It’s time for this season’s interview! I’m so pleased to be joined by artist and maker Charlie India. Charlie is someone I’ve discovered fairly recently, but I’m super inspired by her approach to creativity and especially how she’s building community along the way.
In our discussion we explore the importance of community and delve a little deeper into building confidence as a creative and having fun in the process. Listen wherever you get your podcasts or below:
Links and further reading
- Follow Charlie on Instagram and TikTok
- Learn more about Charlie’s work
- Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way
Today on the podcast, I’m sharing this season’s interview and I’m so happy to be joined by artist and maker, Charlie India. While I’ve not been following Charlie for too long, I’ve been immediately taken with her honesty when it came to her creative journey, sharing the process and really including her community at every step. I’ve been super inspired by her approach and I’m really excited to share her with you today. So without further ado, let’s get into the discussion.
Kat: Okay. Hello, Charlie, thank you so much for joining me. So to start with, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and the work that you do?
Charlie: Sure. Yes. Thank you for having me. So I’m a lawyer, a part-time lawyer now as of January, 2022. But I also am pursuing my dream of becoming an artist. Part-time hopefully, maybe full-time in the future, we’ll see. And basically over the last year or so, I’ve been recalibrating my life around that. I’ve very much gone through a creative awakening, having not really done any art since I was at school and the lockdown, as it did for many people, kind of made me realise that there was something missing in my life and that I was probably ignoring my desire to create art.
Kat: Amazing. And I’d really love to hear a bit more about that creative journey because I think it’s so fascinating how you’ve come into it a little bit later in life and you’re pursuing it now alongside another job. So I’d love to hear how that creative awakening happened and how you got to where you are now.
Charlie: Yeah. So I guess for context I just turned 30, so you’re right, I mean, I don’t know if many lawyers who at 30 turn around and say, oh, actually I’d quite like to try my hand at art, it is a little bit unusual and I think to be honest with you, it was a complete shock to me that this even happened. It was genuinely one of those moments where you don’t expect it or see it coming, more often than not these times are often actually the most useful to you in life. Like it’s not planned, it’s kind of just happened and now I’m winging it and seeing where it takes me. The moment where I realised that I wanted to look more deeply at my creativity was actually a moment that I have to thank my grandmother for, because she’s a watercolour artist and she, during the lockdown, was obviously stuck at home and I didn’t get to see her as was the case for everyone.
And she suggested that we do an art Zoom, like a get together where she would tell me about art and I’d learn more about her history as an artist and we could talk about creative things. And it was really to fill the time because at that point we were a little bit bored and it was the thing that totally just sparked an interest for me. And so I started sharing what I was creating online. My mum was doing the same, she was also part of this art Zoom and it was all just a little bit of fun and soon I realised that there was a whole community of people online, a whole art community out there that I had no idea about. And I got talking with people and realised that my story around being creative, but maybe suppressing it in light of other commitments, whether that be a career like me or, you know, being a parent or whatever is actually quite common.
And so as soon as I started sharing more about my journey, I had more and more of those conversations and it kind of snowballed – not snowballed, but it just made me not want to retreat back into my box because I realised that there were lots of people feeling this way, but not many people sharing it very openly online. There’s a lot of very successful creatives like Lisa Congdon is a good example, she has an amazing story. She, I think, also only started creating art around the age of 30 but she’s now very accomplished and very successful and I think there’s some reassurance to people who see someone like me going through it, literally alongside them and learning on the go and sharing that process that, that Lisa Congdon obviously did, but had historically, and is now a very successful artist. So it’s that sort of thing that I’m now trying to show up for, that sense of community.
Kat: I love that and that’s such a nice story about you and your mum and your grandma doing it all together and it starting out as a bit of fun and turning into something else. I’ve had a bit of a similar journey with drawing. So I’m a writer by trade, that’s kind of what I’ve always done, I’ve always thought that was my thing and that art was not my thing. But I started, I think, I basically had a bit of burnout in 2020, understandably with everything going on in the world and I just started drawing for fun. And I was like, this is actually really feeding me in a way I didn’t know was possible and it’s become something, part of my practice. It’s not something I’m necessarily pursuing as a career, but for now it’s just so enjoyable. And I think that’s the exciting thing about creativity is it can come up at any point and you can just follow your curiosity and where it leads. I love that.
