Clare Louise on Intuition, Creativity, Personal & Spiritual Growth.
Welcome to RISE, Clare Louise.
RISE: It is obvious when watching you work that you love what you do, and having experienced for ourselves the impact of working with you, it’s a unique and powerful approach. What made you choose this path?
It felt like the natural next step for me. I have a great desire to contribute to others growth, to empower others to let go of what’s holding them back and take the next step. I love finding clarity, I love being curious, finding out what makes us tick, conversations with depth and shining a light so we can see the truth of what is not what we think it is and I find it humbling to hold a space for others to just be wherever they are, to be real, to be vulnerable and heal. I know what having that space has gifted me through out my own life experience. So when I decided to focus on my own creative path again I wanted to do something that was meaningful, would contribute to others and aligned with the essence and depth of me, who I am now and who I am becoming. It was really important for me to bring all parts of me together, and combine my love of creative, personal and business development with my authentic self.
My intuition, creativity, personal & spiritual growth are a huge part of who I am, having taken the journey of self and done that deep inner work, alongside my spiritual practice and development over the last 20 years, I know just how much it transformed my life and my creativity. In fact it was very much my intuition and listening to that inner voice that lead me to retrain as a coach. I took a year out and threw myself all in to who I was becoming.
The moment I first stepped into the coaching world I knew I was on the right path, it was as if I was giving all parts of me permission to play, to be and I woke up all these other parts of me that had fallen asleep, lain dormant or that I was quite simply hiding.
Whilst I’d had glimpses of that sense of creative fulfilment and contribution through my image making, I always knew there was more, back then it always felt like I was striving to be something else, but I never knew what that something else was and spent many years in search of that.
When I stepped into my first coaching training session, for the first time in my life I felt fully alive, and as I went through the learning process, all the pieces of my jigsaw fell into place, I could see the big picture and I had this sense of knowing that I’d finally found my way home.
It was transformational. I had a purpose, my life experiences had a purpose, my creativity had a purpose, and all my creative imagery had a purpose. It was as if my whole life had been taking me to this moment. It became less of a choice and more of a must; and the overwhelming desire I have to contribute to others through creativity became so much more meaningful and I had a real sense of clarity of how I could make a difference to others in a way that allowed me to be alive in my magic whilst holding that space for others to be alive in their magic too.
RISE: I can see that creativity is very much a spiritual practice for you, why is it important to our creative growth that we connect to our creativity this way?
Creativity is a way of being – not doing. It’s a way of life; it’s learning to transcend the doing actions of technique and our limiting beliefs. It takes time, devotion and loving practice, lots of mistakes and discipline. The journey is without a doubt full of challenge, self doubt, unworthiness, rejection and feelings of failure, overwhelm, lack of confidence and all those other feelings that hold us back … our fierce courage is required to keep us moving forwards. As we lean in to the challenges authentic creativity takes us on – we grow to new heights and the longterm gain far out weighs the short term pain.
When we create from a space of being, all our senses come alive and as we begin to listen deeply, using our intuition and our feelings, we flow with inspired thought. We begin to feel from within and blend this with what we are sensing externally, there is no separation. We connect to our subject at a deeper level and move with ease through our creations, dancing in the moment of the mutual creative journey we are now on.
We connect deeper to ourselves as the creative self and express ourselves through our body, mind, heart, soul and intuition, that dance with our creations, our subject and our environment takes place on an otherworldly level – weaving all parts of the story together through our unique perspective, our authenticity. It’s magical and opens us up to being so much more than what we think we are and we begin to realise that there is another way. It’s empowering and as we grow and expand our inner world we begin to change the external world around us.
RISE: As an artist and photographer what did you learn from your own experiences of using creativity as a spiritual practice and how does it affect your work?
I think the biggest lesson I learnt was that creativity isn’t something you buy in a box and do something with, it has a life of its own and flows through us.
I love Elizabeth Gilberts explanation “you’re not a genius … you have a genius” this makes perfect sense to me. I’ve invested more time and money developing an open mind, learning about energy and connection, expanding my boundaries, breaking down those limiting beliefs and being curious, knowing that there is so much we don’t yet know and with that open mind, learning how to ‘connect and flow’ with the ‘genius’ and become a vessel, than I have invested in anything else in my photographic career. Eventually my kit was basic and technically, I focussed only on mastering what I needed to know to do what I wanted to do.
I learnt that when I create from my head I limit what can be created, when I create from my intuition, my feelings, I expand my creativity, when I’m open and connected to my heart, my soul, my spirit – I create from everything, creativity flows through me, energises and inspires me. I’m able to feel my way through a story, its like everything is speaking to me and I hear whats not being said and can communicate with it on another level.
RISE: You’re not shooting anymore – how are you finding your creative fulfilment ?
I’m smack bang in the middle creating tools to help other creatives grow and having so much fun doing that. I’m creating an online platform that explores who we are as a creative and a creative business, our purpose, what holds us back, where we come alive and tools to help us soar.
