Relive Your First Creative Encounter


Do you remember your first creative encounter? Was it when you opened your first magical box of crayons or submerged your hands into gooey finger paint? Who or what introduced you to this fantastic world of imagination?

When you speak or write about your art do your words reflect the same passion and child-like enthusiasm?

I love asking artists to describe their first discovery of artistic expression, and when they first felt that special spark of creativity. Then, with vicarious delight, I watch as their eyes light up and their voice resounds with joy as they tell their story.

Darlene Kaplan, Nancy Staub Laughlin, Keith Morant and Linda S. Watson are artists who recently shared with me their cherished memories as well as their current inspiration.

Embracing Nature with Daily Rituals

Darlene Kaplan creates breathtakingly realistic nature-inspired watercolor paintings. The Virginia native paints in the Lingnan style of oriental brush painting and also teaches tai chi. Before she begins a painting, she has a vision in mind.

“The mind has the plan and the hand follows,” Kaplan said.

She recalls first becoming interested in art at a young age.

“I was fascinated watching my older brother draw a bear from memory when I was young,” Kaplan said. “It was like magic seeing something come alive on paper.”

Kaplan’s continued sense of curiosity and reverence for nature is reflected in her desire to express in her paintings “the purity of snow, to the brightness in the moon, to fragrance in the flower, to the sound in the waterfall.”

Ritual and chi play important roles in her creative process.

“Nature influences my art every morning when I first step out onto the deck of my house. I listen to the birds singing while looking out over my garden to see what flowers are blooming as I enjoy my first cup of coffee.”

Creating a New Concept in an Unreal World

Nancy Staub Laughlin is a highly imaginative artist, who brings a new contemporary concept to the genre of still life. She composes drawings using hand-milled pastel chalks and photographs to create “simulated still lifes.”

The artist from New Jersey associates her first positive memories of art with the guidance of a teacher.

“I knew when I was in 7th grade that I wanted to be an artist. I had an art teacher named Mr. Cooper that recognized my talent and helped me through 9th grade,” Laughlin said.

Cooper nurtured Laughlin’s innate talent, which has since blossomed.

“My simulated still lifes allow me to enter an unreal world of my own creation,” she said. “I create these stills by first gathering specifically chosen ‘props’ and then combining them to create a ‘new’ concept of the still life. My extensive collection of mirrors of every kind, glass objects in every shape, sheer fabrics, baubles and sparkles allows me to create the appropriate balance of translucency, layering and glitter.”

Taking a Journey of Discovery into Being

Keith Morant expresses color, movement and vitality in oil and mixed media abstract paintings. His lifelong, self-defined obsession with drawing and painting are revealed in his vibrant juxtaposition of colors, shapes and symbols.

Born in England, Morant currently lives in New Zealand. As he reflects on his first artistic encounter he said, “Creativity has always been as essential as breathing. As a child, I often found this propensity as much a problem as it was a natural joy. I always admired and followed art through all of its different manifestations, in music and literature as well as painting.”

Morant has never lost his quest for truth and knowledge.

“I am also a student of Zen Buddhism, which has an undoubted influence on my work,” Morant said. “My art is always a journey of discovery into the essence of being. It is an effort to externalize the truth of my own existence on as many levels as possible and communicate a greater awareness of the quality of life.”

Feeling a Sense of Freedom to Throw Out Rules

Linda S. Watson, an artist who lives in Hawaii, creates awe-inspiring colorful abstract paintings in mixed media. The cosmos, volcanoes of Hawaii and minerals inspire her paintings.

She recalls loving art since she was young.

“I have loved making art ever since I was a child,” Watson said. “My desire to become a painter was solidified by a visit to the M.H. de Young Museum in 1971. It was there that I saw a major exhibit of Vincent van Gogh, and my life was changed forever.”

Her sense of excitement at viewing Van Gogh’s passion has never waned.

“The natural world is my inspiration. My aim is to make visible my response to its subtle nuances of light, color and atmosphere,” Watson said.

She added, “Painting abstract art gives me the freedom to throw out all the rules, to tap into my feelings, intuition and inventiveness, and work in a more spontaneous manner. I enjoy a creative process in which nothing is ‘wrong’ and the joy comes from playing with materials, colors, shapes, ideas and design.”

How has your creative process today been enhanced by childhood memories? Do you still feel the same sense of anticipation and curiosity that you felt when you first learned you wanted to be an artist? Leave your comments below.

Renée Phillips is an author, writer, and frequent blogger. Her articles can be found on, and She is founder and director of Manhattan Arts International. As The Artrepreneur Coach, she provides career guidance and writing services for artists. Follow her on Twitter and join her on Facebook and Linkedin.