Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life

Joanne Robinson – from armed forces to art classes

April 29, 2024 Claire Waite Brown/Joanne Robinson Episode 99
Joanne Robinson – from armed forces to art classes
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
More Info
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
Joanne Robinson – from armed forces to art classes
Apr 29, 2024 Episode 99
Claire Waite Brown/Joanne Robinson

Growing up, Joanne Robinson was creatively encouraged in primary school and loved to draw for hours at home. However, her passion for art was dampened when she entered secondary school and was told by an art teacher that she wasn't very good. This negative feedback led Joanne to believe that she didn't have a talent for art, and she abandoned her artistic pursuits.
Joanne joined the Royal Air Force and years later, while recuperating with a broken back, learned to paint and rediscovered her love for art.
Joanne learnt that drawing and painting can be taught, and the importance of practice. Just like musicians are encouraged to practice regularly to improve their craft, artists also need to dedicate time and effort to honing their skills.
Joanne's initial motivation to start The Little Art School stemmed from her own experience of how drawing and painting changed her life. She wanted to provide the same opportunity for others who may have doubted their abilities. By offering structured classes for both children and adults, Joanne and her business partner Melissa created a space where individuals could learn and grow at their own pace.

The Little Art School at creativityfound.co.uk
CreativityFound.co.uk

Instagram: @creativityfoundpodcast
Facebook: @creativityfoundpodcast and Creativity Found group
YouTube @creativityfoundpodcast
Pinterest: @creativityfound
Twitter: @creativityfoun

Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet

Click here to book a 1-to-1 online chat with me to understand more about the Creativity Found Collective, the promotional and networking membership for creative small businesses.

STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.

Ranked in the top 5% of podcasts globally and winner of the 2022 Communicator Award...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Podcast recorded with Riverside and hosted by Buzzsprout
Subscribe to the Creativity Found mailing list here
Join the Creativity Found Collective here

Creativity Found listener support
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Growing up, Joanne Robinson was creatively encouraged in primary school and loved to draw for hours at home. However, her passion for art was dampened when she entered secondary school and was told by an art teacher that she wasn't very good. This negative feedback led Joanne to believe that she didn't have a talent for art, and she abandoned her artistic pursuits.
Joanne joined the Royal Air Force and years later, while recuperating with a broken back, learned to paint and rediscovered her love for art.
Joanne learnt that drawing and painting can be taught, and the importance of practice. Just like musicians are encouraged to practice regularly to improve their craft, artists also need to dedicate time and effort to honing their skills.
Joanne's initial motivation to start The Little Art School stemmed from her own experience of how drawing and painting changed her life. She wanted to provide the same opportunity for others who may have doubted their abilities. By offering structured classes for both children and adults, Joanne and her business partner Melissa created a space where individuals could learn and grow at their own pace.

The Little Art School at creativityfound.co.uk
CreativityFound.co.uk

Instagram: @creativityfoundpodcast
Facebook: @creativityfoundpodcast and Creativity Found group
YouTube @creativityfoundpodcast
Pinterest: @creativityfound
Twitter: @creativityfoun

Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet

Click here to book a 1-to-1 online chat with me to understand more about the Creativity Found Collective, the promotional and networking membership for creative small businesses.

STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.

Ranked in the top 5% of podcasts globally and winner of the 2022 Communicator Award...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Podcast recorded with Riverside and hosted by Buzzsprout
Subscribe to the Creativity Found mailing list here
Join the Creativity Found Collective here

