Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our Creative Home: the Hills

Here at Darlybird, we are all about living creatively and colorfully. In our new series “Our Creative Home,” we talk to some of our favorite creative friends to see how they encourage creativity in their homes and families! Today we'll be hearing from Erika Hill, Community Relations Coordinator at the Provo City Library (which essentially covers everything from event and exhibit planning to marketing and more) and wife to illustrator Brent Hill

Tell us about your family!

We’re two people (soon to be three!), two dogs, and a whole lot of comic books! Brent and I met at school (we lived in the same apartment complex), and were attracted to each other by the wall murals we painted outside our apartments: he painted Jesus walking on water, and I painted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming out of a manhole. After some obligatory bowling double dates we settled into a relationship where we did dramatic readings of Calvin and Hobbes comics and wrote each other silly cards.

That paragraph maybe makes us sound more creative and quirky than we are—we’re mostly just like you. We watch a lot of Netflix, we eat more French fries than are good for us, sometimes we take our dogs for walks they desperately need, and mostly we just try to have fun while doing the enjoyable and boring things that make up life.

How have you encouraged creativity in your home? 

There are so many ways I could answer this question that I’m not quite sure where to begin! I think that one of the biggest things we’ve done to encourage creativity in our home is to be enthusiastic listeners; so often people allow their creative projects to lose steam before they’ve even taken the time to share them with others for fear that they might look stupid. Once you take off the “I can’t do this” filter and find someone who can be enthusiastic about your ideas (be they a graphic novel about the lengths and means you’ve gone to in order to build your family or a comic book about child zombies looking for friends), you’ll find that your creativity has real room to grow and develop.

Also, sometimes our house is really messy, because creativity is messy. You kind of get in a rhythm and routine of figuring out what is important and what isn’t in terms of housework (tip: dishes are always important, because if you ignore them too long then things get stinky. Piles of books of reference materials can be left to themselves, but dishes must be dealt with).

Do you and Brent ever work on creative projects together? Tell us about that!

We work on projects together all the time! Brent has always been a kind of communal artist—when he was young, the thing he most loved to do with his friends was draw (well, there may have been some Transformers toys and video games too…). He still has notebooks and notebooks full of characters and landscapes that he and his friends collaborated on, making up their own monsters and worlds for those monsters to live in (as an adult, his favorite things to doodle are still monsters, which is sometimes distressing to the children who come over to see what he’s drawing during church…)

We started working together on projects very early on in our relationship; I studied film as an undergraduate, and I often worked as a production designer on student films. I knew he was the man to marry when the prospect of helping me construct a life-sized skeletal puppet horse excited him. We’ve worked on films together, painted a mural in my parents’ house, and for about a year we wrote a one-panel a day soap opera about a family with a soap company. We’re always thinking of new projects to do together; not all of them get past the planning stages, and some have gotten a bit stalled, but it’s always rewarding to create together.

by Brent Hill
What advice would you give to families hoping to live a more creative lifestyle?

Again, I could answer this question a million (or maybe seven) ways, but I think my biggest advice is this: if you want to live a creative lifestyle, you need to find ways to establish small creative habits daily.

Obviously there are things about our lives that aren’t necessarily typical, but I think that one of the reasons that Brent and I have confidence in tackling bigger creative projects is that we’ve established small creative routines every day. For example, when Brent was teaching school, I made his lunch every day. Since we were still pretty recently married at that point, I thought it would be adorable to write a love note on his napkin. Then I thought for about two more minutes and decided that if a love note was adorable, a daily comic would be awesome! So (nearly) every day for five years I drew a napkin for Brent. Sometimes they were silly, sometimes they were sweet, and sometimes they were straight up crazy. The other day we were de-junking as we’re preparing for our new baby, and I found a bag of at least 150 of those napkins, and it was hilarious to look through them and see what a goofball I could be while making a sandwich at 6:30 in the morning. Now that I work full time and Brent makes my lunch, he’s taken to doing the same for me, and it’s great.

You don’t have to write elaborate napkin sagas in your life, but finding small ways to be creative every day helps condition your brain to see and think creatively, which builds confidence for some of those larger projects you might be inclined to tackle.

Any final thoughts?

Don’t be afraid to be creative! A few years ago I was doing some kinetic typography research and came across this video that features a quote by Ira Glass that really made an impact on me. You should probably just watch the video, but the gist is this: your first forays into creative work probably aren’t going to be that good. You might be disappointed, because your taste is good enough that you can tell they aren’t that good. DON’T GIVE UP!

I think that so often we use the word “talented” when we ought to say “practiced”; I think that Brent is an incredible artist, but he didn’t just wake up one day knowing how to draw. Brent is 31, and he’s been drawing nearly every day of his life for at least 26 years. He’s a talented artist, but he’s more than that: he’s a practiced artist.

You can be creative. You can do great work. Don’t give up, keep at it, and when all else fails, have cookies handy. When all is said and done, it’s a pretty rewarding life.

Even if the house is messy.

Thanks so much, Erika! Be sure to check out past Our Creative Home posts and check back next Tuesday for the next!

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