Creative Command: Federica Aiello Pini, Visual Artist
For the first Creative Command interview of the year, I’m happy to introduce you to Federica Aiello Pini, visual artist and fountain of creative insight! I couldn’t have picked a better person to kick off the 2017 leg of this series. This is the ninth interview in this series and I’m so floored by her thorough and in-depth responses. She truly opened herself up and I’m confident that you’ll walk away from her words feeling inspired and energized to “just do the work.”
Normally I’d say a few more words about the interviewee but this interview is beyond jammed packed with useful advice that I’d much rather just turn it straight away to Federica! It’s a bit longer than the past features but each and every word is worth it. Grab your nearest Instagramable mug, curl up in that cozy corner and enjoy!
Check out 8 past Creative Command interviews featuring creatives from different industries with varying perspectives.
1. Tell us your name, about your blog, biz, or creative pursuits!
I’m Federica Aiello Pini and I’m a visual artist. I love to alternate little, intimate, paintings with large ones, where I can literally walk and move within.
My style is instinctive: I often make a lot of previous sketches on the subject, but once I’m working on the final piece, by mixing together different mediums (mostly acrylics, pastels, china and graphite) depending on the urge of the moment, I try to transform what was real and figurative into something completely abstract, and therefore potentially universal.
As connections between things and between people are a source of nourishment and inspiration, almost every day I share my process and reflections on my Instagram, and final pieces can be seen on my website.
2. How would you define “Creativity”?
Creativity is a mindset: it is being able to give birth to something that wasn’t there before. I think it comes from looking at things from a different point of view, not from the usual, first, obvious one.
3. What would you say to someone who thought you had to be an artist in order to be creative?
I believe you don’t have to be an artist to be creative! You can infuse creativity in everything you do, in every area of your life, approach things and situations in an inventive way. I’ve seen people finding incredible, unimaginable solutions to problems, create softer, more inspirational lives for them, tailored to their visions and beliefs, founded on what really matters to them.
I also think the search for creativity doesn’t have to be heavy, it should just become a natural behavior, maybe triggered by subtle shifts in everyday habits. For example, I think about the usual suggestion of changing the route to go to work each day: it is not too engaging and yet really useful. Stop doing things in an automatic way, start to be present in each thing that you do, see what’s in front of you, instead of just knowing it’s there.
4. Would you consider yourself a creative person? Has it been something you’ve worked toward or is it natural to you?
I consider myself a creative person, and I think it has always been quite natural to me. Anyway, when something unexpected comes my way and makes things difficult, it’s not always so easy to immediately play the creativity card!
Sometimes the first reaction is to get discouraged, but in these cases, I usually take a break, go outside or do something different, and plan to go back to that issue later or wait for an idea to come at a random moment. I’ve also seen that by believing that the new idea will come, it usually ends up coming!
5. What do you do to keep yourself in the creative mindset?
When a new idea comes to my mind I write it down. Then my mind starts making connections throughout the day, maybe between what I’m already doing, or maybe with other new ideas. Also, music helps a lot with keeping the energy up! Then, taking books from the past, and having a look at chapters or phrases that I had highlighted because they particularly resonated with me. All of these things spark my inspiration and eventually has a common thread in it … and I cannot wait to go back to work and explore it!
Then, taking books from the past, and having a look at chapters or phrases that I had highlighted because they particularly resonated with me. All of these things spark my inspiration and eventually has a common thread in it… and I cannot wait to go back to work and explore it!
6. What creative mantra or quote resonates with you the most?
“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” (A translation of Goethe’s “Faust” written by Irish poet John Anster)
Detail photo from a performance by Federica Aiello Pini courtesy of Max Laurenzi
7. How has creativity impacted your blog or business?
I’ve discovered how much people love to follow my process, to feel involved in it, to see behind the scenes, so I usually share them on my Instagram, and now I’m going to start a dedicated blog on my website. Other than this, some juicy sneak peeks, promotions, little gifts, and suggestions are reserved to my Art Joy List’s subscribers. Through the blog, Instagram, and the mailing
Through the blog, Instagram and the mailing list, I can keep in touch with people, and feel them so near… I get such a strong feeling of encouragement and inspiration! Thinking about them when I’m posting or preparing a message, trying to guess what it is that they could love today, what could they need in this specific moment … this gives me a sense that my work can affect people’s lives in a good way. A further sense of purpose, that gives me strength.
8. What inspires you to create and achieve your goals?
I think about the way I want to feel. Then I ask myself what would make me feel that way. Once that idea is clear, I build the way to get there and divide it into little steps.
They have to be manageable, and become a habit, in order to survive among all of the different ideas and projects that come into my head each day. All those ideas try to catch my attention! I often risk to getting lost among too many dreams, and I need to focus on one at a time.
9. What does it look and feel like when you’re in creation mode?
It all seems to flow! Every gesture has a sense in its own, even mistakes don’t seem to matter, but just lead to what I have to discover. What I feel is harmony and excitement at the same time, a sense of being in the right place at the right time, and doing what I feel called to do.
10. What is your initial reaction when you realize you’re in a creative rut?
When I realize it I feel lost! I wonder where has all the energy and positivity that I had gone? I feel discouraged, and if I have a deadline, I’m afraid I won’t meet it, or at least not with something I’ll be proud of. But it’s exactly after this phase that the magic happens! I think you just have to trust, go on, show up and do the work. Something will happen. And ultimately, the deadline itself forces me to push myself further, and I have to give everything.