Charlie: Absolutely, totally agree. And I think that that’s an interesting point as well around whether creativity needs to necessarily be something that you pursue as a career because I’m very much sort of working that all out in my head. Also linked to burnout, I’ve experienced similar sort of burnout and mental health issues as a result of working in a world where I thought that productivity existed and I could just be this machine that would just keep going. And the pandemic made me realise that that wasn’t the case. And I think that’s been the same for a lot of people, yourself included it sounds like, and, yeah, I think now I’m just basically trying to enjoy my creativity without putting too much pressure on which bit can I monetize? Like which bit do I want to focus on? Because that can be quite debilitating, really, as a creative person. And I think you have to really be sensitive to understanding which parts of your creativity you just want to keep for yourself, like you said, drawing for you – it’s that calm time where it’s just a case of doing nothing and thinking nothing and just like enjoying yourself.
Kat: Yeah, exactly, and it takes the pressure off of it a little bit, at least at first to start exploring it and that’s something I find interesting about having another job. So I know obviously you are still a lawyer, but you’ve gone down to part-time hours, is that right? Or you’ve reduced your hours, I’d love to hear a bit more about how that has impacted your change, because again, I’ve done something similar. I reduced my hours at my day job, to kind of mainly to help my mental health, but also so that I could pursue Blue Jay of Happiness, my confidence mentoring business. So yeah, I’d love to hear how that has impacted you, reducing your hours to make more space for this.
Charlie: Yes. Interesting. Because time – there never feels like there’s enough time.
I think I’m already annoying my friends by saying, oh, there’s still not enough time, even though I’m part-time, it just feels like, but that is the kind of productivity myth that I’m trying to get over – that idea that, you know, time is finite and we need to work out how best to spend it. I think that, I’ve only been doing part-time for the last three or four months, so I’m still working it out. But the biggest thing that it’s done for me is give me breathing space to just focus on like, not using my creativity to get to a destination because as soon as I decided internally, oh, actually I think I’m quite a creative person, I would like to do something with it, I instantly thought, how am I gonna monetize it? How am I gonna get to the next stage? You know, all that sort of stuff. And I think quite a lot of people have that. It’s like that, I don’t know why – we live in a capitalist society, I think we’re taught as children to always want to know what the next stage is and how we can perform to our best and all that sort of stuff.
So at the moment, it’s basically giving me more time to try and work on those ways of thinking. And alongside that to try to just be authentically creative and test out exactly who I am as a creative, as opposed to when I was working full-time, I would be doing as much creative stuff I could on the weekend, sort of cramming it all in, but it would often be kind of mimicking other people because I didn’t have the space to just be bored almost, like just let myself be and just play around and be more childlike about it. So I think that’s probably the main thing, which is not a surprise, I guess I do have more time now.
Kat: Yeah, but that’s amazing though – it is the breathing space though isn’t it, it’s having that freedom to explore and what I love, and we’ve mentioned this, is that you have kind of brought your community along with you for the ride. And I’d love to know, was that an intentional thought you had at the beginning or was it something that just kind of came naturally to you?
Charlie: Oh, definitely not intentional. So people that have been around since I started my Instagram page in, when was it March last year? Will know that I have changed my mind on so many things, so many times, and that’s all part -ties into this idea that I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And, and it’s all just a process and as you said, you know, creative ideas will come to you all the time. You kind of have to work out which ones are right for you and which ones you can let go and so yeah, when I started out, it was all just by accident and then as I started to build this community of people who were in similar positions to me, I – the one sort of intentional thing that I have done that has been very clear is that I wanted to make sure that that community had a space to discuss issues that come up on our journeys.
