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6527212 November 22, 2010

The Mind of an Artist: Karin Perez

" ... almost every single "normal" person has a hard time understanding the way my mind works."

Lately a few folks have asked me to describe how my mind works.  To address the question, I focused on things such as how I can zoom from detail to big picture and back to detail, or how I can manage to do a variety of different things at once while heads spin around me.

I didn't go into detail about how I sometimes notice things other people don't, but then miss the obvious element the crowd is busy focusing on.  That aspect is often tough to explain; I summed it up by saying that I'm creative.  Over the years, I've struggled to understand myself so that I can make the most use of my skills in a world that seems to best support the top of the bell curve. 

My guest today, artist Karin Perez, says that most "normal" folks don't understand how her mind works.  This comment brings up my suspicion that artists have a unique mental capacity or brand of focus.  I suspect that most folks would likely agree.  Somewhat like the LGBT crowd, artists come in all varieties.  We long to live unhampered by so called "regular" folks out there. We hope to be understood. We support each other. Many succeed, but some of us struggle at times, in closets, behind closed doors, ... or everywhere.  We are yet another variety of the square peg in a world of round holes.

I've gone through several phases in my life when I wished I was just like everybody else. Of course, everyone is unique, but let's face it, there are subsets or types of people out there, some more common than others. Even with the best intentions, stereotyping runs rampant.

When I was 24-years-old, I relocated to New Jersey from Louisiana in the Spring of 1991.  I was immediately amazed and mesmerized by how brilliantly green everything was. One morning, I made the comment at work, "The grass is so green!"  A not-so-nice woman looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "Yes, well, grass is green."  Everyone laughed and in their eyes, I became someone much less intelligent than I am. 

That was before I understood the artist in me, and why the green of Spring in New Jersey so captured my attention.  Why I would notice that particular aspect of my new environment.  Why I became so focused on it, and why I wanted to talk about it. 

Now I realize that not everyone makes such observations, or puts such emphasis on them. Was it important?  Maybe not to that sarcastic woman I worked with, but it was to me, a young person desperately trying to adjust to a new culture.  A home sick misfit who'd never lived anywhere other than the Deep South.  In that green grass, something unique called to me.  I'd found a jewel that made me believe I could come to love my new home, that I could be part of it, and that perhaps I'd come to the right place.  It signified new life, something I desperately wanted no matter how much I missed my old one. 

So a comment that made me the work-place laughing stock held a tremendous amount of passion, observation, and significance for me.  I was expressing exactly who I was, but they were blind to it.  Now I know that the blind can't help but miss these things just as much as I can't avoid seeing them.  That's the world we live in.

Now, like Karin, I no longer feel an intense need to explain how my mind works.  After years of generating laughs based on seemingly off-the-wall comments and strange observations, I now understand where it comes from. I'm proud to be me, even when a blind world laughs.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist? Was the journey on a straight or twisted path? Are you surprised by your success?

It's so hard to tell one's story, though each and everyone of us has one thing at least, that defines him/her from the other. I started my artistic life as something completely different. Ever since I was a young girl I was dancing, and this passion and dedication made me a professional dancer. That motivation is certainly something that defines me, that gets me where I want to go. After studying visual communication (while dancing), I started working as a graphic designer, and continued as an artistic director in one of Israel most creative multimedia companies.

After giving birth and moving with my family to Paris, I felt like my creative desire needed to find a new path.  With with my husband's support, I started painting with an immediate appreciation and interest from people and professionals. That was seven years ago.  Right from the beginning I was fascinated by this new way of expression and interaction with myself and others. My voice found a new path.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

There were many "ah ha" moments, but one that is definitely significant was starting to work in figurative art. When I discovered the process of photographing nudes and self portraits, and started using them, that was very new to me and something I would never have thought I'll do ... a very exciting new zone...  Another "ah ha" was starting to work with the NY gallery, Monkdogz Urban Art, owned by two wonderful people, Bob Hogge and Marina Hadley. Bob is working with his artists on a different level of commitment, and by doing so I'm able to really let go and not think about other peoples thoughts about my work, being really a part of it and free.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

I think that weighing those two for me is impossible. Both definitely motivate me.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

I think that for an artist it's very important to develop his own language, to create his own different world. It's like every human being has his own voice and nobody else sounds like him ... I believe that looking at an artist's work and recognizing it easily is a turning point. Once you have that,  you are unique.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

But off course it did! :-) Aren't we all (artists) a little bit scratched?

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Oh yes, almost every single "normal" person has a hard time understanding the way my mind works.  It's always about explaining (which I hate and usually won't do) my works, my decisions, my choices. I think that interesting art shouldn't be comprehensive from first glance, and should raise some questions in the viewers mind.  The viewers are participant of the work, which makes the work more interactive.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from my restless mind ... from imagination and images that are voyagers in my mind, for a second or for a long time, they will find their way to the canvas.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

I think that what makes an artist really stand out is his determination, passion, and motivation. As you stated in the question, there are so many talented people, so in order to stand out is really about how dedicated you are to your art, how much do you invest in it in terms of commitment.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My primary motto in life is to live in the present because you don't really know what will happen tomorrow (how banal) ... I believe that in most of my doing I am truthful to this motto, yet off course
you have other obligations to other people, so you can't really live like that 100% of the time, but you can try.