I’ve just completed my first book and a deck of cards on the 12 main archetypes and our saboteur, so we can gain deeper insight into who we are as a creative and how we can explore, expand and empower our creative range.
My images are a big part of this and I’m starting to put words to them, creating a deck of inspiration and reflection cards to help us stay connected to our creative self and purpose and stay focussed on our creative journey.
The images from my fellowship panel I’ve used to create tools as an exploration of our shadow side to help us access what’s holding us back.
I lean into my creative self fully when I’m coaching either 1-2-1 or on my workshops and retreats, it allows me to dance in the moment with my clients and delegates, going beyond learnt techniques, so I can apply the same creative process into my coaching as my image making.
What I love most is connecting to that creative spirit in my workshops and retreats, I really feel alive in those moments, being fully immersed in the process, allowing creativity to flow – to take others to that place where they too can connect to their authentic power and dance with it, expanding their creative range and the sense of empowerment they feel as they step up and out. Witnessing their journey unfold and the transformation makes my heart beat, my soul sing and I’m connected deeper to that meaningful sense of fulfilment. The mutual journey.
RISE: Your fellowship panel is striking. Very powerful, at times quite haunting. What did it mean to you going for your qualification?
The journey of qualifications was a way for me to grow and push myself, to learn techniques, refine them and explore my creative voice, a platform for me to find out who I was as a creative.
In the early part of my qualifications journey, I struggled to find the right mentors, it wasn’t until I stopped trying to be a photographer and saw myself as an artist that I felt freer in my work and began to get a deeper sense of belonging.
For me my images were all about expressing myself and my inner thoughts and feelings, the feelings and emotions I had suppressed most of my life, the sadness, grief, anger, shame, guilt, loneliness, lack of self worth – all of it.
Many photographers, whilst trying to help, tried to get me to shoot in a way that was like them or their understanding of what they felt I should be shooting and I felt like I had to fit into a formula, that was hard. In a bid to find my voice I also tried to emulate other photographers styles, that was even harder. This was a short term fix and I found myself constantly chasing someone else’s tail. It was so creatively unfulfilling.
As my spiritual and personal growth journey evolved – so did my creativity… they worked hand in hand.
By the time I had reached my fellowship I’d already begun to make a name for myself in the industry. I was shooting fantasy style images, exploring the magic and imagination of my inner child.
After two years of work I failed my first fellowship submission, of which I am so vey very grateful, I knew the finished product wasn’t up to standard. I was a chaotic, all consumed creative back then and the biggest thing I had to learn was focus and discipline. Failing my fellowship really brought that home to me.
Life then threw me another curve ball that really knocked me off my feet, broke down all I’d been trying to hold together up until that point in my life, until there was nothing left to hold onto, deepening that journey of self discovery. I threw myself into my creativity again, my safe space to explore those challenges and emotions. After 12 months of personal growth and creative exploration I knew I had to find a mentor who would challenge me and take me outside of my comfort zone.
Henk Van Kooten was that mentor, if ever he was sat on a judging panel where my images came up he would always talk the image down, passionately! So I asked him to mentor me, I knew he’d strip me bare – and he did, in a kind, honest and challenging way and I thank him everyday for being courageous enough to do that. I remember speaking to him about my next panel idea (another fairytale set) and he looked me straight in the eye and said “Clare Louise – what would your work look like if you didn’t dress everything up in fairy tales ….” And then just stayed silent.
That pushed so many of my ‘do not touch buttons’ and gave me both permission and a bit of F* you’ attitude to be so in his face and bare all. The Rebel in me came out and she just shook up my creativity and let me loose. Henk celebrated every high, sat with me in every low and never allowed me to produce anything that was just ‘OK’
It was the release I needed, on so many levels, emotionally, creatively, spiritually, mentally – I’d had a challenging and in some parts traumatic past, coupled with everything that was happening at this point in my life, shooting this panel gave me the space to release every drop of pain I’d been holding onto, hiding from and was being a victim too. It was a cold hard look at myself and what i’d been carrying for so long, all the hurt, grief, anger, disappointment the lot. I was finally able to be seen and heard, honour my own pain instead of covering everything up. It was a powerful- life changing experience and I learnt the power of being with what I couldn’t be with.
I won a number of awards that year and gained my fellowship panel which was also recognised and awarded best fellowship panel at an international awards. I was then invited to Singapore to speak about the images and having to create a slide show, it took me six weeks of watching it over and over again so I could watch it without crying and hold that space in front of all those people and not be an emotional wreck.
The response was incredible, I‘ve since travelled to far away places as well as across the UK and spoken about that panel. The response has been so powerful. Some people feel their own release, and I fully understood the depth of that mutual journey through creativity – Through my vulnerability and creativity I’d given a part of their story a voice and they felt like they could let go of some of their own pain, others can’t bare to look at it and some are reduced to tears.
