Interivews

Interview with an Artist: Suzanne Holmes Rutherford

Living your best life takes many forms and requires many skills. One of the top ten skills is creativity. Creativity and mental health and their influence on each other is interesting to me personally and professionally. Sometimes the greatest art is born of pain and suffering. Sometimes pain and suffering rob us of creativity.  Because it's interesting to me, because I hope I can spark some thought and creativity in my clients and readers, and because I selfishly like picking the brains of creative people, I decided to do a series of interviews about creativity and mental health. This interview is a special one for me, not just because its with an uber talented, thoughtful, and generous woman (check out how detailed her responses are!!!), but also because she's my aunt! I hope you enjoy her insight and wit as much as I do!

 

1. You're an artist. What kind of art do you do?

I'm a manual labourer lol. Pianist, writer, songwriter, playwright, mentor.  Sometimes I'm doing public performances, but most days I'm on my own working from home.

Some days I am playing for corporate events, seniors, high school musicals.   Or even royalty (three VIP solo piano gigs for HRH Princess Anne of Britain in 2013).

Other days I am a writer. I'm a published non-fiction writer with a Fortune 500 Company, but in 2017 I hope to publish some short stories and an illustrated poetry collection.

Some days it's taking the grubby fleece of daily life and spinning it into a song.

Some days it's being a judge at the national level for the JUNOS (Canada's Grammy Awards)

Some days it's teaching a developmentally delayed young adult to play that tune she loves by ear, coaxing her surgically altered fingers to press the keys in the right sequence.

Some days it's mentoring, encouraging young writers to share their stuff at an open mic at a monthly coffeehouse for community youth which artist friends and I helped run for years (hopefully resuming in 2017)

Some days it's creating an entire universe, moving the pieces forward for my two act rock musical for which I wrote the script, lyrics, music and arrangements. Pilgrim's Progress: The Musical has had two workshops with a who's who of actors and directors. It will have an international audience for its Canadian debut in October 2017.  

2. It's not uncommon for creative types to struggle with mental health issues. What do you see as the interplay between mental health and creativity?

No friction, no fire.

Auschwitz survivor psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning is a frequent read for me. He's speaking from the furnace, right?

I believe we make art when we intentionally reflect on our personal quest for sanity, using our gifts to help understand why we're here.  But there's a flip-side: if we are not mindful about it, if we don't process life through our artistic gift, then it is easy to spiral into anxiety/ addictions (like I did today)

Being an artist is like being an alchemist. But the beauty of it is - you don't need the perfect combination of materials to make the gold. You can use anything, the hell and shit that life throws you, or the tiny lovely detail you notice, and transform it into something arresting, something wondrous and memorable. Being an artist is not about having the 'Midas Touch', it's about having divine eyes to truly 'see' the world around you, the world within you, the eyes to look beyond into the future and see what something could be, if you let it pass through your particular gift. 

But you need the energy, the physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional energy to do that, to keep doing that.

Daily headlines tell me being an artist is a perilous pursuit.

But the best artists I know are some of the sanest, hard-working, balanced people around.

I find that the very act of making art brings clarity, renews sanity, and restores balance.

Making art means I have to have the humility to submit to my gift in life and the daily discipline to develop that gift to its highest potential.

I am fascinated by the power of humour to energize, slyly inform the audience and also affirm the artist. To laugh daily and to be joyful runs counter to the cult of meh, despair, nihilism and death in our society. Making art is increasingly a comedic (yes there is sorrow and tension but in the end you produce something vs, say, nothing) and a subversive act; it's a middle finger to the haters. Gotta love how Andrew Lloyd Webber named his publishing firm "The Really Useful Company" and that Stephen Spielberg's is "Dreamworks".  

3. You can't possibly feel creative all the time. What do you do to foster creativity and practice your craft even when you're not feeling it? Any tricks you've picked up to help you get out of your own way?

The artist as caregiver is my reality. Having enough time and energy to do my art is a constant battle. I was, of necessity, a stay-at-home mom for my special needs young children, one gifted and two profoundly handicapped. During those years I practiced for my national concert exam for my piano performance degree in chunks of three to five minutes at the piano. I wrote after the kids were in bed.  

Practicing and writing in small windows of time is a constant necessity for me as I continue to care for my loved ones. Reading, getting out to movies, concerts, theatre, eating with friends, encouraging and investing in fellow artists, and self-care are all important soul-renewing activities for me in what is essentially a solitary life.

4. If you could suggest one thing for my readers to do to help them live their best life, what would that be?

Love is the opposite of fear. Love is creative!