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6527212 January 26, 2010

Bellies, Imagination, and Books: DeAnna Cameron

"No one seems to understand why I want to spend so many hours in a room by myself ..."

I've decided to keep a running list of the characteristics of highly creative individuals from the view point of their peers.

So far, the list includes:

1) Obsessive
2) Driven
3) Willing to sacrifice
4) A free mind (and soul)
5) Talent to create
6) Social skills (knowing how to communicate)

My guest today, author DeAnna Cameron adds,

7) Imagination
8) Persistence
9) Financial independence (She's half joking with this one.)

Like quite a few writers, DeAnna began her career in journalism.

In a way, I did as well. I was the newspaper reporter for my junior high class. Okay, maybe that doesn't count but I did spend a few childhood years dreaming about being an adventurous investigative reporter. Like DeAnna, I had the idea that I could write and make a paycheck. But just about the time the 'ole hormones kicked in, my interest in solving mysteries and my desire for adventure shifted to boys.

Oh boy!

My writing efforts suddenly seethed with emotion that seemed to explode out of my own insecurities and need to feel loved. In the midst of all this, my train toward journalism somehow got derailed.

So while I was off trying to feel loved, DeAnna was building a career in journalism and satisfying her taste for adventure through belly dancing. She found success in both endeavors, yet she wasn't quite satisfied. Perhaps she just had too much imagination. She finally took a bold leap into the world of fiction, and her first novel, The Belly Dancer, soon emerged on bookstore shelves.

As for me, once I finally figured out that the most important love to have is love of self, my writing began to evolve into something cohesive. Did I waste a lot of time? Did DeAnna make wiser choices? Perhaps but life can sometimes be a hazy maze. We're forced to do the best we can, feeling our way toward the positive outcome we imagine. That's where persistence comes in.

Now all I need to do is become financially independent.

I often wonder if most highly creative people are born knowing what they want to do. Have you always wanted to be a writer or was it a specific creative interest that evolved over time?


I’d have to say that for me it’s something that has evolved – and mostly because I spent so many years talking myself out of being a writer. I’ve always tried to be practical, and frankly no one can argue that writing is practical. So, I tried to do other things and to steer my life in other directions. But no matter what I did, I always found myself coming back to writing. I thought I had found the perfect compromise when I discovered journalism. It was writing, but there was a steady paycheck! I spent a dozen years in various reporting and editing positions at newspapers and magazines, but that need to write my own stories never went away.

Do you have other creative interests, and if so, what are they?

Belly dancing! Which I’m sure comes as no surprise since the premise of my debut novel is the introduction of belly dancing to America at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I also love to cook, and I think that can be a creative outlet as well. What I really enjoy about cooking and belly dancing is how they get me out of my head. Cooking is about doing things with your hands and dancing is about moving your whole body and getting lost in the music. I find them both to be tremendous therapy after spending hours at a computer keyboard.

There is a stereotype that creative people are "different," which can be a positive or a negative at times. What are your thoughts on this?

I believe what makes creative people seem different is that they don’t feel locked in to doing things or approaching things in the usual, expected ways.

Do you believe being creative has caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

I believe creativity can be a wonderful coping mechanism. I don’t think my creativity has caused aberrations, but I definitely believe it has helped me manage or work through things. When I really get into the flow of writing, when it feels like I’m not in control anymore but something else is guiding the story, I sometimes find myself writing about things that surprise me. I might discover how I really feel about something, or I might find myself writing a scene that parallels something going on in my own life. It can be very cathartic.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I’ve been very lucky. I’m blessed to have a supportive family, and my husband is a musician, so he particularly understands the nature of a creative drive. What does tend to puzzle people is my need to be alone to write. No one seems to understand why I want to spend so many hours in a room by myself writing because they don’t understand that to me, I’m not alone. I’m immersed in the world of the story I’m creating.

I often wonder, "Am I truly creative or do I just think I am?" Have you ever wondered about this? In a world filled with creative people and people who think they're creative, how were you able to distinguish yourself and your talent despite any doubts along the way?

I think creative people are always questioning whether they have authentic talent or if they merely think or hope they do. Isn’t that what keeps us motivated to do better, to continue to improve? Really, I try not to think about it too much. No one can really judge the worth of their own work. That sort of thing is better left to others. All you can do is focus on the work and do it to the best of your ability.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. How have you coped with disappointments?

Start with very low expectations. Seriously. Then you are happy with whatever success comes your way.

I often wonder about the similarities and differences creative people have in terms of thought processes. How would you describe your creative process? How does your mind work?

I tend to start with a sliver of idea, just the barest hint of a story. Usually it’s a premise. Then characters present themselves. Then subplots, motifs, settings, etc. I think of a new story idea like a skeleton. Then slowly I add in the layers that flesh it out.

What are the top three characteristics of a highly creative person, in your opinion?

1. imagination

2. persistence

3. financial independence (I’m only half-kidding about this one).

Many creative people have tons of ideas but never follow through. I'm not sure if it's because they lack drive, organization, or focus. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

You can be creative all day long but there really has to be some commitment to it, some level of persistence, for anything to come of it.



The following video was created by DeAnna prior to the release of The Belly Dancer:


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