My guest for this episode is a member of the Creativity Found Collective, a promotional and networking membership for artists and crafters who share their creative skills with grown-ups through workshops, online courses, products and kits. There's a link to their page at creativityfound.co.uk. And if you too would like to join us, visit creativityfound.co.uk slash Having been really encouraged in primary school and loving to draw, that was what I did for hours at home. Got into secondary school, had an art teacher who said I wasn't very good, and I thought, oh well, that's that then. I was just constantly in trouble for insubordination. I really, really was. But it was during my time in the armed forces that I did learn to paint. And then a group of parents actually came to me and said, the kids are loving it. There's dance classes. There's acting classes. There's football classes. There's no art class. Will you do an art class? And I said, absolutely no way. I've got four kids. I've got four kids under 11. I haven't been to the toilet on my own for five years. I cannot possibly start an art class. But I did anyway. Because of how I learned to draw and paint, I've always wanted to have drawing and painting for those who think they can't, because it changed my life and it has brought me Hi, I'm Claire, founder of Creativity Found, a community for creative learners and educators, connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so with workshops, courses, online events and kits. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or re-found their creativity as adults. We'll explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love, and consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits, and how their creative lives, in which they're practical, necessary everyday lives. For this episode, I'm chatting with Joanne Robinson, who has the armed forces and a broken back to thank for her return to drawing and painting. And her realisation that you can be taught how to draw is the inspiration behind the online drawing and painting course for adults that she runs as just one aspect of the Little Art School. Hi, Joanne, how are Hi, Claire, I'm very well, thank you. Thank you for inviting me You're very welcome. Tell me first about the There's this myth that you're either born able to draw and paint or not. And the Little Art School's whole basic tenet is that anyone can learn this. It is a taught skill. And not only can they learn it, but it makes you feel amazing. It builds your self-esteem and it brings the most incredible joy. That's it in a nutshell. We can teach anyone from age five to 105. And we have students who are five and we have students Not 105 yet, but we have got students in their late 90s. And we've been going for 10 years. We've just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and we've taught thousands and thousands of people how to draw and paint. And it's brought enormous joy to them. And I'm a passionate believer in it. And as well as the Little Art School, which is a business where we teach children in studios, we teach adults online. We also have two charities, one where we teach people living with dementia. It's called the Dementia Arts Trust. We use drawing and painting. It's very much about what you can do still. A dementia diagnosis often comes with, you can't do this, you can't do this. It's about, well, you can draw and paint and it's magic what we do with Dementia Arts Trust. And we also have a charity called the Little Art Stars where we use specifically drawing and painting. It's a very structured course. We teach children who are struggling with trauma, often loss, grief, and we use that therapeutic nature of art to really build their self-esteem. We also work in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation, and we use art for that. So that's in a nutshell what we do, what we've been doing for 10 years. It's In a nutshell, but there's a lot to it. Well done. It's wonderful to hear about the various different ways that you can take what you can teach to benefit so many different people. What about you? Were you creatively encouraged Well, I really loved drawing when I was little and I think a lot of children do love drawing, you know, when they're very small. I did an amazing experiment at the start of the little art school where I went around primary schools and I asked children in P1 in Scotland, which is reception year, do you love to draw and paint? And 100% of children put their hand up. And by the time it got to P7, so I don't know what that is in England, but it's the equivalent of the final year of primary school, about 30% of children liked it and hardly any of them thought they could do it. Whereas when you ask a five-year-old, can you do it? Are you good at it? They'll go, yeah, I'm really good. Look. And for me as a child, that's kind of summed it up. I loved it. I don't think I was brilliant. I just remember getting older and looking across, there's a boy in my class, Martin Wall, and he was really, really good. And mine looked really simple next to this kind of beautiful shading that he was doing. And it was that sort of start of, oh, I'm obviously not very good at this. And then Having been really encouraged in primary school and loving to draw, that was what I did for hours at home. Got into secondary school, had an art teacher who said I wasn't very good and I thought, oh, well, that's that then. To me now, doing what we have done over the last 10 years, I just find it appalling that anybody is ever told that. But you wouldn't tell a child who's struggling with the violin, yeah, no, you can't do that. You just say you've not learned it yet. And for me, it kind of just disappeared. It And the violin thing is an interesting comparison because Absolutely. Musicians are always told they need to practice. And yet, there is this myth that with drawing and painting, you've either got it or you've not. So everything we do at the Little Art School