Specifically things like limiting beliefs, so self-doubt, caricatures of what we’d expect artists to be like, so my assumption that I have to have an art degree to be an artist is not necessarily the case, but I always thought that so I’ve never even considered trying to be an artist… Dismantling those types of beliefs and having conversations about it so that people within the community know that they’re not alone in facing those things and those thoughts don’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you have to work out a way to sort of ease those thoughts so that you can then take action.
And the way in which I brought that community together was through the Creative’s Coffee Club, which is now my podcast, but we’ve gone through various iterations of what it is. It was an Instagram page at one point and I’ve landed on a podcast because that feels like the most authentic way to connect with people. It’s literally me just chatting about the ups and downs of my journey that week and occasionally I bring guests on and we talk about their non-linear creative journeys as well.
Kat: Absolutely and I think self-doubt and low confidence really thrives in isolation. It really thrives when you’re not talking to other people because you can just spiral downwards, so having that sense of community to talk about those things is such a great thing. And yeah, I love your podcast, I think that is where I found you actually, that’s where I came across you.
Charlie: Oh, really?
Kat: Yeah, I’m sure it was, I’m sure somebody shared it on Instagram and I was like, Ooh, that sounds like a podcast I’ll enjoy! I love it. Speaking of creativity, I know something that you and I both share a belief on is that anyone and everybody can be creative. So I’d love to hear if you have any tips for people to maybe tap into their creative side a little bit more.
Charlie: I love this question. I’m still figuring it out because there’s a surprising amount of resistance that can come up when you want to tap into your creativity… it’s almost a little bit scary because, I don’t know, you just feel like maybe it’ll be awful or something?
Kat: There’s a big fear of failure, I think. That’s what I felt when I first started drawing, I was just remembering back at school and I wasn’t very good at drawing, so I was like, oh, I wanna draw, but if I’m bad, then I’m not gonna enjoy it?! I don’t know, there’s a lot of fear around it, but as soon as you start and have play with it, it’s fun.
Charlie: Exactly and you realise nothing actually bad is gonna happen. Literally nothing bad is gonna happen and you might surprise yourself. So I think the main thing that I’ve done, and it was kind of by accident, is journaling. Do you journal?
Kat: Mm, yes I do. Yeah.
Charlie: Yeah, I’m big on journaling now. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of years, but it’s completely changed the way I think and my thinking habits are the things that historically have stopped me from doing things that I was scared of. And I personally think the things that we’re fearful of in life are things that probably will lead us down the path to growth. So journaling is a massive one and when I say journaling, I literally just mean writing your thoughts down on the page. And it took me a little while to learn how to do that because it feels really counterintuitive at the start just to kind of write what you’re thinking, it’s all kind of gobbledygook, but it’s very interesting how over time you can see patterns in what type of fears come up or even what things excite you.
And it kind of gives you a neutral view of those thoughts, which in your head actually just feel massively overwhelming and hold you back. So I think journaling is the number one. And in terms of resources for that, I absolutely love Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist Way. She talks about morning pages, but it’s a similar concept and she has a, I think it’s a three month program, that she takes you through in her book that very much focuses on writing your thoughts.
And the other one would probably be getting outside. I think when I first started painting, I kind of thought, okay, I’ve got to have all of the right paint brushes and all of the right pens, and everything’s got to be set up and I’ve got to have this lovely studio space, it’s all got to feel great – and don’t get me wrong, there’s so much benefit from that in the sense that it’s a lovely thing to do, It’s an act of self-care or whatever, but I think the biggest creative moments I’ve had have just been when I’ve whipped my sketchbook out in the park because I’ve seen something that sparked an idea. Um, and it’s not been pretty, it’s not been particularly beautiful on the first go, but I think carrying a sketchbook around with you for that exact reason is probably my other main piece of advice, because thoughts just pop into your head. Especially once you start exercising your creativity, it’s like a snowball, it just gets bigger and bigger and you’ll find that your ideas just start coming more frequently.
