My Creative Life interview with Catherine Drea

On this creative path I’ve met and become friends with many wonderful, interesting people across the world. It’s high time I introduced you to some of them.

‘My Creative Life’ is an interview series where we get an insider view of artists and their lives from different disciplines and on different stages of their own journeys. My intention is to ask questions that are perhaps a bit different from the usual – the answers to which might spark ideas or simply reassure you as you follow your own artist path.



Today’s interview is with Catherine Drea, whom I met through an online business group. Catherine is a marvellous photographer, amongst other things! {Have you noticed yet how none of my lovely interviewees ever just do one thing?} I love her down to earth attitude and the beautiful photos she takes of her native Ireland. She practices contemplative photography and writes about it on her lovely blog; I recommend a visit!

Meet Catherine…

{All emphasis is mine. And don’t forget you can highlight any part of the text to share it.}

Dawn in the forest // Catherine Drea

Tell us a little bit about your creative work in the world {whether it’s your business or your pleasure, or both!}.

I am a contemplative photographer, writer and facilitator. I set up an NGO called Framework 20 years ago, working to support ethical leadership in Ireland and I still work there part time.

I’ve always been a photographer, that’s my personal creative practice……

What is your favourite thing about being an actively creative person?

Creativity is always something I come home to. What I mean is, it feels like the deepest and best part of me when I’m in that flow. My own space….the real me as an individual, not a mother or a worker or any preconceived thing…just ME...

Misty Morning // Catherine Drea

Is there anything you wish were different? Have you learned a way to accommodate that?

I wish the world was different and I’ve always found it hard to cut off from that. So of course I would love if there was more equality, better sharing of resources, more opportunity for everyone to feel safe and live to their potential. I know though that I also have to grasp the opportunities that I have been given, so I try to make the best of every day.

How else does your creativity express itself in your life? {Especially if you’re having a dry spell in your ‘main’ area.}

I could potter for Ireland!! I mean I have no problem filling in my time doing “stuff” so the challenge for me is to make time for deepening my practice and focusing. If I’m having a dry spell my absolute treat is a change of scene! We have a little VW Camper and there is nothing like packing up and heading off anywhere, without a road map!!

Fennel flower // Catherine Drea

Do you have any favourite resources, books or blogs around creativity you’d recommend for inspiration or support? {Including your own!}

I love poetry, music, the work of other artists that really challenge me. I recently found Ann Hamilton, she blew me away. Krista Tippett, from the On Being podcast has brought me on new and fascinating journeys. I go back to all my favourite blogs like Susan Tuttle’s blog and the work of Maria Popova on Brain Pickings. Beside my bed there is always a copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves and my own latest notebook.

What one easy and simple creative activity would you suggest to someone who feels like there’s no time for creativity in their life?

I know it’s an easy thing to say…..but I think my basic ground rule is always start exactly where you are…..I know it works for me as I do it everyday. The chair I was sitting on in the dentist’s this morning, the view from her window, the smell of the rain as I left the carpark. Notice, observe, let it all flow from wherever you find yourself. This is probably the essence of contemplative photography.

Sliver of light over the forest // Catherine Drea

What’s your creative process like? Are you an all-in-one-intense-hit-then-collapse type or more of a slow and steady sort? Or something else?

One thing I do is post a photoblog every week. No matter what!! I make that a focus for small short term projects and will bring my camera everywhere, every day. Then I try to have longer term projects. Following the seasons in our local forest over a number of years is one of those. So I think I must be slow and steady……

What does being actively creative bring to your life that you might not have expected?

I started to blog anonymously 5 years ago. I was terrified. But as I gained more confidence and put my name to it, I connected with other creatives and women especially. I found commonalities, supportive chats and encouragement built my resilience. If I had never put myself out there I don’t think anyone would have seen or engaged with what I do? Really! I’m very shy so I have found the online world liberating.

Web world // Catherine Drea

What best supports your creativity to thrive?

I have very few illusions! Life is tough and complicated. Magical days of happiness and flow, when they come, are the reward for living a creative life. I didn’t make a “career” from my art but I managed instead to lead an interesting life where my inner world continued to thrive. The warmth of a close family and the connecting to the outside world have fed my creativity and I have so much gratitude for that richness.

I think selfishness is important. I’m only really learning that now. (OMG Catholic guilt will make such a too “nice girl” of anyone!!) I have to guard my alone time, say no to events that drain me, and generally act outside of the box of niceness on a regular basis. I think Helen Mirren said it best when she said she wishes she had said “Fuck off” more often!!! I loved that.

Woodland morning // Catherine Drea

Have you ever lost touch with your creative self for a long period, and if so how did you bring it back?

I am in my 60s now and for twenty years I decided to focus on the outer world and create an organisation where I could earn a living while making a difference to Ireland, a country struggling to come into the 21st century. I also got married, raised 3 boys and built two houses. I’m a fierce feminist and have always had to have my financial independence. About 10 years ago the space opened up again for my own creative life. I found myself grabbing it like a greedy child. I still do!! It’s so precious.

How did I bring it back? I just worked at it!


Catherine Drea

Catherine Drea lives down a long green lane in Ireland. She has a love of life and the beauty of the everyday.




If you have any questions or comments for Catherine, or have had an ahas reading her words, please do share in the comments!