Opus Resource Library
Living a Creative Life - Beyond University Kirk Gower and Zandi Dandizette
Opus Resource Library

Over the next few months, we’re discovering what it means to lead a creative life. Everyone follows unique paths, produces unique work and has their own routines and responsibilities, so what does this lifestyle look like? Day to day, how do we best reflect ourselves as artists?

In the first of our current podcast series, four Emily Carr alumni explained why they embarked on a creative career, what they imagined their post-student lives would look like, and what the reality’s been since they graduated.

Kirk Gower is a talented painter who works in the realm of queer identity and masculinity. His art, previously shortlisted for the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series, deals with queerness, romance, and vulnerability, combining hyperrealism with graffiti abstraction.

Creativity’s been the one thing I’ve always had. It’s more of my identity than anything else, so it would be weird not to have this creative lifestyle.

A lot of people view creativity as actually creating something, but it can also be thinking creatively. My training at Emily Carr has allowed me to apply very abstract ideas and problem solving to my day job.

I realised early on that I also found the corporate world quite interesting, which afforded me a certain lifestyle that also fed my art. I don’t have to compromise. I can pursue my painting the way I want and apply for the things that excite me. You can’t create artwork for other people, or for the likes or social media content. It has to mean something to you before it can mean something to someone else.

I do a minimum of five days a week doing art ‘cause that’s as many days I devote to my day job. It has to be equal. I’m a very clean painter so having the studio in my house hasn’t been an issue yet. I love that I can turn off my work day and go straight into my practice, which allows me the versatility of taking a break here and there and also working into the later hours if needed. Getting ready to do something is almost as important as physically putting the paint on the canvas. I spend a lot of time making sure my surroundings are exactly the way that I like. When I enter this space and am ready to paint, I don’t want to have to think about cleaning up a mess.

Living a creative life doesn’t have to be what anyone says it’s going to be - it can be exactly how you want to structure and manage it. You can have multiple passions and interests and you can be successful in a lot of different areas. You don’t need to just do art to be successful at art. Figure out what you want and what feeds you and how you want your lifestyle to look and feel, and then find a solution to make that work.
Zandi Dandizette is an interdisciplinary and new media artist who is also heavily involved in curatorial work and artist rights. Founder of the James Black Gallery and president of the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres, they have shown their work extensively both nationally and abroad, and have just finished an installation for Pride.

I live a very charmed life. When I was a teenager I would talk in really strong, goal-orientated terms. I wanted to live in an art collective but I wanted to run an art gallery but I wanted to live in a Victorian home but I wanted to be in the city … Around that time I also developed this very core way of living within a colour scheme. I didn’t think all those ideas would be bundled into one, but the week I graduated Emily Carr was the week I moved into this space.

Everything the James Black Gallery is, came from me taking on a bit of responsibility, believing our tenancy was time-limited. It’s now been seven years. I’ve had to learn boundaries and communication skills and have navigated so many things I never expected to in my life. All the while I’ve been in a leadership position, having to think about the safety, care and trust of the studio mates alongside the community that surrounds this space. When I was younger, people would say, ‘You’ll never be taken seriously with dyed hair.’ I’m now leading some pretty ambitious, wonderful projects. I’m taken seriously and asked to do consultations, because of how I think and how I work.

I do a lot of computer admin work throughout the day and towards the evening is when I find time to focus on the drawing and more playful side of things. Because I run my own self-directed lifestyle, every once in a while, out of the blue, I can get really fixated on an art piece. It’s all-consuming and it’s all I can do, so things can fall by the wayside.

I’m excited for a future in which I have more time and possibilities for myself but I wanna make sure the space is sustainable before I move on.

Many artists think they have to compromise their values when they attempt to add business practice to their art practice. If you’re deeply involved in a creative lifestyle and you want to have it outside of a hobby, you have to learn these mechanisms that are a part of our society. But you can find loopholes and ways to stay true to your value system and integrity whilst also doing it. I feel I’ve really accomplished that in many ways, some of it by luck and privilege but also by sheer hard work.

You’ll save yourself a lot of exhaustion by learning the little things that set you up for success later on. Put away your receipts. Make that website. It doesn’t have to be perfect but at least you’ll have one, and it will make things easier for you while you navigate this creative lifestyle.

Watch and Listen to Kirk and Zandi's Full Interview in the Opus Visual Podcast