is about practice. I say it all the time, practice, practice, practice. And it's been fascinating for me over the last 10 years, as I've developed the Little Art School course and methodology, and as my business partner, Melissa, has built the business, as we've done this, I've watched my children learn musical instruments. I've got four kids and the ones who practice a lot are really good. And the ones who don't practice ever, and you're saying as their music teachers and piano teachers coming up the drive, have you done anything this week? They're the ones who don't progress. I mean, it's a correlation. It's scientifically proved. There's been study after study after study done about it, which students progress most at music college. And it's the ones who practice the most and the ones who practice the least don't progress as much. I think drawing and painting is the same. And actually, if you paint every day, you will get to be really very good. And we've proved that. We have categorically proved that over the last 10 years. And I have the same experiences with dance, because you can keep doing it over and over and over again, say it's a choreographed routine, and it does get into the muscle memory. Yeah. So that it comes much more naturally. And I even practice in my head sometimes as well. And that really helps just running through a routine in my head. It's as if it's happening with my body. Anyway, I digress. Sorry. No, because I think that's really interesting, Claire, because when you're drawing, it is muscle memory. For example, drawing a line, people are always saying to me, oh, I can't even draw a line. And I say, well, have you practiced drawing a line? Because I wasn't very good at drawing lines. So every morning for five minutes, For about a year, I practiced drawing lines. So now I don't need a ruler. I couldn't at first, but it was muscle memory. So now when I draw, my hand knows where I want to go because I've trained them in the same way that a dancer would because it's physical. Holding a brush, holding a pencil is physical, but nobody teaches people this. Primary school teachers are taught in their primary school training. I think they spent an hour being taught art skills and yet every single day they're expected to draw with small children, but nobody teaches them how to do it. It's one of my next plans. I have been into primary schools and taught teachers. Please, please encourage a growth mindset in all your children. If they can't draw, just keep saying, oh, well, you just can't do it yet. Not, I can't draw. Yeah, completely agree. It's something we hear a lot from guests about the whole school experience. And speaking of that, when you then started to lose your confidence in your art and your furthering your academic career, what did you do I was always quite academic and bookish, so I love reading. I studied history at Oxford University, which was an amazing place to study and really surrounded by art. And as I progressed through the course, I found myself going more and more to art history and ended up studying a lot in the Ashmolean library and the museum, which I just loved. So I specialized in 14th century fresco painting, which I still adore. Mine and my husband's honeymoon 23 years ago, we were in Florence and on about day three, I went, no more frescoes. No more frescoes, Joanne. Yeah, so educationally, that's the route that I went down and art was definitely there. But then I took a massive side swipe and veered completely away from it. And I joined the Royal Air Force and became an intelligence officer. And why that choice? Was it a choice as such? Was No, not at all. It was one of those things where I look back now and I have literally no idea. I mean, partly in all seriousness, I was ridiculously idealistic. And I genuinely believed that I would probably single-handedly solve the Bosnian crisis. Obviously, I did nothing remotely useful during my time in the Air Force. And I definitely didn't solve the Bosnian crisis. But I was an idealist and I wanted to make a difference. And I think I was probably just a bit of a moron, to be honest, in my early 20s. But I did grow up. I did grow up eventually. I'm sure you made some kind of difference. I really, genuinely, absolutely didn't. And how long were you there? I was in for six years, which was probably six years too many, to be honest. But I met my husband, so it's not all bad. And I made some very, very dear friends. So I'm a huge fan of the armed forces, obviously, but it's not for everybody. And it definitely wasn't for me. I'm not sure it's a great place Yeah, I don't know how much you want to tell me from that point of view, but do you mean stressful? Do you mean regimen? What And creative people often want to go in their own direction, in their own route. And I think what you really need as a creative is freedom and time. And the last thing that you're going to have in a highly structured environment like the armed forces is freedom. It's a safety critical industry where you've got to follow set rules. And I'm not sure creatives respond that well to rules. I don't anyway. If I see a notice saying don't stand on the grass, I immediately jump on the grass. I can't help myself. I was just constantly in trouble for insubordination. I really, really was. But it was during my time in the armed forces that I did learn to paint. So I came back to drawing and painting through the armed forces because I actually broke my back, not doing anything remotely heroic, but I broke my back and I was signed off work and I saw a sign in a shop from the village hall near where I was based. And it said, drawing and painting for those who think they can't. I thought, oh, that's me. And I've got loads of free time because I'm not allowed to work. Went in, I was pregnant as well at the time with my first child. Started these classes, five classes in. I remember thinking it was like a light bulb, literally, bing, bing, bing. Oh my God, you can learn