AS WE KNOW IT
The human mind is wildly fascinating, completing dumbfounding and is a downright amazing thing. While the human condition is universal across the board, the inner circuitry of our mind is what wires us to be who we are– what we do, say, hear, think, are all being controlled by one singular part of our minds. Our brain is divided into two parts, and you are either left or right-brained. Those who are left-brained end up becoming doctors, nurses, analysts, scientists, anything that dares to be considered as STEM. Those who are right-brained are more creative, imaginative and expressive in their daily life and actions. They are artists. They are the people who dare to break the norms and live to tell their stories through their craft.
But in a world where STEM is considered traditional, considered the norm, in a world where STEM is celebrated and highly regarded– where do the artists fit in? Where do these creative minds go to think, go to sleep, play, eat and die? In a world where creative minds become overshadowed by the more logical sister, where is the artists’ place in this world? Who are these artists and where are they hiding?
I talked to 3 artistically-inclined post-secondary graduate students about their artistic journeys and how they have found ways to navigate and solidify their place as creative minds, as artists, in a world where right-brainers have become a rarity.
Zoya Rahim is a 22-year-old self-proclaimed “art person”, as she likes to call it, with a background in graphic design and fine arts. She graduated from the Media Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber where she specialized in Digital Communications. It took her a while to claim the term ‘artist’ as her own, as a part of her identity, but she is just that– an artist.
She makes custom art, digital art and for a while, she worked as a graphic designer creating custom logos for universities and colleges with a friend. Currently, as her main 9-5, Zoya is working from home as a social media coordinator for a golf company and is also a social media manager and content creator for Toronto artist, Humble The Poet.
While reflecting on her childhood, Rahim says she was always the creative kid in her family– she made the handmade cards, was always drawing and painting. But when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Zoya’s first thought was never ‘artist’.
“At first I wanted to be an astronaut…once I got to 3rd grade I realized yeah- that’s not going to happen. Then, I wanted to be a social worker because I was inspired to go out into the community and help others. Never did I ever once think that I wanted to be an artist, that literally was the furthest thing from my mind.”
As a young creative mind, Rahim says she did not experience any direct criticism or ‘hate’ from her parents. She says they were apprehensive, which is to be expected, but says that they always supported her in the best ways they knew how. If anything, Zoya says any obstacles or roadblocks she faced along the way were from her own mind. She says she did not want to associate herself as being an ‘artist’, despite being the so-called ‘art kid’, because she was afraid of the way people would perceive her and her work.
“In school, obviously, everybody knew me as the ‘art-kid’ but I was so scared of people saying that I was doing [it] for attention, which made me question myself even more like…wait, ‘am I doing this for attention?’ Of course, as a young girl growing up in the world, these things would make me question myself and my worth.”
As a first-generation Canadian coming from a Pakistani background, Rahim says that although she rarely faces any direct animosity from her parents and immediate family regarding her artwork, it still happens from time to time. Rahim recounts the time she posted one of her artworks -a drawing of a girl wearing a hijab with her bottom lip pouted out- and says the reaction to it was almost instantaneous. “I remember a family member who I’m actually particularly closer with, messaged me right after on Instagram and told me to take it down because I forgot to add my signature to it, so naturally, of course, I took it down, signed it, posted it back up… a couple of weeks after at a family function I saw them and they were so angry. They said it was so disrespectful and said ‘how could [I] do this!?,” Rahim recounts.
With over 104,000 followers and 1.6 million likes, Zoya’s TikTok (@zoyerss), has gone viral, solidifying herself as not only an artist, but a social media sensation. In her recent series, she takes her followers on her journey of filling up her sketchbook and shows the ins-and-outs of creating her daily pieces of artwork.
Although he never became the architect of his parent’s dreams, Tan says his parents were still supportive of his creative choices. As the youngest of two children, Fylbert says he lucked out on bearing the weight of his parent’s expectations as the responsibilities fell on to his older sister.
“She became the lawyer, she went to law school and felt that pressure,” said Tan, “My dad is an engineer but, I never felt that he pushed me towards a STEM path…if anything, we actually got along better because the love that I have for architecture goes hand-in-hand with the systematic constructions of engineering.”
When Tan arrived in Canada, he had to educate himself on the different creative career pathways he could follow in post-secondary. Architecture was clearly out of the picture for him at this point, and he set his eyes on a new interest- graphic design. Tan says his mother was apprehensive towards this new-found love, that she was worried about his future and afraid that her son would end up as the ‘starving artist’ trope.” I had to educate her on what it takes to be a successful and established artist,” says Tan. “It’s hard work, it’s just like any other career you could choose, there are various steps and opportunities for growth. From a graphic designer to a senior level position up to becoming the art director himself… being an artist is not easy, and that’s what people need to understand,” Tan says.
Reflecting on his current life here in Canada and where he came from, Tan talked about the privileges he has now and acknowledged that he would not be where he is today if not for the opportunities that were given to him by his parents and his big move to Canada. As an avid collector of first-edition books, art texts and artwork, many items in Fylbert’s collection often come with a hefty price tag.
“I often think about my own privilege now, and I think back to where I came from. I couldn’t even imagine owning some of the things that I have in front of me…I feel blessed of course, but, it makes me think about the artists and designers back home. Your career and passion do not deserve to be derailed or limited because of your situation.”
