Artist Spotlight: Cynthia Morris
Writer, teacher, coach, guide, and artist- these are just a few words to describe Cynthia Morris, a woman dedicated to being an “ally in all things creative: book writing, art making and business building.” Cynthia has been an inspiration to us at Two Hands Paperie (see the beautiful map she created for the Newspaperie and her illustrations featured throughout) both in her creative journaling practice, the unique business she has created, and the life sheleads as she travels the world. Her “Capture the WOW” class she teaches at Two Hands Paperie and beyond has served as a spring board for people to jump start their own creative process.
Two Hands Paperie: How have you developed your business Original Impulse? What have you learned as you have merged creativity and business?
Cynthia Morris: Being in business for 16 years means I’ve done a lot of business development. The first eight years were years without any social media. It’s almost like Original Impulse has had two chapters – before the online explosion and after. That said, working with people in person has always been a big part of how I share my work. Teaching, speaking, and leading excursions have been the most fun way to share what I have to offer. When I realized that if I wanted to stay independent, I would need to become a businesswoman, I decided that my approach would be fun and creative. That I would bring my creativity and my voice to everything I do. A couple of ways I have done that is to commit to using only my own photographs in my work. No stock photos at Original Impulse! That challenged me to become a better photographer, which has been wonderful and fulfilling. I’ve recently been using my own paintings to illustrate my newsletter and blog posts, which has been great fun.
THP: What are some of your favorite parts of coaching?
CM: I do this work because I believe that our creativity is the source of our vitality. When we’re not expressing ourselves, a vital piece of us is missing. I love seeing my clients empower themselves by making choices that are aligned with who they are and what they are here to do. It makes me so happy to see them alight with the joy and satisfaction that comes from being creatively expressed. When people know, like and trust themselves to show up for their creativity, life becomes very rich and magical. It doesn’t take much to shift from being blocked and frustrated to thriving and happy. I offer my clients dynamic illustrated notes of our coaching sessions as a fun and creative way to be effective and to give value in ways other coaches don’t. My clients love them and will often print them and hang them up as a reminder of their homework.
THP: Can your describe your artistic journey, your transition from writer into visual artist?
CM: I began drawing in 1996 as a way to meditate. Inspired by the work of Frederick Franck, who wrote Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing and other books, I discovered that drawing was a powerful way to slow down, get present and be grounded. I loved the feeling I got from making art, which was much different than how writing felt. I was interested in a lot of different art forms, but I knew that if I wanted to make progress, I needed to commit to one medium. I dedicated myself to writing and I’ve produced hundreds of articles about the creative process as well as several books, including a Paris historical novel called Chasing Sylvia Beach. Alongside the development of my writing, I drew and painted for fun. I took art classes and filled journals. I began leading creativity workshops in France. When I published my novel in 2012, I freed up time to devote myself to art. I love how art is much less cerebral and more intuitive for me. It’s relaxing, fun and surprising. In 2013 and 2014 I committed to improving my drawing and painting skills, and also decided to take my art in a more professional direction. Since then, I’ve collaborated on several projects including illustrating a book called The Abundant Artist, which will be published in summer, 2016 by Harper Collins.
THP: How do you fit visual journaling into your everyday life?
CM: During my days I will step into the studio and do some doodling or put some color down. This calms me, grounds me and opens up space for the next move to emerge. When I start my days with some sketching or coloring, I feel more content and satisfied throughout the day. I don’t necessarily do it every single day, but I always fill pages when traveling and when I attend conferences I make visual notes.
THP: It is clear from your Adventure Resume that you value travel! How does travel influence your work and how are your travel and day-to-day journals different?
CM: Travel has always been a big deal for me. On the day of my high school graduation, I was on a plane to France for the first time. I fell in love with the way it feels to be in a different place – engaged, curious, open, and stimulated on so many levels. This stimulation that comes from making your way in the world is so vital to my art-making. Travel is wonderful and it’s not always that glossy magazine photo spread. It’s inconvenience, discomfort, uncertainty and risk. All of these things are vital to being successfully creative. I’m also very inspired by what other artists make. I visit museums and galleries and also pay attention to street art. Urban environments really inspire me. The simultaneous order and chaos of cities is much like what we experiencein art-making. The courage and resourcefulness that travel requires contributes to my capacity as an artist. I usually travel alone, and this adds to my confidence, resiliency and resourcefulness. I am sure I bring this, even unconsciously, to my art making. Keeping a visual journal of my travels serves so many purposes. It’s a log of my experiences. It’s a companion. It attracts friends much more than if I were taking photos or filling a journal with writing. My visual journals are fairly similar whether I am traveling in the world or at home. I tend to have more unplanned time while traveling, so the pages fill faster when I am on the road. But the content is pretty much the same.
THP: How did you develop your “Capture the Wow” class?
CM: I began leading creativity workshops in France in 2005. Inspired by a book, Sara Midda’s South of France, a delightful illustrated account of her year in the South of France, I decided to lead a workshop with a friend. We called it Journey of the Senses, and we lead a group of people on various wonderful experiences in Provence. Our mission was to help people tune into their senses and to capture what wowed them in their journals. We wanted them to finish the week with a colorful document of their experiences. This journal would serve to remind them of their trip and also be a unique way to show their friends what they’d lived and loved. Over the years I have refined the workshop and changed the name. It’s still got the same mission – to help people tap into their creativity through a sensual engagement with the world.
THP: What are your go-to art supplies? What supplies do you travel with?
CM: I like notebooks with watercolor paper and experiment with different kinds and sizes. My favorites are Moleskine and Hand Book. I use water brush pens for my watercolors. For paints, I use Caran d’Ache watercolor crayons and also a small travel paint box I made from a mint tin. For pens, I kinda geek out and take a lot with me. I like Uni Pin, Micron and Faber Castell waterproof pens. This year I started using pencil more so I carry a few of those and an eraser.
THP: What is your biggest/most common piece of advice?
CM: You have to find your own way based on your motivation, agenda and style. Too often we seek answers about how to create based on what others do. It’s okay to seek inspiration, advice and tools, but only if you use them to empower your own process. Make it yours. Make it fun. Make it work for you. Some coaching questions you can ask to begin this discovery process include: What energizes me and sparks my creativity? What must I do to feel truly me? What am I hoping to achieve this year? How do I want to be as I move toward my goals?
THP: What else should we know about you?
CM: People have described me as a Renaissance woman. I’ve done many different things in my life and am proof that we can enjoy life as a creative adventure. That we can change and grow and adapt according to our creativity and our needs. I’ve had odd jobs like hot air balloon chef in Europe and housesitter, and these jobs have allowed me the freedom and flexibility to discover what’s truly important to me.