Interview: Genny Platon

I wanted to learn how Genny manages her time. She's a mother of three energetic daughters, a homeschooler, an active dancer, a cosplayer and a self-employed artist. Seriously, I see how much she gets done and I can't help thinking A) there is a lot to be learned from her and B) I never have an excuse not to get stuff done. She never claims it's easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

How would you describe what is it that you do?

In fancy terms, an endlessly learning alchemist. I take materials and turn it into something completely different than it's origin. I play with all kinds of materials at hand and transform them into something else.

In less than fancy terms, I make art. I sculpt, paint, sew costumes, and dance.

I also homeschool which has it's own fancy term of guiding self sufficient individuals and providing them with the tools and skill sets they need to start out.

It just sounds cooler with the fancy terms.

When you were five, what did you aspire to be? Why? And how has that impacted your career?

I remember being in between five and six years old. I was assigned to trailer off to the side of my elementary school. We were slightly cut off from the rest of the school. We would miss announcements and school wide meetings in the auditorium. It was the perfect environment to space out.

My seat was way in the back by the teacher because I "daydreamed too much" and "needed help focusing". Ironically I couldn't focus because I was actually severely nearsighted. It wasn't discovered until a year later that I needed glasses.

The art teacher would come by once or twice a week. One day he asked us what we wanted to be growing up. Practically everyone wanted to get out of the ghetto we lived at. They all wanted specific careers. I was the only one to say I wanted to be an artist. It was met with poor responses. He asked me why. I said "because there'll be doctors and lawyers. But we need artists." This always made sense to me but it wasn't until I graduated grade school that I was able to focus on art and begin creating.

Have you always done this for a living or did you transition from something else? What triggered your decision to make a change?

I happened to take an elective in college for sculpture. I was seated among advanced students in the same class. It was intimidating but a good challenge. I kept my head low, my nose clean, and constantly worked. I ended up winning first place at the annual exhibition that same semester. Being a beginner, it was both exciting and troubling. The attention was both negative and positive. I just learned to flow with it and keep to myself. I kept moving forward with it, starting my own business painting murals and sculpting.

What is the most challenging thing about practicing your craft? How do you deal with that challenge?

Self depreciation. It is almost a frequent occurrence among artists. Being humble can easily slip into self induced insults. Being proud of yourself can be interpreted as being egotistical. The internal dialogue is horrible. These are words that if a stranger walked up to me and said, it would be unacceptable and offensive. But if I say it to myself, it is crazy how much I'll allow it.

The thing is that there's a joy in creation. There a sense of adventure in the process. The screw ups have their lesson. Bob Ross it up and call them happy accidents.

Whenever I feel queasy around compliments or criticism, I realize that I need time to process before I make a self assessment. I make a polite response and let it marinate.

Do you still practice? If so, what do your practice sessions look like?

Homeschooling is an interesting challenge. Three young daughters, two of which are toddlers. All of which are fast paced gifted children. And all of them are very interested in engineering and science. So it's a different world for me. However, they love art so I can easily squeeze in an art session of some sort.

Working comes in with the seasons. I'll will be approached with commissions approximately four times a year. With sculpture, the process is in fact very long and may take a whole season to pass before completion. Painting, music boxes, and murals take two weeks total. The hours are often late at night when I can focus for several hours uninterrupted.

Where do you find inspiration?

The fun thing about being ADHD is that there is something always going on upstairs. Daydreaming is as frequent as blinking. There's very little that I find boring or uninteresting. However, the not so fun thing is that there isn't an off switch. So there is endless stacks of ideas and a need to focus on one at a time. Which I rarely do. I usually juggle several things at a time.

Where are you when you have the most a-ha moments?

Washing dishes. I am stuck in one place with no other distracting stimulation. This is where I start to realize many things and the pieces come together.

How do you define creativity?

Visual, audible, and complete sensory magic. It's the expression and act of communication that logic and strict definition cannot pinpoint.

What do you do to maintain a creative flow?