Tan talked about how culture and socio-economic status play a role in the career paths people choose to pursue. Specific cultures and generations have their own preconceptions of what it means to be an artist, to be creative in your work-life. Most assume that artists are not hard-working, that money is hard to come by in a creative career and that the only valid career choices are rooted in STEM– they believe being a doctor, an engineer, a pilot, a scientist, is the only way to make a living that is enough to sustain you. However, Tan says that this is absolutely false– he says that your life should not hang in the balance of success or the fear of ‘failure’, and that ultimately it is your decision and responsibility to take control of the reigns on your life. You should not feel pressured to follow a certain path to please your parents or to please the society around you.
As clichè as it sounds, Fylbert says that the only way to live life is to follow your passions– do what you love and be unapologetic about what matters most to you.
“At the end of the day, it’s YOUR life…focus on yourself. It’s yourself that’s saying no to things you want– so, say YES, take a leap of faith and see what happens.”
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Nicole Oziel, is a 22-year-old photographer and visual storyteller who recently graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber where she specialized in Visual Communications. Along with being a photographer, she also dabbles in video editing and graphic design on the side.
As a child, Nicole always thought she was going to go into architecture– she took the necessary classes like calculus, physics and algebra in high school to make sure she had a clear-cut path. But, when she reached her junior year and started looking into university architecture programs– they just didn’t excite her.
It wasn’t until 12th grade when she made a Hunger Games fanfiction film, that she fell in love with the whole video and filmmaking process and decided to seek out media/film programs that would suit her passions.
Oziel fell in love “with the process of capturing stories through photography and bringing them to life through videography.” She says the collaborative nature of filmmaking and videography is something she enjoys and always strives to foster in all her projects.
Oziel says she went to a visual-arts high school, where she became exposed to sculpture and painting, graphic design and photography. She was always a creative kid at heart, and she says her arts experience in high school really set her up for the path that she is on now.
Oziel says she is very lucky to have come from a family that were openminded and fully supportive of everything she wanted to pursue. Coming from a French/Moroccan background, she says her parents never hindered her or discouraged her from following a career she was passionate about.
“I think any roadblock on my journey would have initially been anything that I would’ve placed in my head like, ‘is this going to be a profitable career-path?’, but I also wanted to go with something that made me happy and my family was supportive regardless of my decision.”
The pandemic caused Oziel to pivot in how she approaches her work. She has had to do her work remotely, which has proven to be difficult. She said she wants to continue to practice what she loves without sacrificing her health. Through Humber College, earlier on during the pandemic, Oziel says she took a few workshops where she learned to register Awkward Turtle Studios as a certified business in Ontario.
“Pick something that you enjoy doing and that you’re happy with…one of the things I’ve learned from my own experience and while working with other entrepreneurs is that it IS possible to have a profitable career regardless of what pathway you choose. Everybody’s journey is going to be different and there’s nothing wrong with supplementing your income with any job you can get while you’re working on yourself,” says Oziel.
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It's easy to ask an artist why exactly they chose to pursue their craft– artists are hardwired to be passionate about their creations and they live to tell their stories. After talking to these 3 young creatives, I was curious about how other young people- those who may not be as artistically inclined– feel about an arts-based education.
Using an Instagram poll, I asked 100 people, between the ages of 18-25, whether or not they feel any pressures from society or those around them, and whether they feel happy about the path they chose in post-secondary.
Regan Hayward is the managing director of Beaux Arts Gallery – a non-profit artist-run and driven independent gallery in downtown Brampton. Born in 2002, the gallery strives to give artists a platform to showcase their work to the general public and like-minded artist community.
A vastly accomplished woman, Hayward graduated from the Arts Theory program from OCAD University, has a Public Relations degree from Ryerson University and a Bachelor’s of Philosophy and Art History from the University of Toronto.
Regan says the value of an arts-based education is very meaningful and unique because of the fact that artists must seek out specific training and skillsets in order to fit the needs of a very niche and sectored market. The art industry does not operate like any other work sector– it is not dominated by big corporations or money- it is run by artists and thrives because of its members. It is its own unique entity.
Regan says she has always pursued art in everything she does, but in the early years of her career, it was just a part-time endeavour. Hayward says, she always had an artistic side-hustle of some sort that kept her creative muscle in use. However, she also mentions, that just because you have a passion and dreams– “[the] bills don’t stop coming just because you want to paint.” She always had a full-time 9-5 job to keep herself and her family afloat, alongside her art businesses.
“As artists, we are compelled to create. We NEED to create. It is our passion, our purpose.”
Regan says the most important facet to leading a successful creative/artistic career is to diversify your artistic skillset. She does not want to discourage young budding artists from following their dreams but also recognizes that this is a tough industry to break through and that you need to think realistically and practically, in terms of the entire scope of your life. Hayward says that diversifying yourself in the world of art– taking your passion and applying it to other jobs and tasks is what makes the successful artist great.
As a life-long artist and creative mind, Regan says that there is always a benefit to practising your art. Whether it brings you catharsis and comfort from your daily life, generates revenue to sustain you or to maintains your mental health– art is a living and breathing component to the human experience. Artists are compelled to create, art is the manifestation of human emotion and imagination.
Balance, balance, balance, Regan says, is the key to leading a successful career– in and out of the art sector– finding balance within your personal, professional relationships, activities and passions is what will take you the step further, and allow you to live your life freely and in harmony with yourself.