I want to rethink the 'artist' paradigm completely. The 'art gene' is not just bestowed on a favoured few, dooming the rest of us who got left behind the door to draw stick figures - badly. The birthright of every human is to be a creative person. Functional MRIs reveal that our every personal encounter biochemically induces physical changes to the structures in our brain. We are actually sculpting one another - for better or worse. Our lives are a vast interconnected work of art.  How awesome is that?

My sense of self-worth comes not from my bank account or reviews. I choose to believe that a loving Creator made me and, though I am very imperfect, loves me perfectly, unconditionally. This leaves me free to love and enjoy and encourage others and free to do my own art -  because I am so loved.

So every day I am free to make a choice: do I feed my own fears - or do I remember I am loved, and use my gifts to make art, seen or unseen,  today?

Suzanne Holmes Rutherford Hon. B.A. ARCT Piano Performance is a Canadian pianist, songwriter, and playwright.She has had a ton of fun judging the JUNO awards, playing piano for HRH Princess Anne, and getting pointers from Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) for writing PILGRIM'S PROGRESS the Musical. The Muskoka Chautauqua Festival will showcase Pilgrim in October 2017; as it is the 100th anniversary of the Muskoka Chautauqua, all international Chautauquas, including the flagship New York State one and all affiliates will be in attendance.

Find Suzanne Holmes Rutherford on LinkedIn  

 

Interview with an Artist: Andrew Forlines

Living your best life takes many forms and requires many skills. One of the top ten skills is creativity. Creativity and mental health and their influence on each other is interesting to me personally and professionally. Sometimes the greatest art is born of pain and suffering. Sometimes pain and suffering rob us of creativity.  Because it's interesting to me, because I hope I can spark some thought and creativity in my clients and readers, and because I selfishly like picking the brains of creative people, I decided to do a series of interviews about creativity and mental health. This interview is with Andrew Forlines. He is involved in comedy and storytelling shows in Denver and was graciously thoughtful and vulnerable in this interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I have.

1. You're an artist. What kind of art do you do?

I perform and produce spoken word comedic arts shows in Denver, Colorado. I perform standup, improv and storytelling.

2. It's not uncommon for creative types to struggle with mental health issues. What do you see as the interplay between mental health and creativity?

We humans are terrible at accurate causal attribution, but I'll give it a try.

This is a broad question. I'm more comfortable approaching it from my experience.

I'd say that the environment the fosters comedic instincts is the same that creates mental instability. I was raised homeschooled in isolation from society. My parents are dogmatic fundamentalist Christian. Their worldview never meshed with mine. My use of humor was developed as a tool I could employ to distract and manipulate my captors with. It was survival instinct.

What caused me to use humor and my brothers did not, I can't say. We're all just along for the ride in a sense. Consciousness is only a small part of the larger brain, yet it's convinced that it's greater than the whole.

Maybe, high intelligence is the cause of creativity. Maybe the question ought to be, what is the interplay between mental illness and high intelligence.

It is documented that less affluent societies have lower rates of depression and suicide. When people are busy staying alive and fulfilling basic needs they don't have time to lament. Even in our society, less introspective, less ‘intelligent’ people constantly react to stimulus in their immediate environment. It's mindfulness by lack of capacity.

Mental illness and creativity are both caused by a brain looking for meaning where there isn't any. Maybe.

3. You can't possibly feel creative all the time. What do you do to foster creativity and practice your craft even when you're not feeling it? Any tricks you've picked up to help you get out of your own way?

Feelings follow actions. Not the other way round. The horse pulls the cart.

You feel a way as a result of doing something or not doing something. So I constantly put myself in situations where I'm forced to perform or create. I find people to collaborate with on projects to keep me accountable and to implement deadlines.

Improv has taught me that the capacity is inside me already. I don't need to ‘create’ something as much as I need to find a way to release what's already inside. If I'm in a situation to perform, something is coming out. I'll say something.

I focus on making good situations and performance opportunities happen to react to. And if I don't feel like doing something, I think about how glad I'm be having done it compared to how miserable I'd feel not doing it. Like going to the gym. I know I don't feel like going to exercise, but never have I regretted going to the gym afterwards. Think about the feeling you get when leaving the gym to motivate you to go to the gym.

Same with performing.

Plus, I have an appreciation for performing and a zest for life after surviving my homeschool cult childhood. That motivates me.

For a long time I wasn't allowed to engage with the world. Society was vilified vehemently by my parents and the homeschool cult I was raised in. Even after the physical restrictions were lifted and I aged out of their immediate control, the psychological prison persisted. Not only was I locked into grappling with and fighting against indoctrinated beliefs, I was also encumbered with all the coping tools I had developed over the years. Disengaging both has been a process.

Now I'm free. I'm like a starved man at a buffet.

4. If you could suggest one thing for my readers to do to help them live their best life, what would that be?

Don't need so much validation from other people.

