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Art blogger The Jealous Curator on vanquishing creative block

Ever tried to create something brilliant only to be paralyzed by the seemingly greater brilliance of those around you? Five years ago, Vancouver graphic designer (and closeted artist) Danielle Krysa was feeling equal parts inspiration and frustration at the amazing art that others were putting out into the world. From this volatile mix, The Jealous Curator was born: a diverse and extremely well-curated blog showcasing contemporary art from around the world. 

As part of our series on great Canadian blogs, we caught up with Danielle as she prepared to tour her new book, Creative Block, around the country.  

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How did The Jealous Curator come about? 
Back in university I was a painting major, and five weeks before I graduated, in a really confusing/humiliating critique, my prof stated, "You should never paint again." Yep. In front of my entire class. I ended up doing a post-grad in design and loved it—I found my career for the next ten years. I basically ignored the art world for a decade (even though I was still secretly in love with it). 

When my son was born, I decided to stay home with him for a few years. Just after he turned two, I thought it might finally be time to get back into art. That's when I started finding all of these artists on the great big Interweb. But when I found art that I loved, 50% of me felt so totally inspired and excited to create, and seconds later the other 50% of me felt jealous, crushed, and depressed. Everything had been done, and it had been done better than I could ever hope to do it (or so I told myself). When my bookmarks list hit three miles long, my husband, who happens to be a social media strategist, said "You should start a blog." He pointed out that the jealousy was eating me alive, and it was time to turn it around... and just like that, The Jealous Curator was born.

The blog is extremely positive. Is the art community generally this supportive?
Um... well, not always. It wasn't until I started The Jealous Curator that I realized there are so many artists, and art appreciators, out there who are positive, supportive, and encouraging! 

From the beginning, I've made a conscious choice to only write about work that I love, and to never allow hateful comments (which are ridiculously rare on my site anyway). Because of this, I've created a huge community of like-minded people with whom I can share my love of contemporary art. 

How did you come upon your own love of art and your desire to be an artist?
I think I was just born that way. My mother is a very talented artist, and she always had a studio in our house. According to her, from the time I could walk I was stealing her supplies. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I was always the kid who made stuff. In hindsight, I'm sure my friends would have preferred store-bought birthday gifts, but no, I made everything!

What's the first artwork you remember creating?
This bird drawing. I was three and my mom let me use her oil pastels. I don't remember actually drawing it, but what I do remember perfectly is that when I finished this masterpiece, my dad took one look at it and said, "We have to frame this." He used all of the special mat cutters/glass cutters that he used for my mom's work, and a gold frame... Oh yeah, baby, this was REAL ART. It's hanging in my studio right now. Still framed in gold.

In your own art, what are you working on at the moment? What series or works are you most proud of? Any misfires?
Oh, lots of misfires! Hundreds! Mind you, some of them lead to really great series—I really like my "Alleglory" series, and my collage "stacks" (like this one of the Queen). But, as far as my art goes right now, I'm at a really weird place. Here's why. It wasn't until a few months ago, after running around all over North America talking like an expert on creative blocks, touring my new book of the same name, that I realized I haven't actually painted since that prof (see question 1) told me I couldn't. That was 19 years ago. So, I've started trying to paint again. It's not going particularly well, but I'm not quitting! I've been doing a bunch of the projects in the book and it's helping so much. I still really love collage, so I'm working on combining collage with painting... baby steps!

Let's talk about your book on creative block. What's the number-one thing you've taken from the experience in how to vanquish—or at the very least, deal with—creative block?
I have learned so much from working on this book. I think the biggest lesson, and one that actually totally surprised me, was this: Having blocks (and self-doubt and an inner critic) is, contrary to my own personal beliefs, not the end of the world. Getting blocked, and having doubts, just means that you're part of a very cool, creative club! It turns out that full time, professional artists get blocked, and have self-doubt, and hear their inner critics too! What a RELIEF. Through all of the interviews, a recipe of three things kept coming up... almost a home remedy for blocks. Ready? 

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The Jealous Curator's 3-part creative block exterminator

1. Time. Allow yourself time to be blocked. It happens, and yes, it will pass. It always does, but you can speed things up with ingredients 2 and 3. 
2. Humour. Don't take it so seriously. Most of the pros have a really light view on their inner critics and blocks in general. If you can laugh, and cut yourself some slack, the blocks seem to fade a lot faster!
3. Side projects. So, so, so many of the artists suggested doing little side projects to help shake yourself out of a rut. In fact, all 50 of them gave an "unblocking project" at the end of their interviews. They're so good! (I've tried about five of them so far.)

Art appreciation and criticism is often seen as a highbrow and inaccessible cultural pursuit. Can people without an art history degree actually talk about art?
Of course! You love what you love, and everyone is welcome to share their opinion. I minored in art history, and loved every minute of it. I do think that that educating yourself (whether it's on your own or in a cozy art history lecture hall) makes it easier to talk about art, and to understand why things like Minimalism exist. But my rule will always be, if you don't have something kind/helpful to say, don't say anything at all. 

The Jealous Curator's top 3 Canadian artists you should be following right now



All images courtesy of Danielle Krysa and The Jealous Curator. 








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