how to do this. Anyone can learn how to do this. It's a taught skill. I can learn the piano, I can learn a language, I can learn to draw and paint. And that's where it began. So it was 22 years ago. Were you pregnant with a broken back? Yeah, I'd broken my back and I was in recovery. I was actually at Headley Court, which is a residential place where I was getting my back first when I found out that I was pregnant. And at the time was told, you know, by the time you get to full pregnancy, you may not be walking. But actually, I did yoga every day, wonderful yoga. And I was fine. It was fine. It wasn't a serious, you know, I wasn't in a back brace or anything like this. I basically broke, it was my sacrum and my coccyx and all that area. But drawing and painting just became an escape, a joyful, lovely escape with no idea that it was going to become my career. I mean, it really was just to have fun. That was all I was Yeah. So you have the baby, but then left the Air Force. Did you Yeah, I did. I did a master's. When I had my second baby, when the two girls were both under two, I started a master's in museum and gallery studies. So I was kind of going already heading back into this world, which I knew I loved, where I felt very comfortable in galleries and in museums. And I did that master's at Southampton University. had a wonderful time. And it really sort of was the start of something new. And then I accidentally fell into journalism and began writing for magazines, kind of top end baby magazines. And from that, I got probably one of my cushiest jobs, which was doing hotel reviews for five star hotels, taking my small children to it. So my girls became really accustomed to like, you know, Oh, I'm not sure this is five stars, mommy. Whereas I've always been on holiday in a tent. They were doing their five-star hotels. Neither of them can remember it. They're really cross, but we stayed in some lovely, lovely places. And I did that for a few years, but painting all the time, trying to improve my skills. Really fascinated by how you can improve your skills. Because I'm quite spoddy and swattish, I just always had notebooks. So every time I did a drawing, I'm such a firm believer in being a reflective practitioner. So I'd do a drawing and immediately I'd write, if I were to do this again, I'd do this, this and this, or a wash didn't work. And rather than thinking, now I'll just chuck it, I would go, why didn't that wash work? Well, what if I tried this or tried this or tried this? I mean, I must have about 20 files of notes where, and I really, really wasn't a great painter or artist. Definitely nowhere near the best in my little class that I started with. In other classes, I went to lots and lots of people who are much better than me, but I was quite fascinated by the process of learning to draw and paint. I'd have these moments where I'd go, oh, why did no one tell me that? If I'd known that 10 years ago, it would have completely changed. That's what our course is based on. Our course is based on this idea of that it's really structured. Look for shapes, look for tones, Think about color theory. How does perspective work? What's the science behind composition? How do you draw a face? How do you draw a nose? It's not a triangle. It's actually a series of balls in the face. All this stuff that was so interesting and fascinating. That's what I was collating at the same time as I was doing other jobs. And eventually, about 10 years after that first class, I sold my first painting, much to my surprise, I have to say. And then I started putting a few things in galleries and taking commissions. And I still felt, and I still feel, I've got so, so, so much to learn. I hope in 30 years time, when I hit 80, whatever, I hope I'm still thinking, oh, a little bit more. Michelangelo said in his 80s, I am still learning. And I've always found that so inspiring. One of the greatest artists in the world ever, every decade learning more, progressing, changing the way that he painted. To me, creativity isn't about sitting there waiting for something to happen. It's work. That's my other favorite quote. Picasso said, inspiration has to find you working. So, when I've got artists who've been with me and they've learned to paint and go, oh, I'm just not feeling inspired. It's like, well, get to your studio. I'm really strict, quite bossy. Get to your studio, start painting at eight o'clock in the morning. If by 11 o'clock, you've not had any inspiration, keep drawing, go and get a cup of coffee, come back, keep drawing. It's not going to strike you when you're just sitting there. You have to work. And I think that's another part of creativity that's really misunderstood, that it's like these blasts from above. It's not. It's graft, and it's application, and it's ability to fail, fail, fail, fail, and then to succeed. That's my mantra, Claire. Does that sound very bossy? Yes, it does, Joanne. Yes. No, it's very sensible. And going back to where you were making the notes on things that weren't working on your own practice, as people who have listened to the show before will know, I edit illustrated nonfiction books and art subjects and painting subjects come up a lot. And writing notes is always advised in those books. and keeping them and keeping sketches and sketches and sketches with stuff on. The same with the drawing. I mean, writers don't think twice about going, right, I'm just going to write something. I'm not in the right place, so I'll just do some free writing. That's what you're talking about here with the sketching. You mentioned actually selling work. How did that come about? Did you have the confidence to go I think I was in a Framer and the Framer had said, oh, I think that's really saleable. It was a series of paintings I did around Japan because I'd lived in Japan briefly. And so, they went into the gallery and I thought, oh, that's interesting. I wonder how that works. I'm quite curious and not really that afraid of