The Art of Living—Finding Our Creative Space

Style, art, creativity—these words have so much buzz. It’s easy to read a story about a beautiful, free-spirited freelance photographer who travels endlessly and write it off as trendy and seemingly worthless. It’s also easy to read that same story and dive whole heartedly into a profound, limitless comparison, but there’s something better going on. Stories are not told just to show off trendy, envy-worthy experiences, but to characterize a life—to draw out in words someone’s life style. 

When we read about or see people’s lives it can be incredibly inspiring if we move beyond some of our, perhaps subconscious, initial reactions.

This thought started spinning in my head as I sat to FaceTime an old friend (a beautiful, free-spirited freelance photographer who travels the world with her tall, bearded, also beautiful husband). Cheryl Constable, a Floridian who has moved more than you can guess in the past five years, is the dreamiest of dreamers. Her personal photography is a mix of modern and classic editorial; she can make a dirty snow-filled street look like a winter wonderland with a simple snap of her iPhone camera. As a photographer I am constantly inspired by her work, but more importantly by her creativity in her side projects—music, nutrition, and surfing, to name a few. When she eloped last year in Iceland (yes, I said that right, eloped… in Iceland) she and her husband hiked active volcanoes, took unreal film photos, studied the Icelandic music scene, and found themselves lugging a few suitcases into a little one-bedroom, old shoe factory apartment in Dumbo. All of these things are not separate from her work as a photographer, rather they move together to form a distinct, creative lifestyle.

Her move to NYC was a whirlwind, she explained. She went from freelancing in Nashville and Orlando to moving through internships with Annie Leibovitz and CLM to end up as a production assistant with Vanity Fair. She was working on shoots for Louis Vuitton, Glamour, Vogue, and more, but was coming home after twelve-hour days to mental block and creative shut down.

Her story, full of twists and new jobs and creative ventures, brought me back to a conversation I had with Adrienne Antonson, an artist and owner of STATE the Label. She went to art school for sculpting, lived on a tiny island outside of Seattle, Washington, worked on an alpaca farm and, all the while, has started and run small businesses like STATE since her early twenties. She’s passionate and articulate and our conversation consisted mainly of her taking me through her adventures. “I think I would just like to make everything around me,” she said as I remembered vividly her sweet laugh. “If I just had the time and the tools I would make the furniture, make all the dishes, all the textiles—these (referring to her businesses) are just the select few things I do for work—I think that’s why I do so many different things. I get so excited to logistically figure out how to do these things and then see them come to fruition. It’s why I keep on doing what I do, whether it be for money or for my sanity.”

As Cheryl and I continued talking through her move and her new internships and jobs we kept coming back to life style and the space we make for creativity—not so much the what of these creative jobs and projects but the how and the why.

“I had a defining moment a couple of years ago. I was surfing when the waves were really rough and in that challenge I realized I had become complacent creatively. For five years I was doing nothing but portrait and wedding photography and I wasn’t being challenged or pushed. I went home and set new goals and enrolled myself in nutrition school…

A year and a half later I fell in love, got married, moved to NYC, and found myself working on the editorial side of photography for one of the biggest names in the city. Writing music and playing guitar, doing yoga, paddleboarding, sculpting, making jewelry, studying nutrition—all of these things are my outlets. I struggled for a long time trying to only do one thing, telling myself, ‘I am only a photographer,’ but I have learned to let myself be free to explore. I’ve learned that my work space has to be clean, open, blank, and my mind has to be free to move from editing to dreaming up projects to producing a new song.”

Cheryl’s words reminded me of my favorite writer, Ernest Hemingway—a burly, adventurous man who was envy of many with his stories of travel, beautiful women, and the glorious portrayal of Spanish bullfighting. Hemingway is no more a point of inspiration for daily living than people like Cheryl and Adrienne. Sure, he may be famous (using the word to mean idolized, rather than simply well known, although both may apply), but the reason for his fame was for his actions; he went further than the words he wrote in his novels. Hemingway’s actions truly informed his writing, making it some of the most honest, blunt literature from an American novelist.

The words that kept popping into my head as I thought about this idea of finding inspiration for life through others: “Never mistake movement for action.” I’ve heard this from many people, some not realizing it came from Hemingway’s lips. I did a bit of digging because my curious brain wanted to know to whom and for what reason did he give this eloquent piece of advice.

“Never mistake movement for action.”

Turns out, Marlene Dietrich was the recipient when she was stuck deciding between whether to move to Miami for a lucrative job offer. Hemingway said in full, “Don’t do what you sincerely don’t want to do. Never mistake movement for action.” I had one of those giddy moments when you are really excited about something (even though it was already realized) but the light shifts slightly and now things look a bit different. Pretty cool.

We are all the decisions we make and the actions we take—good, bad, and ugly. Perhaps the reason we see these people—women like Cheryl and Adrienne, moving through life doing exactly what they want to do—and instantly turn on the comparison or ignore buttons, is because we aren’t comfortable with our own actions; or better yet, we’re bored with them. Sure, it’s trendy to be creative and adventurous but has anything really changed? I propose a different point of view: Life well lived appears trendy because it’s attractive but it is so much more than a ‘hip’ label.

Hemingway was not simply a writer—he was a fighter, an observer, a skier, a drinker, a great conversationalist, a lover, and a human pursuing at all costs a life well lived  and people loved to hear his stories. Adrienne and her keen sense of logistical creation has made her businesses incredibly successful not merely because they are labeled cool and are lucrative, but because she has found what she loves and has poured her heart into. Cheryl and her ability to jump from place to place and find art everywhere she goes is a picture of the good life and it shouldn’t strike us as unattainable or trendy. It is a door to pursuing actions that are wholly ours and ours alone.

Lifestyles, and the people who have chosen to live them, whether written or photographed make our minds think, dream, create, and live. They break down limitations and boxes, and give us the drive to think about how we work, how we create, how we live. They move us from the mundane and force us to start discovering and living in our own style—to find our own art de vivre.