Integration. I need it to be seamless with daily life. I string together thoughts and put it all down before I get distracted and move on from it. There are a few times where I get completely in the dumps and can't create anything. I change things up, turn on some music I have never heard before, mess up my routines, and get moving.

How much do you rely on feedback from other to help shape your ideas?

If it's for a specific commission, I rely on their initial description. The brainstorming goes back and forth until we find our goal. The challenge is meeting or surpassing expectations. Often times feedback in the middle of a project can derail everything even if the intent is helpful. From my experience, the initial thoughts are the basis and foundation. The liberties of continual feedback can sometimes take it in way too many directions. It is absolutely welcome but it is used very sparsely in the overall effect of the project. Sculpture relies on phases of the materials and time during the process so changes in the middle can mess with the chemistry and solid composition. There have been some kiln blow ups and severe cracking in the foundation of pieces due to mid-project changes. Only well thought out and logistical feedback is useful for any work in progress for sculpture specifically. Feedback at completion is sort of an afterthought. When a sculpture is done, it's done. It's forged, it's fired, it's sealed up. Any thoughts or remarks can be applied to a future project.

Painting and dance however, that is definitely more flexible and feedback is almost essential. Sewing costumes, that's very tricky. It can be done. And it's amazing how much math there is in the process.

What is the greatest obstacle to creativity?

Quitting and giving up. Everything else are annoying challenges.

When you complete a project, how often does it resemble your initial concept or conceived idea? How important is this for you?

When I first started out, projects would evolve. It was new and exciting and a journey. I miss that. These days, I hit the goals on the mark that is set and walk away done. The difference is, I used to obsess and rework everything so much it would change. Now I know I have to just walk away and be at peace with it. I plan my moves and methods ahead and just go for it. Both are equally satisfying when it evolves and when it achieves the goal.

How do you know when you’re done?

You can never be done and never have it perfect. But you can let it be that snapshot of that moment in time. I have noticed artists pick different moments.

The practice of creating. When it is raw and sketchy. There's freedom of strokes and beautiful chaos.

There's also the moment in and of creating. It's a few steps ahead of a sketch but not to the point of complete realism. There's an air of fantasy and illusion that still exists.

Then there's the realization. It's the closest one can get to depicting real life. It becomes so real it becomes documentation.  

How do you resolve creative differences with clients or creative partners?

Adapting, respect, and maintaining a stable footing. The middle ground between being stubborn and a pushover. There's a saying that we have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we talk. Clear communication is key.

What keeps you motivated even if you don’t connect personally with the project?

Finding a way to connect with the project. I am stubborn. I have to push through when I agree to completing anything.

What do you do when you are stuck and have some sort of deadline or other pressure?

Lock myself in a room so I can swear, scream, and run in circles. Once that's done I can focus and finish. It's an adult tantrum but productive. Or immature maturity. It gets things moving either way.

How do you achieve your creative vision with a limited budget?

I live by a limited budget. I don't think I would know what to do if someone gave me a large space with all the goodies I could ever play with. (I do know but the shock would delay productivity for a while). Seriously, a limited budget and limited supplies promotes some very creative thinking. If Jim Henson can create Kermit from his mom's discarded coat, there's hope for those of us with limited budgets and supplies.

What are the top 3 tools in your creative tool kit? ie. software, pencil, paper, journal etc.

A needle point sculpting tool. String. And scotch tape. It's very MacGuyver and it's highly effective for most anything.  

What are the top 3 creative habits that have proven to be the most useful for you in your career?

I like to break habits to stay interested in what I am doing. But I do have some steadfast rituals.

I like to clean all my tools. It helps me get a clean start on something new. It also allows me to leave the last project behind.

Making an appropriate playlist. For some reason that specific playlist always fits for that specific work and mood. I can't reuse certain songs for that reason. But it maintains a specific atmosphere.

Walking away from a piece for a little bit but committing to return with a fresh point of view. I tend to fixate on something that doesn't need reworking so I have to break away every so often.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to a budding professional, what would it be?

The difference between failing and quitting is that only one of two paths will eventually end in success.

Visit Genny's website.