someone saying no to me. It's something I'm trying to teach my artists now, many of whom have completely surpassed me with their skills, which is what I want. But just don't have the confidence to go into a gallery and say, this is my work. Would you be interested in selling it? And I just did that. someone said yes and someone said no and then someone else said yes. And then I thought, oh, I'll set up a website. So I set up a website and people started coming to me with photographs of often children or landscapes that meant something to them and I was starting to sell commissioned work. It's very hard for, and I'm sure there'll be lots of people in your community, Claire, it's very hard to price work and it's really hard to value it. And I'm sure that's something that comes up time and time and time again. And one of the things I'm saying to my artists is, don't think this took me two hours. Think of the 10 years it's taken you to learn how to do it. Value your skill. It upsets me that we will pay for our walls to be painted and we'll pay more for that than for an artist who's spent many, many years developing these skills. We ran our first ever art exhibition last month to celebrate 10 years of the Little Art School. We sold most of the work. We had a few professionals, but most of the work was our artists selling their work for the first time. And for several of them, I could have sold those paintings 10 times over for 10 times the estimate they'd given me. Because I was watching people every day come in and their emotional reaction to this work. One artist in particular, actually, whose work is absolutely breathtaking. She started learning with us as a very busy GP and parent, went through six years of our course, and is now painting and selling her work. It is just a constant fight with me going, no, a bit more than that, I think. Add another £100. But you must come across this all the time, Claire, creatives who really undervalue their skill and Yeah, definitely. I was at a fair the other day and chatting to the lady that was next to me on my table and she had put up, make me an offer and myself and the other table next to me at these stalls and she was kind of going in low and we were going, no, you could charge this for this, you could charge this for this, going up and up and up. And the next time she went to that fair, she did have her prices and I liked her prices. But yeah, it is, it's something, as you say, in the community that comes up a lot. People being wary of how much to charge and the same as you said, from the viewer's point of view, they're seeing an object, a finished item, and they're not seeing everything that's gone before that, which as well as practice and learning and skill is experience as well, is life experience and what that puts into your interpretation. So tell me then about why and how you started the Little Art School. I'm also keen because you've been mentioning about My Artist, so it obviously carries on with the older people as well. I Yeah, it all came about by accident really. One of my daughters had changed schools and she'd ask me would I go in and teach the children. This was my oldest daughter. who'd come with me as a little baby in the baby carrier to my first art class. So I went in and I did an art class and it was one of those moments where I was teaching them from using the Betty Edwards techniques of drawing on the right side of the brain. And there's a Betty Edwards drawing, which is an upside down drawing. And it's quite a complex drawing, actually. But what I was saying to the kids was, shapes. Don't think it's a knee. It's a hat. Look at the shape. Look at the size of the shape and how it fits next to the shape. So you're not thinking that this is a portrait. All you're thinking of is shapes. So they did this drawing, and then they turned them the right way around. And the teacher had said to me, you have to come and look at this. And there was a little boy there. He was 10 years old. She said, he can't draw. I said, well, I think we can both look at this. It was a Picasso drawing of Stravinsky, line drawing. It was like a photocopy of the original. The hair was standing up on my arm. I said, well, he can clearly draw. She said, no, and she showed me his book and they're stick men and they weren't even very good stick men. I said, well, look, If you teach him, he can draw. If you teach these kids, she said, well, will you come back? So I came back two or three times. And then a group of parents actually came to me and says, the kids are loving it. There's dance classes, there's acting classes, there's football classes, there's no art class. Will you do an art class? And I said, absolutely no way. I've got four kids. Four I've got four kids under 11. I haven't been to the toilet on my own for five years. I cannot possibly start an art class, but I did anyway. And we ran it that summer in my dining room and my then three-year-old and six-year-old were all running around. It was slight chaos. It was great. And three weeks later, I took on a small studio and started the little art school. It's really grown now. So, we've got over 20 people in our team. We've got the charities. We've got a trade organization. We've won a lot of awards and done different things. But for me, the reason behind all that is that I have a business partner. So, I'm very aware of what I'm not good at. I don't have business experience. I've never even worked in a business. pretty much right at the beginning, like literally in the first week, I was incredibly fortunate to have my business partner come alongside Melissa Haddo and she has 25 years corporate experience. So she brought processes, structure, HR, financial planning. At the same time as I've kind of created the art of the business, the structured course, I've had the freedom to do that because Melissa's created the business. She's created a solid, sound, sustainable business. So it was very much about two women bringing two different