I had the plumber round the other day. I like my plumber because a} he’s good at what he does, b} he teaches so he’s also able to explain the finer points of plumbing to me in ways I can understand {mostly} and c} he’s a thinker.

Just before he left, he asked me what I was up to currently, and I told him about running the Creative Spark ecourse.

”My wife’s a primary school teacher,” he said, “and she’s teaching the kids about how art and creativity is something we can use to express ourselves and the ways we see the world“, neatly summing up my entire philosophy behind my own creative practice and what I’m sharing in the course and here on the blog.


He then added, ‘It’s like when you’re lying on your back looking up at the sky, and you see a shape in the clouds, and you say to your friend “Look at that cat shape”, and your friend can’t see it. They’re seeing a robot holding a broomstick.”

This wasn’t his exact example; my memory is somewhat sieve-like. But the point is the same; we each see the world in our own unique way, and art allows us to express that.


I’m not at all interested in drawing something that looks exactly like the original object. I have great respect for those who can, and I can even to a certain degree do it myself. But for me that’s not where the joy is found.

What I AM interested in is finding ways to express myself creatively through the medium of art, and sharing that with others. Art is my tool or my filter, the studio is my lab where I experiment, and the process of creation and discovery is where the meaning and joy lies.

cloud heart

a cloud heart

The outcome can also be a source of deep satisfaction and delight, but making it the whole reason you’re doing it is not only to miss out on the benefits of the process; it also means if your experiments don’t go according to plan you will end up doubly disappointed and feeling you wasted time and materials and are basically a crap artist and shouldn’t be allowed near the crayons.

cloud whale

i see a whale

There’s a reason people often talk about how watching small children create can be so enlightening and inspiring; they receive joy right through the process, they don’t judge their abilities and they love their work simply because they did it, which automatically makes it a masterpiece in their eyes. They create to create and they totally believe in their vision of the world translated into paint.

Those are benefits for which I consciously endeavour to cultivate the conditions in my classroom, and that I hope to encourage by example in my approach to my own work. It takes time to shed the layers of criticism and doubt that adulthood brings, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

cloud mountains

cloud mountains

My plumber’s cloud analogy reminds me that we all see the world differently, and so we all need to express ourselves in ways that feel good and make sense to us. My cat is entirely as valid as your robot with broomstick, even if you don’t understand my cat and I don’t care much for your robot.

There’s absolutely no reason why as adults we shouldn’t have access to that same joyful means of self expression we did as kids. Having an outlet to express yourself is essential to a fulfilled life.

And with that, I’m heading back up to my studio to experiment some more on a painting that is testing me at every step to let go of the self imposed rules and play. Who knows, perhaps there’s a robot with a broomstick in there somewhere.