The Crab Mentality is real. Most people want things to stay more or less the way they are. If you do something interesting they may try to nudge you back in line. There is great comfort for people in predictability and certainty. So pay them no mind.

Being homeschooled and outside the schools that implicitly indoctrinate kids into conforming to the social ideal, it makes my skin crawl to see an individual seeking approval. Don't sacrifice your individuality for group acceptance! The group has its own agenda.That's what drives me nuts the most about all you ‘normies'.

Andrew Curtis Forlines, @andrewforlines on Twitter, hosts FUNNY AF every Tuesday 10pm at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse in Denver, Colorado.

He also hosts Peer Revue at Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Sunday Assembly at Crossroads Theater. As well as many other shows!

Support the local Denver comedy scene. See a live comedic arts show once a month.

Friend him on Facebook to see what all he's up to. His goal is a thousand new friends in 2017.

 

 

 

Interview with an Artist - Anthony Crawford

Living your best life takes many forms and requires many skills. One of the top ten skills is creativity. Creativity and mental health, and their influence on each other is interesting to me personally and professionally. Sometimes the greatest art is born of pain and suffering. Sometimes pain and suffering rob us of creativity.  Because it's interesting to me, because I hope I can spark some thought and creativity in my clients and readers, and because I selfishly like picking the brains of creative people, I decided to do a series of interviews about creativity and mental health.

This interview is with Anthony Crawford, Denver based comedian, show host, podcaster, and writer. I was introduced to him when he featured at Comedy Works in Denver and then through his podcast “Talking Shop” where he geeks out on the business and craft of comedy. Lucky for me, he was willing to take some time from honing his craft to answer my questions. Enjoy!

1.     You're an artist. What kind of art do you do?

I am a stand-up comedian, actor & writer

2.     It's not uncommon for creative types to struggle with mental health issues. What do you see as the interplay between mental health and creativity?

I think it's because we're always studying & dissecting things that others have find fun & relaxing. Instead of having fun, you're too busy trying to figure out how they did it. At least that how it is with me. That coupled with the fact that people who like you want you to be "on" all the time....it gets old. Essentially life becomes your job with no way to clock out.....unless you quit.

3.     You can't possibly feel creative all the time. What do you do to foster creativity and practice your craft even when you're not feeling it? Any tricks you've picked up to help you get out of your own way?

I just try to do new things. Go to a place I've never been. Walking while talking to myself had been helpful as well. I look crazy but it helps. I also Google things I don't think exist.

4.     If you could suggest one thing for my readers to do to help them live their best life, what would that be?

They should remember that it can always be worse. What you're going thru maybe bad, but it could always be worse. They'll get thru it. A happy day is around the corner. Maybe change something in your everyday routine. Change can make a huge difference.

Check out Anthony at www.CrawfordComedy.com

Follow him on Twitter at @CrawfordComedy

Listen to his Podcast “Talking Shop” http://sexpotcomedy.com/category/podcasts/talkin-shop/

Take a look at my other interviews here!

Interview with an Artist: Katerina Cizkova

Living your best life takes many forms and requires many skills. One of the top ten skills is creativity. Creativity and mental health and their influence on each other is interesting to me personally and professionally. Sometimes the greatest art is born of pain and suffering. Sometimes pain and suffering rob us of creativity.  Because it's interesting to me, because I hope I can spark some thought and creativity in my clients and readers, and because I selfishly like picking the brains of creative people, I decided to do a series of interviews about creativity and mental health. This interview is Katerina Cizkova, artist and illustrator. She was gracious enough to take time from studying psychology and being creative to chat with me. Enjoy (ps. The artwork included is hers!)

1. You're an artist. What kind of art do you do?

Although I feel very happy being called an artist, technically I´m still a psychology student in the first place. The art I do doesn´t pay for my living although I would love to get to a point where it partly does so that I could put more time into it without paying for my life and studies doing other jobs. I enjoy all kinds of creative work and I love experimenting and taking up new skills. The most confident I am about my drawing and writing and one of my biggest dreams is to write and illustrate my own children's book. I have lot of ideas in my head and I'm slowly making them happen. I love challenges and I feel very happy when people approach me and ask me to cooperate and create something together.

2. It's not uncommon for creative types to struggle with mental health issues. What do you see as the interplay between mental health and creativity?

There is a very close link between these two. I would say that when we live an authentic happy life we allow our full creative potential to unfold. And in the same time, as we know from the history of art, even great suffering can lead to an amazing creativity. I believe that the link are strong emotions, both positive or negative, that pressure us to express ourselves in some deeper way when mere spoken words aren't enough.