skill sets to grow an organization and that's what we've done. So we're equal partners, we co-own the company and it's been an amazing, challenging, difficult experience, but I wouldn't have done it with anyone else. We work very, very well together. We're very different, but we work really well together. We're really proud of what we've built and the lives that we're touching. There'll be a different story every week that leaves us pretty much in tears because art touches people. The Dementia Charity and the Children's Charity have really achieved things so far beyond our imaginings, actually. It's been really It's just been a privilege. And how did you, you're talking about children there, but how did you come to start the adult programme That's been a real journey, without doubt. That sounds about X factor, doesn't it? But it has. There's no other way to describe it. Because of how I learned to draw and paint, I've always wanted to have drawing and painting for those who think they can't. because it changed my life and it has brought me so much. I had a massive imposter syndrome of, I don't think I'm good enough to do this. It's one thing teaching five-year-olds to draw a mouse. It's very different teaching adults. So we started in the studios doing evening classes and day classes. And we've actually had people who went all the way through because it's very structured. It's six levels, which if you do a level a year, it's six years, which is how we teach it in the studios. So we had people going through that of different ages. Some retired. We had one lady who started at 76. She's 84 now. She paints every day. couldn't draw at all at the start and now paints complex, often flowers, but she also does portraits in oil. We took her through that journey. Other people as well, people who haven't drawn since school, people who have my experience of being told in our class they couldn't, so many medics because they all have to drop the creative subjects in order to focus on the science at a very young age. So lots and lots of medics. So we did it in our studios. What we found was with our children's classes, If money was tight or time was tight, but that was the thing the kids loved, parents will do anything to ensure that the children come to their class. But with adults, if money's tight, the first thing they'll do is give up their hobby, particularly women. If time's tight, the first thing they'll do is sacrifice the thing that is bringing them joy, but not driving anything else for the rest of their network, their group, their family. So it was difficult really to run the adult classes because people would drop out for a term, but our course is structured. You need to be there. You can't miss composition out and then go straight into the analogous color theory because you need to learn the composition bit as well. Then the pandemic came. We were on the point of franchising the little art school two weeks before the pandemic struck. Melissa and I were with our lawyers, having our picture taken in our lawyer's studio and our income stream stopped overnight because it was all class-based. So Melissa and I on the telephone, Melissa said to me, well, what can we do to keep building self-esteem whilst everybody's in lockdown? How can we do it? So I said, well, what about a YouTube channel and we'll do free art lessons on YouTube? So she went, go for it. And I put the phone down and thought, Right. I don't know where to start. So I've got four kids. I asked the kids, they showed me what to do. And the next day we had a YouTube channel launched. And I think at the last count, we've had 350,000 views across the world on our YouTube channel. And the reaction to it was incredible. We'd done it for families and children. actually loads and loads and loads of adults were doing the daily draw as well. And then we started doing a daily draw on a Thursday. My daughter actually taught it, but we did it for like an intergenerational one, draw with the grandparents. There was a family in Scotland who were drawing it at the same time as grandparents in Germany and they were videoing themselves and chatting whilst they were doing the daily draw. So it was to bring families together. Then I started getting messages from people saying, I didn't know you could learn to draw. Why is there no online course doing this? They said, well, there's loads of stuff online. And they said, but your stuff's not online. We can do these single lessons, but what about your structured course that you teach? So by September In that first year of the pandemic, we launched an online course which came with all the materials you need to learn to draw and paint. We've got artists all over the UK and beyond. We have a Q&A, live Q&A with people coming in from all over every month. We've built a community on Facebook. It's been an absolute joy, I have to say. The online course, which we would have never, ever done without the pandemic, has transformed our business. We're still launching the franchise. We launched the franchise next year, and that will be the children's classes. But the actual online course stays as it is, and it's an arm of the business that we're really growing. We're growing it quite quickly. Drawing and painting, where on your own or in a group, is just can be frustrating, but on the whole, it feeds your soul. And that's what we're trying to do with That's brilliant. It's so lovely that you can share that with so many other adults, which is obviously something that we try to encourage here at Creativity Found, whether it be through the inspiration of our guests on the podcast to then going on to actually, okay, here you go. Here's something you can do to give it a go. You know, you heard what the guest's experience was, now you give it a try. You obviously, as you said, get great joy and lovely social aspect from the business Yeah, I do. I went through a period when I was really intensively painting for the Daily Draw, where literally every day