Ready to meet our next maker? Meet Gen Townsend, Melbourne-based artist and facilitator, whose fun and quirky cards feature on The Karma Collective shop. Inspired by collage, collaboration and the power of storytelling, Gen is a firm believer in the ability of the arts to transform opinions and create positive change.
We chat to Gen about her daily rituals, how she stays creative during this challenging time and what she’s looking forward to in 2020.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
I’m a visual artist and facilitator; I love to creatively play, learn new things, and connect with others through art.
What’s the first song you listen to in the morning and how does it make you feel?
I’ve got three songs I go to in the morning: ‘Follow The Sun’ by Xavier Rudd; ‘Here Comes The Sun’ by The Beatles, and ‘Circle of Life’ from The Lion King Soundtrack. The sun-related songs both inspire and humble me; the Lion King tune is just really fun, especially to wake up your friends or housemates!
What inspires you?
When it comes to illustrating, I’m inspired by collaging different images that can be found on the web or in my own surroundings. I’m inspired through collaboration and I really enjoyed working with Audrey (founder of The Karma Collective) to create a range of heart-warming gift cards for a good cause!
In my art practice, many of my projects are also inspired by social research and theory (such as ideas around decolonisation); data (i.e. statistics about representation in the art world); and different modes of participation, such as gaming. The contemporary artists who currently inspire my art include Agatha Gothe-Snape, Mona Chalabi and Julie Gough.
Do you have any daily rituals?
My housemate and I have been doing yoga at least every second day, courtesy of the wonderful YouTuber “Yoga with Adriene”. I’ve recently learned how to do a yoga headstand, so I’m trying to do at least one every day. I’m not particularly strict with this, but I also really like responding to the 5 questions, recommended by Tim Ferris. In the morning, I ask: “what are 3 things I’m grateful for?”; “what would make today great?”; and three affirmations, “I am… “. In the evening, I reflect on three things that were amazing and what I might have done better that day.
How do you stay creative and motivated during this challenging time?
I love metaphors and recently read about the idea of being a sponge that sometimes ‘soaks’ and, at other times, ‘squeezes’ through grit and hard work. When soaking, you’re open-minded and learning. In this state, you try and follow your curiosity and allow time to think without any pressure to create or expectations for an outcome. While in isolation, it’s been a great time to simply exist and soak it all up! A friend has started running weekly classes on Haiku poems, which provides a great opportunity to connect with other creatives and learn something new.
Remembering to ‘squeeze’ when possible is important too; I’m trying to maintain some routine and set achievable goals. The poetry classes provide some accountability so I am motivated to ‘squeeze’ (i.e. work!) and produce at least one thing each week.
I’ve also been keeping an eye out for opportunities that can provide a useful deadline; for example, I recently completed an illustration for a Foundation for Young Australian’s article about COVID-19. Ultimately, being mindful and accepting of when I’m soaking or squeezing helps me maintain a relaxed sense of control.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff”, written by my eldest sister in my 18th birthday card.
What are you currently reading?
“Who’s afraid of contemporary art” by Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi. I picked it up in preparation for some art workshops I have been running with Yarra Youth Services (pre-isolation, of course!). It’s an easy read of A-Z questions and topics about contemporary art. I wished I had read this in my first year of art school – I certainly recommend it to anyone considering studying fine art, curating, or arts management!
What are you looking forward to in 2020?
I think we would all agree that 2020 has been flipped on its head. The arts have been incredibly hard hit by the lockdown with cancelled exhibitions, shows, and all kinds of contracts. I’m regaining hope for the future by tuning in to a lot of webinars; in particular, discussions about better housing outcomes and also advocacy for the arts (such as the NAVA Advocacy Weekly Workshops). Now is a great time to be listening to each other, sharing skills, and visioning what the new ‘normal’ could look like. So I think I’m looking forward to feeling connected with loved ones again, passionately advocating with other creatives, and continuing to listen and learn in 2020 and beyond!