Established in 2018, Not Not Smiling, aims to amplify the voices of female identifying creatives and provide a platform for them to connect and share their knowledge, experience and work. What was once an event that took place once a year to mark International Women’s Day, Not Not Smiling has grown into an annual series of physical events, virtual gatherings and a blog series that provides a platform for even more voices worldwide.
In this series, we ask female-identifying creatives from around the world, a series of short questions covering topics including the meaning of creativity, inspiration, their processes and how we break the gender bias in our industry.
In this edition, we ask, 'What practices do you use to get out of a creative block? How do you renew your creative process?'
Writer. London, United Kingdom.
The simple answer is experience.
"It could be writing nonsense on a page, it could be making a collage, it could be going for a walk. Often, it’s sitting outside at the café/pub opposite my house, intensely people watching. Building stories in my head about all of these people, getting the cogs going in my brain. Experience to replace the old experiences: that’s what refreshing is for me. It’s layering, building, because a new thought or a new story won’t come from nowhere. I’m an adamant believer that I will never have lived enough, seen enough, done enough, to be able to think up something groundbreaking, or even good.
Renewal is re-establishing. Re-cognising, repeatedly, even if it’s of the same thing. Like the way I breathe; I have done it since I was born but no two breaths have been the same as I have always been growing. That’s how I realise that a block isn’t a block. I am never stagnant. Once I realised this, the ‘blocks’ went by quicker. They are part of the motions, thickened membranes I’m pushing myself through; each letter on a page making a difference to breaking it.
It's the same for any kind of writing I’m doing, as I am not always writing creatively. Sometimes, doing the serious writing helps the creative juices flow. The work I’m doing on breast reduction helps me write poems about what it feels like to lose things, for example. the clinical and scientific aids my creative work. It teaches me that art is everywhere. It’s experience, at the end of the day."
Gurpreet Raulia is a writer and poet from West London. Her experiences as a second generation immigrant largely inspires her work, in particular, exercising her ability to openly express and emote which has not historically been afforded to women in her culture. Gurpreet is currently working on honing her writing and completing a novel. She one day aspires to be the editor of her own magazine.
Illustrator. Dublin, Ireland
When feeling creatively stuck or blocked, I personally find it helpful to wait.
"This is easier said than done living in a capitalist society that trains us to produce work constantly and to perceive unproductivity as laziness. But taking the pressure off yourself, being in a different space, thinking about other things, letting your mind wander. It can be just the thing you need to get back into the studio again."
Cara Rose Dunne completed her degree in Fine Art Painting and History of Art in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 2016. She works mainly in paint and drawing. Cara also runs a design business called Cara Luna Designs, offering eco-friendly greeting cards, prints and personalised illustrations.
Portraiture and feminism have been a constant focus of Cara's work, with ideas surrounding the climate crisis influencing her practice also. Cara completed a Dublin City Council Artist's Residency in 2022, has exhibited in the RHA and RUA Annual Exhibitions, and twice been shortlisted for The National Gallery of Ireland's Zurich Portrait Competition. Her artwork can be seen in the music videos and record covers of the Dublin band Mongoose, of which she is a member.
Cara's written pieces have appeared in The Irish Times, The Journal and Hot Press Magazine. She has worked as Social Media Manager for the band Mongoose since 2014, and directed Green Party Councillor Daniel Dunne’s social media campaign in the run up to the Irish local elections 2019.
Executive Creative Director, Edelman Paris. Paris, France.
For me creativity should serve a higher purpose.
"So, when I am feeling blocked or demotivated I turn to a new issue in the society and try to find one way to make it just a little bit better. By redirecting my attention to a new challenge, it helps to unlock solutions for other problems, and because social issues are something we are all passionate about in one way or another, it never feels like work."
With the philosophy: “I like Ideas. Hopefully one of them will make the world better”, Lauren is the executive creative director of Edelman Paris. She is a published thought-leader, public speaker, columnist, international juror and unashamedly believes that advertising can change the world for the better.
Independent designer and design researcher, Design by Workshop. Reykjavík, Iceland
I take my work somewhere else - sit on the floor, go to a café, work in a park.
"Get off the computer and use my hands — go back to pens and paper, try collage or use my polaroid camera / Get some fresh air and go outside for a walk, a run or a swim / Make space for personal or side projects — always work towards something that is completely my own / Pursue a varied creative practice / Continue learning — education is lifelong / Take creative sabbaticals á la Stefan Sagmeister."
Erin is an independent visual communication designer and design researcher. She has a PhD in design, focussing on Emigre magazine, design archives and collections, data visualisation and expanded visualisation practices. Her creative practice includes work in publishing and editorial design, branding, information design and visualisation. Originally from Sydney, Erin is now based in Reykjavík
Independent artist. New York, United States.
To be honest, I don’t know that I ever realise that I’m in a creative block.
"I find creativity in almost everything I do, whether it be painting, getting dressed, making dinner, or even having a conversation. I’m looking for a different way of doing something I’ve done a million times. So maybe because of that, I rarely find myself aware of such a block. That definitely doesn’t mean it’s not happening. For instance, I can go two weeks without painting and while I’m aware of the fact that I haven’t put paint on canvas for two weeks, it’s not necessarily because of a creative block but rather because I’ve shifted my creative energy onto my small business or cooking or writing. Creativity ebbs and flows. The blocks only tend to happen when all my energy is focused on one outlet."
Tina is a self-taught independent artist living and working in New York City. Originally born in Tehran, Iran, she moved to Los Angeles at the age of six. Her culture and background heavily influence the way she perceive the worlds. Her work varies from abstract portraits to minimalist drawings and paintings. She's interested in distorting the human figure via shape, colour, and texture that is emotionally driven.
Through Not Not Smiling, we have worked with a number of charities local to each of our offices that support and uplift women. This year, we are delighted to be supporting:
Young Women’s Trust in London who are working to achieve economic justice for young women.
Hour Children, a leading provider of services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in New York State.
Women’s and Girl’s Emergency Centre (WAGEC) is a feminist, grassroots organisation that supports women and families in crisis and advocated for social change in the community. They are based in Redfern, Sydney and work on the lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation.
We will be sharing more on each of the Charities across our blog and social channels soon. Please be sure to check them out and support their work if you can.