What’s art got to do with business?

I’ve only recently recognised the power of bringing lessons from the arts and humanities into the business world even though I’ve been doing it unconsciously for years. If there’s something creative you’ve always wanted to do, just start it – there’s more power in it than you may realise.

In high school I absolutely loved studying visual arts – painting, drawing, print making, sculpting, and all those fun things. But I was not a naturally brilliant student. My artwork was constantly judged and found wanting. As a result, I developed a belief that I was no good at a subject I loved. I believed that you’re either born a great artist or you’re not – and I was not.

This lead to years of frustration as I judged against my own artwork. Creation became a tortured process. I could never enjoy creating because I knew that whatever I ultimately created would make me unhappy because in my eyes it wasn’t good enough.

The other thing that spoiled my joy of art was what Flora Michaels calls our society’s ‘cultural story’ which in this day and age is one of economics. Michaels explains that just as in the Middle Ages the cultural story was one of religion, and by the 17th century the story was one of science, our current story is economic.

Our economic story says that everything (including people) must have a monetary value or else it’s worthless. The value of art is how much one can sell it for, not how much joy it brings the artist to create or the viewer to experience. The value of a business is how much it’s worth, not how much good it brings to the community. The value of a person is how much they earn, not their intrinsic character. When I looked at my artwork I certainly didn’t see something that would sell or that I could make a living from, so I devalued it.

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I reluctantly gave up my desire for a career in art, studied psychology and joined the business world instead. But what I didn’t realise for a long time was that I brought my inherent creativity into my corporate job. I’m creative when I use my intuition to solve business problems. I’m creative when I suggest ways for my team to be more productive. I’m creative when I think up a new way to organise myself so that I work more efficiently.

When I was studying art I didn’t know that I create best using my intuition. I now know that my process to create is to sit quietly, pay attention to my inner world and draw/paint/write whatever comes to mind. Interesting, that’s also the process I use when I’m solving problems at work (only with more writing and less paint!)

Recently rediscovering my love of visual arts has cemented my understanding of, and trust in, the way I use my intuition to create, not only for artworks but in business. I now know that I have a solid resource within me for solving problems and coming up with unique solutions that will never let me down. This knowledge has greatly increased my confidence and helped me on my way to having a zen-like attitude at work.

Interestingly, I rediscovered my love of art, and even found I could paint and draw, through my corporate job. It started when I ran a health and wellbeing program. The third phase of the program, the Inspired phase, challenged our staff to discover what inspires them and to try something new.

The first thing that came to mind when I considered what I should do during the Inspired phase was that I’m inspired by art and I want to go to art galleries more often.

So I made a date with myself, spent a day at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and came home inspired, energised, and wanting to play with my art materials again. Mind you, I hadn’t done any art work for seven years! I took a deep breath, brushed the dust off my neglected paints, pastels, charcoal, brushes and art journals, and brought them up from the garage.

For the first time I opened a blank page of my journal and looked at it with excitement instead of dread. I thought, it doesn’t matter if what I create never hangs next to a Brett Whiteley, I’m just going to do whatever I feel like doing because it’s fun and for no other reason. No-one has to ever see this if I don’t want them to, it’s just for me. Then I started working.

The result is the picture I’ve used for this article. I like it and so do others – but it wouldn’t matter if it was rubbish. I had so much fun creating it and that’s all that matters.

See more of my artworks at the Gallery page.

Not only did I have fun creating it, but incorporating art-making into my life has cemented my understanding of and trust in the way I use my intuition to create, not only for artworks but in business. I now know that I have a solid resource within me for solving problems and coming up with unique solutions that will never let me down.

For me, creating art in my spare time is also a great way to balance my right brain (creative) and left brain (analytical) processes. When I worked 5 days a week I suffered with stress and ultimately burnout because I spent too much time being analytical and had no creative outlet. When I started working 4 days a week I brought this more into balance. Now that I do some painting or drawing every week I feel even more balanced and calm. It’s like a meditation.

I can’t recommend highly enough bringing lessons from the arts and humanities into the business world. If there’s something creative you’ve always wanted to do, just start it – there’s more power in it than you can imagine. I throw the challenge to you:

• What inspires you?
• What ignites a fire in your soul?
• Now go and try at least one new thing in the next month. I dare you!

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7 Comments

  • Yollana says:

    This is a great post, Megan. Your summary of Flora Michael’s take on our cultural stories really resonates with me. And I love that you’ve rediscovered the joy of creating, and connected with how it is a strength in your work! Finally, I love the print you made. Thanks for sharing! Yollana

  • Robert Middleton says:

    Megan, Yollanda turned me onto this article from Wisdompreneurs, a Facebook group. This is a GREAT article. It is so authentic in its expression of what art means to you and the difference it made to you. Some very deep insights here. Thank you so much! – Robert M.

    • Megan says:

      Thank you very much for the lovely feedback Robert, I really appreciate it. I’ve ‘liked’ Wisdompreneurs on Facebook after reading your comment – what a great group! Take care, Megan

  • Hello Megan,

    Thank you for writing this article. You are so right on about art and creativity and the spill over on the job. Using our innate creativity can bring so much joy to every aspect of our lives. I’m glad you have discovered this.

    Creatively,
    Brianna

    • Megan says:

      Hi Brianna, thanks very much for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. It was certainly a joy to rediscover my natural creativity, and a surprise to discover it had actually never left! Take care, kind regards, Megan

  • Jo says:

    Megan, your artwork is divine. Reminds me a little of India… Jo

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