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My Creative Journey – Nat Connacher

As a sensitive and quiet child, I realized at an early age that how I made sense of the world felt about the world and communicated with the world, was through pictures in my mind. Not through words or numbers, I am dyslexic. Not through sounds, I am tone deaf. But through sight, which is ironic, since I have been blind in my right eye since birth and my left eye is nearsighted.

I picked up a pencil around grade 3 or 4 to illustrate stories in remedial reading & writing classes to help organize my thoughts. It was not until middle school that I had my first experience of how picture making could affect others and myself. On one family vacation, I was drawing an airplane, someone next to me noticed and asked if they could have it. For the first time, I understood that pictures could make someone, other than myself, happy. I could connect to others through pictures and I did not need to be alone.

Throughout my school career, from grade school to graduate school, the art room became my safe place. My other academic classes suffered as I tried to overcome my dyslexia. As all children, adolescents and young adults, I was motivated by, looking to others for artistic direction, techniques and inspiration. Trying my hand in portrait painting, landscapes, pencil & pen drawings, poster making and photography gave me a foundation to visually interpret the world.

College brought new personal insights for me as I naturally separated from my family, and looked for my own voice.  It was at this time I discovered a lifelong love for typography and an ability to simplify complex ideas in simple and direct visual pictures in the form of corporate branding & information design. During this time, my academic interests merged with my artist ones – combining typography in engravings.

Receiving my MFA in Design at Yale University deepened my passion and joy of typography, by studying under the likes of Paul Rand, Mathew Carter, Bradbury Thompson and Wolfgang Weingart. Yale also brought the introduction of computers into my professional, creative and personal life, which allowed me to fulfill what I thought was a personal dream, but was a family expectation: starting a business. Little did I understand the consequences of this decision and what I would gave up to achieve this version of success.

With the start of this design business, focusing on technology and design, I replaced my growth and interest in art with a fixation on technology. I obsessed about ease of use and forgot about drawing. I limited my vision to what was on my monitor and not what was inside me. Process became more important than storytelling. And I commoditized my creativity by presenting myself a technology expert and not a creative expert.

This process did not happen overnight or follow a straight trajectory, but over many years, as my role as a designer, artist, husband and father changed, this misalignment of focus caused me to resent clients and colleges, for their endless demands and I became depressed by my inability to set boundaries and expectations that would better serve me and my creativity. But ironically it was in the downward motion of depression and anxiety, with nothing to loss, is where I found my clearest visions and emotional energy. I was able to let go of my ego and simply accept other options and opportunities that I let lay dormant in my mind.

This cycle of repression and fearfulness, punctuated with moments creative clarity and productivity is how I have unknowingly lived a good part of my life.  It caused emotional turmoil within my family, my friends & colleagues and myself. Historically this familiar and habitual behavior went on for most of my life, until I reached a point, a number of years ago that my resilience to this cycle was no longer holding up. I needed to create new paths to my creativity and it required a radical departure to how I approached the creation of art and my life.

With guidance and encouragement from a wonderful mentor, I was taught I needed to detach from the confines of my design world and physically put my body into creating art. To do this I literally stepped outside, to create art in the outdoors. In doing so I stepped out of my external believes of who I should be, and moved into myself.

With this action, I learned that my personal expectations, of others, my art and myself was straightjacketing my creativity. By doing the opposite of my historical behavior, I was lead to my creativity. Now I had a new process to access creative exploration other than through my historical cycle of emotion and upheaval.

All of a sudden creating art for me became a full body experience. It energized me. No more precious lines. No more second guessing I was an artist. No more prolonged depression. I have stopped denying who I am and embraced myself for the first time in my life. Through motion, I have connected to my emotions. The journey continues, I am still that sensitive, quiet and creative child, now I have embraced him – for he is I.

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