Kat: Yeah, that’s so true, as soon as you start, they just, they kind of overflow don’t they? I think journaling is a really good one, that’s the thing I’ve probably been doing since I was 13 – keeping some sort of written journal and yeah, that is like my anchor for the day – every evening before I go to bed, I just splurge out my thoughts about my day and it makes such a difference. And interestingly, what I’m leaning into a bit more now is art journaling. So actually adding in pictures and drawings and things like that and exploring a new way. So that’s really fun as well.
Charlie: That’s interesting – and I guess also, as a writer, that must be a really interesting relationship between your writing for yourself and writing for people as well.
Kat: Yeah, it really is. It’s one of those things that I can never get enough of, like if I need a good journaling session, sometimes I’ll leave it a few days and I won’t do anything – like I did recently – and then I sat down the other night and I wrote like pages and pages and pages to like catch with myself.
Charlie: You’re like, ‘I’ve got so much to say!’
Kat: Yeah! And I love the idea of having a sketchbook out as well, as you said, you can just… Making it messy and not putting pressure on it is such an important part of it, I think.
Charlie: Yeah and it’s so much easier said than done, like I had such a hang up of even just drawing something really simple in public until recently. But then this morning I was on the beach and I saw something that made me, it just gave me an idea for painting and I just drew it and it was so, so nice just to not care what anyone else was thinking. And the reality is no one is looking at you as much as you think they are.
Kat: That’s so true. I’ve done it once – I’ve taken my sketchbook to a park once and had a little draw, but I know what you mean, you do look around like, is anyone looking at me? But nobody cares, they’re all looking at the own things.
Charlie: No, they’re all eating their croissants!
Kat: Yes, exactly! But on that note, we’re talking about feeling confident in your work, and I know part of your mission is to really help people move beyond their comfort zones. So I’d love to hear a bit more about your experience of this and how you are managing the self-doubts that come up throughout your creative journey and yeah, finding your own sense of confidence in your work.
Charlie: Oh, it’s still happening. I think the biggest thing from speaking to a lot of different people through the Creative’s Coffee Club, but also just consuming a lot of research about different creatives, is that everyone has this sense of self-doubt. Like, it never goes away. So no matter how confident, successful or how many years people have under their belts, they still have those same thoughts. It’s just how they learn to deal with them. And I think the main thing that I’ve learned so far is that we can get very caught up in our heads and that’s completely understandable, it’s scary to try something new. But the biggest antidote to overthinking, at least for me, is to do so I have this phrase ‘doubt and do’ so, you know, doubt yourself and do it anyway… Within reason, obviously!
But the point is, that by taking small actions, you can reinforce to yourself and give yourself evidence that nothing bad is going to happen and that the fears that you have in your head may not come true and that you might find out that you are either better, more proficient, more supported than you thought you would be. Like when I first started, I had a real subconscious fear that if I decided to make my work public, and like this whole journey, that people I know in my real life, my friends and family, would not support me or would laugh at me or that I’d feel embarrassed about it. And that didn’t happen at all, not one person has ever made me feel like it’s odd or any of the things that I thought they would. And that’s lucky, you know, I’m grateful to my friends and family for that, but that’s also just testament that my thoughts were just irrational. Like it didn’t happen.
And as soon as I started sharing work online, not only did I realise that my fears weren’t true, but I was also getting all of these other positive reinforcements, like the community and seeing progress very slowly over time with my work. Another thing has been my style, obviously starting out as an artist, it takes a very long time to work out what your style is. And some artists have many different styles and that’s also okay, but in a world of social media where everyone’s telling you to niche down and find your style, it becomes very, it gets in your head and it got in my head. So I think just appreciating that these things take time as well is really important and that real life is not social media life of like posting once a day and it always being different and new.
Kat: Yeah, that’s so true and the idea of taking action is so important. I totally agree with that, and something I always encourage people to do is to try and capture that evidence in some way, whether it’s a screenshot or taking a picture of something so that you have this evidence bank to look back on and remind yourself, I am capable of this, I can do it so that they can do it again. And you did mention some ideas there, but I wondered if you had any tips for anyone who may be listening and doubting themselves at the moment, what little things could they do to try and start believing in themselves in their creative work a bit more?
