HELLA READY: The Four “Creative Elements” Every Artist Needs

HELLA READY: A 4 part series on the “Creative Elements” Every Artist Needs

It’s a breezy, sunny day in Tacoma, Washington and I’m sitting in an old, giant loft space that serves as a co-op for several artists, entrepreneurs, and missional people. I’m visiting for the day, while exploring the PNW on one of my annual “I need a break from Chicago” trips. The aesthetic of this building is layered in dark tones of brown with a soft layer of dust covering the old wood floors and high brick walls. Despite the dusty brown feel of everything, it’s a clean, sunny, and minimal space that makes it the perfect spot to be creatively productive. I’ve settled into a simple wooden desk in a corner next to a guy who resells vintage clothing from an online store. There’s a handful of desks similar to mine that border the edges of the space, each with their own minimal set up. In the next room, just as large and open as this one, there’s a canvas tent maker’s small space, a wood shop with piles of handcrafted pieces in various states of made-ness, and my favorite— rows of industrial sewing machines used for finely made leather goods. It has been a long time since I was physically and mentally in this type of space, but as soon as I close my eyes the sensation echoes back into my past and every memory I’ve ever had of being in this state of mind comes flooding before me. I’ve never been to this co-op, but I belong here.

The environment looks like what the inside of my head does when it’s ready to make. I’m overflowing with this sense of immediacy and inspiration that has been bubbling over a long series of life experiences and the need to express them without words. I’m forcing myself to sit down and write in order to distract myself from doing what I really want to do. Which is, touch everything and start constructing art pieces from these strangers’ materials inside the studios that are currently vacant.

But I won’t, because if they arrive to find me going through their piles of leather like a mouse in a kitchen, it will be awkward for all of us.

Instead, I’m going to attempt to accurately describe this certain strong, whirlwind immediacy I occasionally feel as an artist to make and the right conditions for this impulse to give birth to compelling art. This is not making for making’s sake. This is not the same thing as being in a “crafty mood.” This is a feeling only those who have lived life and have a true sense of purpose for their art. It only happens when you know what it is you want to create, have the skills necessary to create it, and have all the space/materials/time necessary to do it. I call this feeling: HELLA READY. This feeling is unique because many times, creatives only have a few of these components and their art-making is characterized by the struggle. The struggle is like trying to drive a car with only three wheels. HELLA READY has all four wheels: Inspiration, environment, expertise, and purpose. If you are missing any of these, you are indeed not HELLA READY. For the next several weeks I will be writing on each one of these HELLA READY wheels and giving you more insight into my own creative process.


Before I get into any of these four “wheels,” I’ll give you some more of my artistic backstory.

I moved to Chicago in 2007 as a fresh-faced 19 year old to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). I moved there from Baltimore, Maryland, where I had spent my freshman year of art school at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Coming into art school, I assumed that I’d be a life-long painter. By the end of the first month of the freshman program, I came to the realization that I didn’t even enjoy painting. I just liked the praise from being hella good at it. This wasn’t enough to keep me in that department, and I branched out to other mediums like fibers and ceramics. This branching-out eventually led me to SAIC, a school known for its interdisciplinary approach to art making. This means that most students learned multiple art forms as opposed to focusing on 1. This fiercely independent structure allowed me to blossom as a multi-faceted artist, but was also overwhelming with the temptation to go too many directions at once.

In the midst of my studies, I decided to pursue getting certified in art education. This was due to what I saw happening in my communities (both Baltimore and Chicago) with disenfranchised youth and my growing belief that art had the power to socially build and transform. I also became more involved with music (something completely unexpected). By the time I graduated undergrad, I had several different life/career directions to pursue. I knew for a fact that I wanted to teach, but also knew that pursuing music on the side of teaching would mean less time for visual art making. After a series of opportunities, I decided to pursue music and maintain my visual craft with a couple of small art shows here and there and art making alongside my students. The only reason I felt able to “set aside” visual art was because I saw music as just another medium— one where I would be able to craft and mold sonic shapes the same way I would with visual art.

A few years after having made that call, I’m now an experienced art teacher, ready to release a 2nd EP, but HELLA ready to get back into art making. I’ve spent the past few months quietly mapping out an illustrative book and collecting materials in the hopes that time would soon allow me to dive head first back into my “first love.” The nearness of that season has been confirmed by the undeniable whirlwind sensation I feel sitting here now in this dusty loft. It’s time.

Next week I will be writing about the first wheel that gets the art ball rolling… INSPIRATION.
In the meantime, ask yourself this question and list your answers:
What are the top 5 moments of inspiration that have propelled me forward in my art form?

  • Daniel

    Awesome article! Excited to come back to