I was coming up with another painting and then starting the online course. Because again, a lot of imposter syndrome to overcome there of thinking, what if somebody watches this and says I'm not very good with the little art school because the teachers teach the course we've created? You know, there's places to hide. There's nowhere to hide if it's just your hand. showing how to paint a hopper or a remoi. So I did definitely, it all tailed off for me doing my own, following my own creative practice during that time. I also felt a bit too exhausted. I did say to my best friend, I'm creatively exhausted. And she said, that's so poncy. Can't believe you actually just said that. But I think I just was a bit, to be honest. So now, I'm kind of, Melissa and I have worked out more of a realistic timetable. I'm really unrealistic. I'm like, oh, it'll only take 10 minutes, and it takes five hours. So a realistic timeline, which means I'd feel less pressure to pour out these lessons, and I'm painting a lot for myself now, which is lovely. Because I grow, I garden, and I get huge amount of pleasure from gardening. So, I'm now really sort of growing flowers to paint flowers. So, even as I'm growing, you know, and growing and working out how's that going to look with the vase, I can see that that colour or shape or form is going to create a beautiful painting. So, that's all coming together for me. And I find gardening very creative and That is all very inspiring. Do you now therefore Surviving the pandemic for the business and the charities. was an enormous challenge. All business, forward faces businesses like ours had to go through this. And I think we pivoted, we didn't just survive, we thrived. We built the most amazing team of people. And this team of people are really growing with us, very much developing the skills of these incredible individuals. as we grow the business together. So really the next few years for us is about franchising our children's classes. The aim is to have the little art schools right across the UK. So that's one of our main sort of growth areas. But the second one is the online course. I am two thirds of the way through filming that now. It's going to take me another two years to film the last 60 lessons. So I'm quite focused on that completion of the online course. The actual online course itself has been like the effects on people, the stories that were told are such that we've done very soft marketing. We have not gone out and marketed this. It's been very much word of mouth, partly because it was just a sense of let's get it finished. And then we go, but I want to take this and really fly with it. So at the same time as the arts schools are opening across the UK, I want the online course to be touching people. So just last week, somebody told me about how the course had helped them so much through the last two months since their partner had died because you can lose yourself in drawing and painting. We've had people who've used the course as end of life care, which has been so moving, such a privilege to have been part of somebody's final weeks where they've just painted every day because it's given them something to give to people as something tangible to leave, but also to just fill yourself with art. They're like the most sort of extreme end of the case, but just people who are struggling with depression, people who are feeling lonely, or people who've just never painted since they left school and want to start. And then they start and they think, oh my God, I love this. And I'm actually really quite good. So there are two business elements that will be growing over the next five to 10 years. With our charities, the Dementia Arts Trust at the moment is purely here on the West Coast of Scotland, but we've just released a pack that you can follow, Dementia Friendly Art Pack. means that we can reach people further out. And we really do want to be reaching people across the UK with our dementia project. So it's about starting to roll that out. We've worked with St. Andrews University in the past to validate our dementia course. And we also won quite a major award about innovation in continuing care for Alzheimer's. the research for non-pharmacological approaches to dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's. This is growing. You know, dance is one of them, Claire, but dance, drama, language learning. There isn't a pill. You can't take a pill when you've got dementia to make it better. But if you could put what we did in pill form, we'd be billionaires. We had a session just a few weeks ago with a lady who began to draw a cake. It was the lesson we were doing. It was a tiered wedding cake, a celebration cake. What she did was she drew a doll at the top, a doll's face. and then sat back and began to cry. And she said, I've remembered my girls. When my daughters were little, we drew dollies all the time. And she began to draw dollies all around her cake and write, I love you all around. And the memories from this act of drawing began to pour out of her. We went to the beach. We had picnics on the beach and the tears were all crying at this point. Everybody was crying. And as she left, she clasped Esther, who runs the charity, she clasped her hands and said, you gave me my daughters back today. This was the best day. Now that's what art can do. This non-pharmacological approach, society is so dependent on drugs to make things better. Drugs don't have all the answers. There's lots of things and art isn't the answer to everything, but it can be part of the answer to many things. Our children's charity, initially we started doing it with working with young carers and then scholarships. headteachers would send children into our classes so that we could help build their confidence. And then I went to one school and I said to the headteacher, do you have, you know, I've got two scholarship places. She said, I've got 200 people I could send you, Joanne, 200 kids that would benefit from this. but