11. Tell us about a recent moment where you felt “stuck” creatively?
Last summer, I had just finished launching my coloring book in Italy (“Mantova da colorare”) and I had to prepare new works for an exhibition in Panama City. The approaches to the two projects were very different:
For the coloring book I had been working on very detailed drawings, with a precise publishing size in mind, and even if I was drawing in my style, always in a loose way, they were figurative illustrations (city views and everyday’s situations) in black and white, made using exclusively Micron pen.
For the paintings instead, I wanted to go back to big pieces, liquid colors mixed with dry pastels and graphite, using wide gestures. I wanted to feel completely free and have movement in them. I loved to illustrate the book, and I also was happy to go back to my paintings, they were the perfect match for me – such complementary activities. I need to alternate sometimes, but the passage this time was so sudden that in the first week it was difficult, and I initially felt stuck.
12. What do you do to get past feeling blocked? Do you have a strategy?
As I was saying before, the most important thing is to show up and do the work anyway. I usually start making splashes of color, manipulating it and dipping myself in a sensory work, a place where sensations and process are more important than the final result. Then, I take note of the moments and actions that made me feel particularly well and gave me a sense of fulfillment: that is probably “my element”, that is what I should explore further. So I concentrate on that direction.
This doesn’t mean that the final works will be that kind of work, they can end up being completely different, but usually, that moment of exploration is the turning point: I’m not thinking “Oh my God, I’m not going anywhere!”, instead, I’m excited and curious about discovering what will happen, where this process is going to lead me.
One moment from a performance by Federica Aiello Pini courtesy of Max Laurenzi
13. Have you relied on an outside source to get you out of your rut? (eg. support group, coach etc.)
I’ve loved Jonathan Field’s book “Uncertainty”, it has a great source of ideas to change the approach to creative work and ultimately to life.
One of the most interesting tips that I found there was to visualize the process: not the finished painting (as artists and creatives, we usually cannot exactly know in advance what will the outcome be), but us doing the work, sitting at the desk, pouring colors, adding layers: this we can visualize, and this is what we need to do in order to go towards our destination.
14. What thoughts go through your mind when your blocked mindset lingers longer than you’d like?
I feel so sad!! But, as I said before, deep down inside I know that this is only temporary, that it is something normal, just a phase. Maybe I can dedicate some time to other things like promotion and marketing, contacts or documentation of previous works in the meanwhile: this way I feel I’m doing something useful anyway.
15. If you take a self-esteem hit or if you become negative how do you combat that?
I usually go back to those moments when I felt particularly fulfilled and I think about the people who support my art:
Why do they want to surround themselves with it?
What do they feel when they look at it?
Do I want to give them more of what made them feel that way?
I get comfort in knowing that my work has a meaning for other people and it can somehow – even if just a little – change their lives. This is something hugely important to me, and I want to go on working for them.
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16. Can you predict when you’re about to go through a period of being uninspired?
Not really, but I’ve noticed it’s more likely to happen when I have too many projects in mind all at once: I need to really pause all others in order to completely focus on the current one.
17. Think back on past moments when you felt stuck. Are there any common threads?
Yes, I’m usually putting too much pressure on myself or I have too many different commitments altogether. It can also be that I’m currently absorbed with something personal: in this case, sometimes I have to fix that personal issue before, in order to go back to work later and give 100%, other times creative work can actually be a huge ally towards my well-being.
18. What do you focus your energy on when you’re feeling stuck?
I focus mostly on the feelings that are important to me in that period, the feelings that I want to express and to evoke. And on the physical tensions and sensations connected with them.
19. What tools or tips would you offer to other creatives (in general or specifically in your field) who find themselves uninspired?
Of course studying important artists that we love, or discovering new ones is something that can inspire us, not only from our own field but also from others, for example, I feel a deep connection with some musicians’ style: sometimes their energy resonates with mine, or maybe it’s the kind of energy that I’m searching for.
Reading artists and creatives’ biographies can be a great source of inspiration. I also noticed the impact that overcoming my fears has on my work, experience, and life. In 2012 I was invited to paint live in front of a huge crowd inside “Solstizio d’estate”, an important art festival in Italy: I’m quite an introvert, and my first reaction was “I can’t do it” but I felt that this was something really important, a potentially life-changing experience, so I decided that I had to overcome my fear.
I had to find my way to forget the fact that people were looking at me, and to make sure that I entered deeply inside the work that I was doing: music helped immensely, it was all around me, inspiration and involvement, and at a certain moment I started to paint just with my bare hands, to feel the direct connection with my creation.
My life has changed in so many beautiful ways since that day: companies asked me to make shows, my performances often became the central point of events, and I had the opportunity to collaborate and experiment with some awesome musicians from different backgrounds playing live during my performance. I was also invited to teach and transmit this kind of experience at Cordoba’s ESAD in Spain. You never know what wonderful gift is there for you if you take a leap of faith! (Click to Tweet)
Photo of Federica Aiello Pini courtesy of Max Laurenzi
20. We all have people we look up to. Who’s creative work inspires you?
In my field, I admire artists like Chagall, Cy Twombly, Hans Hartung, Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Osvaldo Licini. I love reading the thoughts of great artists on art and life, discover what was on their mind. I also look up to people from other fields who have a dream for their lives and each day make an effort to go one step closer to their vision.
What do you think of Federica Aiello Pini’s thoughts on creativity?