First it taught me the true power, meaning and importance of vulnerability and the strength that brings and how creativity as a spiritual practice and authenticity not only impacts you but also those who connect / resonate with your work.
Secondly it released so much in me and opened up a whole new level to my work that I absolutely wasn’t expecting – I honestly thought my fellowship panel was the pinnacle of my creative success, but it wasn’t, not by far, it was a beautiful starting point of something really quite magical where I’ve been able to truly expand and grow from.
Thirdly it gifted me the insight to the question – how can I be more creative? and an understanding that it’s actually how can I express my Self more. And ever since then thats what has driven me creatively.
RISE: How did the journey to fellowship effect you ?
For me it pushed me more and more to be me, to really find my voice and not the voice I thought the industry wanted or would accept. It was hard putting it out there, fear of being judged, rejection, not being good enough, it brought up all the fears that held me back and I just had to take a run and jump off the cliff I’d been keeping my Self in hiding and safe on.
It impacted my life in so many ways, it made me realise with absolute clarity that I was not a photographer, that was hard, really hard as for 9 years photography had been all I knew, it was my first big dream and I loved the industry, it was my creative home, but towards the end I’d outgrown that dream and wasn’t fulfilled in my work, there was such a void, an emptiness and I struggled to know where or how I fit in after that.
What I didn’t realise then is my creativity never really had a real purpose, despite owning a photography business, hence the wandering, searching and feeling lost.
I never had a purpose, so I couldn’t channel my work to its fullest potential. I felt frustrated and felt like I was a best kept secret.
What I know now is that I wanted to connect, empower and create a space for transformation through my work and creativity, to wake people up to all of who they are and the possibility of themselves. It took me another 5 years to work that out and step into what I was meant to be doing, and I’ve never felt so alive creatively as I do right now.
It feels like all my images, my life experience finally make sense, it feels, that like me, my images have finally found their purpose and once again we are on this incredible mutual journey of creativity.
RISE: What has the industry taught you?
Gosh, it’s taught me so much, so so much.
It’s gifted me the insight that the foundation stones of your creative dreams is you and your authenticity. That you are at the heart of all that is possible, you can be the most gifted, talented creative but if you can’t get out of your own way then your success can only go as far as your limited beliefs will allow it, and you spend your time wishing or waiting for things to happen instead of making them happen.
It’s taught me that our creative growth is so incredibly important, it’s about so so much more than taking pictures. It’s taught me that sadly we focus too much on the outer world when we are looking for our answers rather than our inner world.
It’s strengthened my belief that every voice matters, no matter how big or small that voice is. We are all on our own journey and your tribe and being around the right people really do matter. You don’t have to do it the way of the loudest most dominant voice that is telling you ‘this is the way’, get curious, trust in your intuition and do it in the way that is right for you … even if that takes you away from what everyone else is doing (especially if it takes you away from what everyone else is doing)
It’s taught me that it really doesn’t matter who your tribe is, what name they come under, what they believe in – if its right for you – its right for you and thats all that matters … (and if its not, then for goodness sake get out). That you will outgrow your tribe and that’s OK too, its all part of the process. That when you are in the right room -with the right people at the right time – you soar!
It’s shown me absolute that the trade are the centre point of our industry, incredibly supportive to photographers in ways they can’t even imagine, so much work goes on behind the scenes that we rarely get to see and without that support our opportunities would be so very limited. There are so many people, trade and photographers alike, who want to see us/each other succeed.
But most importantly, it’s shown me time and time again that every creative, no matter where they are on their journey, deserves to follow their dreams.
RISE: If you were to do it all again what would you do differently?
Find my purpose and my tribe quicker. People with purpose have a light that shines, a drive and passion, a deep sense of truth, it’s like nothing else that matters, it’s so empowering, so magical to be around. It’s contagious. It’s full of belief, possibilities and opportunity. So nurturing, supportive and alive. A bit of them polishes you up and you expand and shine brighter just by being around them.
I believe thats what we are attracted to in our photographic heroines and heroes, its not their style per say – its simply that they have found where they belong, what they are meant to be doing and are alive in it and thats why they stand out like a beacon of light that attract us, its their authenticity, and rather than spending time replicating their style we should be looking for that authentic space within ourselves and creating from it.
RISE: If you could give people in the industry one piece of advice what would it be:
You are so much more than what you think you are. When you believe in you, your dreams and the power of authentic creativity you find yourself stepping into your dreams living them, making them a reality.
You are so much more than what you think you are.
No matter how big your dreams may be, no matter how different to any one else they are, no matter what you think you need to do in order to be good enough to do it, no matter where you are on your path … just begin … and then commit to doing the work it takes to following your dream, one step at a time.
Start with where you are, begin with what you’ve got … and know you are already enough.
If you loved and believed in your self 100% … what would you do next ?
You can connect and read more of Clare Louise’s work