• Olivia Halsall

Educhaos 1: An Interview With My Mother, A Professional Botanical Artist, On Creativity (CQ)

Updated: May 16

When was the last time you took a potato and thought to yourself … I’m really onto something here? As one of OLEA’s Foundational Pillars, and a core component of 21st century intelligence, learning to think creatively not only helps students to thrive in future landscapes, but to survive. One of the activities I do to encourage my students to think creatively is hand them a potato, tell them to invent 100 new uses for said lumpy vegetable, and see what happens next.

Each one of us has our own perception of creativity, which ranges from thinking outside the box, making something unique from nothing, and going beyond the realms of conventional thinking. Maya Angelou, the wondrous American poet, once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” This rings so true; in my experience and certainly as a poet (albeit a teething toddler compared with Angelou), the more you push yourself to embrace your creativity, the better you get.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” - Maya Angelou

Growing up, I was surrounded by larger than life sketches, portraits and sculptures that were crafted by my mother, Amber Halsall, a professional contemporary botanical artist. The following is an interview with my beautifully creative mother about her brilliant talent, the importance of creative intelligence and tips for parents on how to elicit creativity from their children.

Copyright, Amber Halsall 2022

One day during the summer holidays, you rolled out a sheet of paper that covered the entire patio, armed us with paintbrushes, and set us free to paint everything in sight (including the dog). It was awesome. Activities like this certainly left a lasting and very positive impression on my own creativity. With a somewhat over-dependence on technology nowadays, how would you advise parents to guide their children creatively?

My advice is to give them paintbrushes, paints, a large piece of paper and tell them to get on with it! Explore all creative options to find the thing that suits your child. It may be dancing, singing, acting, painting, drawing or playing with clay. Let them not be afraid to stop things when they become disinterested; it's not a failure if it doesn't work out as there will eventually be something that clicks. Guide don't prescribe. Take the phone away during these activities and put yours away too. It’s also really important to do creative activities as a family, as this can strengthen communication skills.

"It's not a failure if it doesn't work out as there will eventually be something that clicks. Guide don't prescribe."

Where do you find the inspiration for your own artwork, which is a mix of contemporary and Botanical? Could you share some examples of how you have homed your creative intelligence over the years?

My main inspiration comes from nature and the natural world around me. One idea leads to the next and the next, but really it cannot be forced. The more you paint and draw, the more ideas flow until it becomes an integral part of your life like brushing your teeth. I think your upbringing and personality traits can have an influence on your creativity or whether you see yourself as a creative person but I do believe that everyone is creative in their own way and with a little time and practice, amazing results can be produced. Everyone can learn to draw but they have to learn to look first.

This is a bit more philosophical, but where do you see art in 100 years from now? During and certainly after lockdown, you mentioned you saw an increased interest in art lessons. Why do you think this was?

It has been known for many years that art can be used as therapy and is good for people's mental health. During lockdown, art and in particular online art lessons provided a lifeline for some people to reduce stress and anxiety as well as to have some important communication with other like-minded individuals. Many people have maintained their art activities after lockdown as the habit has been formed and it becomes an important part of their leisure time. Art and other creative activities will continue to be a part of more and more people's lives. The media may change and develop, but although more people are already using digital media to create art, there will still be a place for old fashioned paint and brushes.

Author: Olivia A. Halsall

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