3. You can't possibly feel creative all the time. What do you do to foster creativity and practice your craft even when you're not feeling it? Any tricks you've picked up to help you get out of your own way?

Just do something else for a little while. It´s an old advice but it really works. I usually stop working for a while and then I keep doing something creative but something I do not feel pressured to do. So instead of writing, I sit down and draw or knit for a bit. That usually helps me to relax and stop focusing so much on the „I have to come up with something amazing“ sentence going on in my head. Going for a short walk and listening to my favourite music is also very inspirational. And in the times when I feel really creative, I´m writing all the ideas going through my head down. So even if I do not use them that very time, I will be grateful for them some other day.

4. If you could suggest one thing for my readers to do to help them live their best life, what would that be?

In the evening, before you fall asleep, go through your day one more time and try to write down what made you happy. Even the really small things like nice chat with a collegue, good piece of cake after a lunch or a pretty sunset on your way home. What we know as happiness is actually our ability to recall moments when we felt happy about something. And by writing these down everyday, we support these memories, we recall them easier and therefore we feel generally happier. And usually we find out that there were more pleasing moments than we think.

Get in touch with Katerina:

Instagram: katerinacizkova1510

Mail: katkacizkova@seznam.cz

Conversations with Helpers and Healers: Clara Wisner, Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner

I am fascinated by the connection between our physical and emotional wellbeing.

In this interview, I talked to Clara, a Denver based nutrition therapist, to chat about her views on food and health and how she empowers herself daily to live her best life.

  1. How do you work to help people feel better physically?
    • I am a certified nutrition therapy practitioner so I work with clients who have a range of different health symptoms and complaints.
    • Having a highly clinical education in nutrition, I blend this scientific knowledge of biology and physiology, with my deep and personal understanding of the emotional components of dietary and lifestyle change. By blending the clinical with the energetic, I create customized nutrition and lifestyle programs that facilitate true mind-body transformation for my clients.
    • On a physical level, I work with people from the perspective that their symptoms are clues to the physiological imbalances taking place in their body. Instead of trying to mask symptoms with whatever means possible, I figure out the root cause of my clients’ health issues. I do this by using my clinical training in, and deep understanding of, human physiology and nutrition. With this knowledge and experience, I address the specific nutrient imbalances, body systems failures, hormone disparities, and energy production issues.
    • I find that as I teach people how to support their bio-individual bodies through real food, good quality sleep, joyful movement, proper digestion, and stress management techniques their physical symptoms start to disappear.
  2. As you help people feel better physically, what impact do you see that having on their mental health and relationships?
    • It’s difficult to say what happens first: the physical improvements or the mental and relational improvements.
    • I believe deeply (and my experience working with people speaks to this) that the mind and body are connected. I think of real health as having four sides: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. If we don’t look at, and address all four sides of this ‘total health box’, then we will never be able to fully heal.
    • With this belief driving every customized nutrition and lifestyle plan I create for my clients, I see my clients’ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health improving all together, as one. They are all interchangeable.
    • For example, when you start to feel more energetic because your physiological energy production is unhindered by toxic foods, then it becomes easier to think more positively about moving your body. When you move your body in a way that feels good and energizes you, you’re more inclined to feel more emotionally stable. When you feel more emotionally stable you are more likely to pursue personal development and activities that give you a sense of purpose and connection.
    • This is just one simple progression that could begin by simply by eating in a way that makes your physiology more efficient and conducive to easy energy production.
  3. What's something you've learned about wellness that they didn’t teach you in school?
    • I’ve learned that real health success stories come when a person stops trying to find the answers to their health problems outside of themselves, but, instead, starts to rely on their body’s own signals to determine what is good for them and not good for them.
    • Admittedly this takes some coaching (that’s what I’m good for!) and time to deconstruct old habits and learn your body’s language again. But learning your body’s language, trusting it to tell you when something is off, and having the commitment to make a change when your body does give you that sign, is the most powerful tool for your health.
  4. If you could suggest one thing for my readers to do to help them live their best life, what would that be?
    • I would suggest to your readers that they create a morning routine.
    • A morning routine can be the first baby step that leads towards huge habit shift in the long run. It’s a commitment to starting each day in the same, grounding way.
    • Commit to waking up a set amount of time before you have to leave for work or before your kids wake up and drink some warm lemon water, do some stretching, meditate, eat a breakfast full of protein and good quality fat, then drink your coffee, and get ready for you day.
    • This is just an example, you can do anything that works for you and makes you feel sane, grounded, and cared for. The power in a morning routine is that it sets the stage for your whole day and makes it many times more likely that you will stick to healthier habits if you don’t feel rushed, out of control, or frantic.

Like what you see? Contact Clara at:

www.clarawisner.com

clara@clarawisner.com

720-202-2326

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