the area that the school was in, nobody's going to bring them down on a Saturday morning. They're not going to turn up at 5.30 at your studio to pick them up on a Monday night. So if you can bring it to us, we'll do it. So I went back to Melissa going, how are we going to do this? And Melissa and I came up with taking it in a suitcase and we went into the classroom and the children come to us in the classroom. So it's that, it evolves. Melissa and I describe it as organic evolution of the business or making Yeah, but you're presented with a need and then you creatively work out how you can meet that need and Yeah, we do. Melissa is also very much about the sustainability element of it, not just environmentally. We're very, very keen to make everything we do as environmentally sustainable as possible. But for example, if we take a child onto a scholarship, they could be with us for 10 to 12 years. So we need to make sure that we've got enough money that we can take them through this journey. We can't tell them, age 13, when they've been with us since they were five, sorry love, that's it, it's over for you. And that's, you know, so much of the business and charity planning that Melissa does, is to ensure that there's a longevity to what we do. I wonder how and you may already have thoughts on this, how we can break the barrier bit. You're talking about primary school and young children, and then getting to a point, whether it be as your story was, or anybody else's story, that that then stops. And then over here, I'm moving my hands around, listening really helpfully for audio. over here when you're grown up and then you go back to it. But what can be done in the middle to bridge, to continue for people to still feel they One of the elements I love about our online courses, because of the community we've built, I feel like we're all learning from each other all the time. One of the students is a very experienced primary school teacher. I knew about growth mindset, but she's shown me books to read. She's really educated me on that. That's the way forward, that it's such a simple concept that can apply to any area of your life. Not, I can't do it, but I can't do it yet. It's very frightening watching what's happening in education, as a parent and an artist, to watch creativity be pushed further and further and further down on a list of priorities. It makes me so, so angry because, A, We need creativity and we need the arts for our mental health. But B, it's just economically so blind when some of the most fastest growing areas of the economy are in the creative sector. So film in the UK is one of the biggest growing industries. It's a multi-billion pound industry. And yet we're saying to kids, oh, well, you're not going to make any money doing that, are you? We've got children who've left the little art school who are going into different fields. So they've been with us for years. One's training now to do graphic magazines. Another one's gone into gaming. Another one is film and costume design. These are growing sectors. And it's almost like as though there's a government fixation on STEM. which is really to the detriment of the creative arts. And I think it's Those roles with tech are growing exponentially. The young people are doing things that, you know, jobs that didn't exist when we were in school. But the curriculum is still the same, even though everything is moving so much faster. I hear some lovely stories of people working in like creating whole other worlds, which I find fascinating. And for that, you need creative minds and you need the tech associated with it and you need to be encouraging that. So yeah, completely agree. And having an education system that's based on a growth mindset that cherishes creativity and puts it at its heart, it's got to be the future. We're still teaching children in a Victorian way. You know, even the school terms are And as well, I think the methods of learning and methods of showing your intelligence. There are other ways to learn and there are other ways to show the knowledge that you have. But we could be on this topic for ages. So I'm going to jump in and ask, how can people connect with you, So, the easiest way to connect is to go to the Little Art School website. So, it's really easy to find. It's www.littleartschool.co.uk. And that takes you to the company and there's loads of buttons all over it that say messages, email us. And if you want to get in touch with me personally, just click on one of those and say, I'd like to reach out to Japan. to Joanne and someone from our team will always forward it to me and I will always, always reply to things. I'm on LinkedIn, which I do use occasionally and you can find me at Joanne Robinson on LinkedIn. We're on all the usuals, Facebook, Instagram, we're Oh, thank you, Claire. You see, you can't just point the microphone at me and then I'll never go quiet. I chat far too Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to Creativity Found. I hope you enjoyed this episode and gained some value from it. If you did, perhaps you'd like to contribute a small monetary sign of appreciation, either by becoming a regular supporter from as little as $3 per month using the link in the show notes, or if you're listening on a value-for-value enabled app such as Fountain, Truefans or Podverse, feel free to send a few sats my way. I also occasionally promote products that I personally use, so please use the affiliate link where relevant if you are buying from those fine

Creative Encouragement and School Experiences
The Importance of Practice in Art
Art as Muscle Memory
Joanne's Academic and Career Path
Transition from the Air Force to Art
Professional Shift to Art and Journalism
The Little Art School: Origins and Growth
Selling Art and Valuing Creativity
Expansion of Adult Art Programs
(Cont.) Expansion of Adult Art Programs
The Importance of Creativity in Education and Society
Closing Thoughts and Contact Information

Podcasts we love