Charlie: Oh, that’s a toughie! Because you’re right, you know what, as soon as you said, you inspire people to capture the moments – you’re right, because you forget so quickly. I think you really lose track of how much growth and how many things that you’ve done that you once doubted you could do. I think probably, I mean, we’ve gone through two of my big ones, which are one, community… So diving a bit deeper into that, I think there’s a lot to be said for community online and meeting new people and seeing their journeys and feeling encouraged by that. But I also think that there’s a lot to be said for being honest with people already in your lives with your family and friends and looking to them for support in a very direct and clear way.
Because they’re not mind readers, especially if you’re going through a big change or you’re feeling like you want to make a big change in your life, they may not know. So a big thing for me was talking to my parents about it, talking to my husband about it, and they have been like the cheerleaders, you know, whenever I post on Instagram, they’re there liking it first! It’s that sort of thing, which is small, but is quite important. And actually when I didn’t tell them and I didn’t confide in them, they didn’t have the opportunity to be my cheerleaders.
Kat: Yeah. That’s such a good point.
Charlie: So I think that’s a big one. Um, what else? Okay. Another, one’s more practical, I think probably utilising resources like Skillshare and YouTube. And yeah, I don’t know if this is really obvious, but I never knew Skillshare existed!
Kat: Oh, I love it! I think I discovered it in like 2020 when lockdown happened and I was like, oh, this is what I can do to fill my time. But it’s brilliant, so many great things on there, yeah.
Charlie: Yeah. It’s absolutely amazing, and there’s so many creatives on there as well who are doing very well, but are kind of just like normal people. They’re not celebrities or anything, so it’s very easy to see yourself in their position one day maybe, like it’s quite an inspiring thing to go on there and learn from them and be part of the community again. So I think that would be my other tip, don’t suffer in silence, try and find some people to help you along the way.
Kat: Yeah. And I think that’s the beauty in sharing your work as well, is not only – sharing your work, you can connect with other people, but you can then see your progress, especially if you share it on something like Instagram, where you can quite literally go through your grid and see what you were doing and what you’re doing now, it’s such a great place to have that.
Kat: So I’d love to know what hopes do you have for your creative journey in the future, if you have any at the moment or are you just exploring and having fun and seeing what happens?
Charlie: I do have quite a lot of them. I think my biggest challenge is – I like to say that I’m a multi-passionate. I think I am, I have a lot of different ideas and I have a lot of hopes and dreams, and I think one of the biggest challenges is working out actually, which ones of those I really want to focus on. And I think that rings true for a lot of people, especially creative people, because I guess we, yeah, as I mentioned, have loads of ideas, so which ones are the right ones? So at the moment I’m going through my experimentation phase, trying lots of different things, seeing how they fit for size, but ultimately I’d really like to be confident enough to sell my art and at the moment I’ve mentioned it a few times and people are being very supportive, but there’s something that’s still holding me back.
And I think that there’s a bit more work to do there with being confident in my style and my art. I also really want to build on the community around the Creative’s Coffee Club, because I think that, specifically, the idea of people having non-linear creative journeys, like having done something before and then turn to their creativity, it’s just something I’m very passionate about given it’s my life experience. So I’d like to create more space for people within that. I think maybe like group sessions – maybe even journaling sessions that we can weave in, things that are kind of building on more genuine community, because a podcast is brilliant for disseminating information and I do feel connected to the people that listen because they send me DMs and we chat, but it’s ultimately me broadcasting to them. And so I see a lot of value in creating a space where we all communicate on the same level with each other, like – I dunno what it’ll look like, but like a community group or something, maybe even Zooms where we just hop on and chat that kind of thing. I’d love to make that work at some point as well.
Kat: Oh, that sounds so exciting. That sounds amazing. Perfect. So before we go, can you just let everyone know where they can connect with you and find out more about your work online?
Charlie: Sure. Yes. So my handle on social media, on TikTok and Instagram is @imcharlieindia and my website which has links to everything that I do is www.imcharlieindia.com.
Kat: Perfect. Thank you so much.
Charlie: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me, Kat.
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