One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me.
Artist and illustrator Gloria Ho was introduced to me by a mutual friend who thought we might get along since we were both artists and Royal Bison vendors. Did we ever! From the first day we met we’ve had so much to talk about. Gloria’s watercolours paintings are distinctive and she’s so good at capturing the whimsy and delicate beauty of the animals and people that she paints.
What sort of creative work do you do?
I’m a watercolour painter and I specialize in animals and people. I sell my work at art markets around Edmonton and Calgary and also do custom commissions and freelance editorial work.
Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?
Yes, I think so. Some of my earliest memories involve me drawing, colouring, or making things. I was a very quiet, shy, and introverted child who was pretty uncomfortable doing group activities, sports, and social things. For me, I found comfort and confidence in painting and doing other creative things that didn’t require talking to other people! I’ve carried that creative side with me, only now I’m comfortable and happy sharing it with others!
How did you get started?
I built up a watercolour portfolio unexpectedly when I was teaching English in South Korea a few years ago. Some elementary students thought my name was “Gorilla” and started calling me “Gorilla Teacher”. The nickname inspired gorilla sketches, primate paintings, and a series of other animal illustrations. My sister and brother-in-law pushed me to sell my work at art markets and I finally started doing that in February of 2014. That’s where I got the ball rolling.
What’s your process like?
For my animal portraits, I’ll usually have an idea in my mind of what I want the piece to look like. Then, I’ll gather some reference photos to make sure I get the anatomy of the animal right. I do a sketch, and then start painting. Usually I work on two to three paintings at once because each layer needs time to dry, so I go back and forth between pieces. For custom pieces, clients send me reference photos, share their ideas, and I try my best to bring them to life.
What or who inspires you?
I love people-watching. Seeing how people behave, dress, and groom always gives me ideas for my clothed animals series. I’m also inspired by other vendors and creative friends I’ve met in Edmonton and Calgary. It’s easy to find inspiration and motivation to do better work when I see how talented, hard-working, and imaginative other artists are.
What’s your biggest struggle and how are you coping with it?
Trying to find a balance between painting, doing administrative business stuff, working a day job that I love, and attending to my personal life is the biggest challenge. Some days I feel very overwhelmed by a growing to-do list and worry that some areas of my life are being neglected. This kind of self-inflicted pressure doesn’t help with creativity, so I try not to worry about it too much and just do my best.
What’s your # 1 tip about creativity?
It comes and goes. If it’s not there today, it’s not there and that’s OK. Do other things, like organize inventory, respond to emails, or order supplies. Eventually, the creative energy will come back.
What are you working on next?
I’m painting some pet portraits and new animals for fall and winter markets. I’m also working on a poster design for a wonderful organization that I am very excited to share soon. In the winter, I’ll be teaching a watercolour painting course through a continuing education program in Edmonton, so I’m designing a lesson plan and coming up with ideas that I think will be fun!