The pastel discipline of Maureen Fletcher

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Maureen Fletcher is the kind of artist who would close an interview with a quote by Paulo Coelho. And that alone should capture the beauty and delicacy of her essence.

An introvert by nature, with an HSP trait too, Maureen has spent almost two decades in banking before realising her place was with art all along. Since then, and starting just a couple of years ago, Maureen has been painting non-stop, finding pleasure in small things, and hoping to touch other people with her art.

For this Member Spotlight, we are delving in the life of a passionate creative blessed with great ambition, humility, and certainly more courage than she could ever believe.


How did you get into the industry?

It was during a company restructuring middle of 2019 that I found myself being laid off and I had to figure out my next career move. I've been in the banking industry (under the asset management umbrella) for almost 2 decades and my last assignment lasted for 13 years.

Making this career move was not an easy one as I had to consider many factors, from having a predicted and stable income with benefits to pursuing something without all of that BUT resonating with the essence of myself. It took me about 3 months before making the decision to pursue art as a career. Prior to that, I had abandoned art in favour of other life responsibilities, but there was always that feeling of void internally that you cannot put words to, but appears as a nagging feeling that just wouldn't be satiated with pretty much anything that you do.

Picking up from where I had left, I had to re-learn so much and get my hand and eyes to work in an artistic manner again. I am fortunate to have had so many "teachers" who helped me along the way with their guidance and kind words of encouragement. My "teachers" are from all walks of life ranging from budding high-school student artists to seasoned professional ones to industry professionals.


Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I am currently based in Borneo where I have been living for the last 15 years and I work for myself. 

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I love working alone and when I am being given full autonomy to manage my work, instead of being told what and how to do it. So I would definitely still be in the creative industry, most likely doing something that uses my hands and/or intuition.


Can you explain your creative process?

I do not have a distinctive process as I get my inspiration from the things around me and it is more of an intuitive and emotional approach. I need to "feel" it before I can start.

Music is a very important element when I create art. Almost all of my pieces are tied to a song or a section/line of the song. It would be just a word or a melody or a line of the lyrics that will remind me of something or someplace or a feeling, and then I will start to imagine the visual representation of it.

It is more of an intuitive and emotional approach.

Sometimes it would be random sketches to be transformed into full pieces. I always have my headphones on, be it listening to a podcast or music or any melody that interests me. I tend to overthink things and most of the time my mind feels like I have several tabs open at the same time like an internet browser, resulting in a daydream/dead-serious expression. When I listen to music, it blocks off all of the thoughts and it heightens my imagination and whatever I had found verbally difficult to express is all said in my art piece, from the colours used to my subject's expression to the write-up of for my post.

Every post that I do is accompanied by a song that I feel appropriate and that best captures the "feel" of the piece, including what I am trying to say and an underlying message. The message can be a general subject but to the specific person reading it or the ones that resonate with it on a personal level, they will be able to "read" what I am trying to say. I use this method to convey my thoughts and feelings without being overly expressive and direct about it, yet still able to touch the viewer on a spiritual level. 


How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

Personally, it is a valuable complementary tool. I scan my paintings at high-resolution for web use and scanning removes some of the vibrancy of the image. I use the help of digital tools to help me correct the colour resolution of my scanned piece to reflect the original one. Aside from that, I also feel that technology has helped widen the scope of discipline instead of focusing on only one.

For example, I started with traditional art and after learning the basic digital curves, I was able to expand my portfolio to include digital designs, surface patterns and image enhancements. Working on my own website is easier as I am able to navigate its skeleton easily to make it appear how I want, and my social media posts are more coherent as I post better quality images, thus improving my audience engagement and analytics. 


What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Music again haha.

From the support and encouragement that I receive when I share my work, be it a kind comment or just a regular conversation about everyday things, knowing that there is another person behind my laptop screen that is engaging with me because of the work that I put out there.

Knowing that the things that I had created, parts of me that I had infused into my piece, my words and music selection are able to inspire, make an impact and motivate someone out there means a lot to me. To me, it is acknowledging that as an individual, flaws, quirks and all, I am able to touch another person on a spiritual level on the other side of the globe.

To make an impact and motivate someone out there means a lot to me.

I am an introvert with an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) personality trait and the way I see and do things are different than extroverts and most people. It has always been an internal struggle for me to fit in especially in social settings involving huge crowds, fast talkers and social butterflies. I prefer a quiet and small setting with the ability to process my thoughts and speech before saying it – aka meaningful conversations.

This seems like an undesirable trait, especially in networking events, and I often get left out of events because I "do not fit in". Whatever in-person socializing skills that I have today are a result of years of practice. Because my thoughts and feelings often took a back seat, I didn't think that I was quite good enough to make a positive impact or to inspire anyone. But through my art, I am able to achieve all that and this motivates me a lot to create and share even more of myself.


What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I am still a budding artist, less than 2 years, so I see my journey ahead with still a long way to go. In the first half of 2020 alone, I had 3 milestones to celebrate; my "Pisces" piece won a YouTube Astrology channel's (Hannah's Elsewhere) Zodiac competition to have it featured as the cover of their Pisces Archetype e-book. Secondly, my "As Above, So Below" won a "Special Recognition" award from the Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery for their 10th Annual "SeaScapes" 2020 Art Exhibition and my piece was on exhibition for the entire month of June. Thirdly, I got an email from CreativePool informing me that my "Self" piece is being featured in their Featured Works page :) and I was shortlisted for the Annual 2020 awards


How do you recharge away from the office?

I love Metaphysics and Psychology, so I will be either reading or watching YouTube videos about them. I also love baking and cooking and I will watch YouTube videos about it and try to reproduce them. The most important element for me to recharge is having quiet and uninterrupted time alone. It can be anything from reading to cleaning.

I am militant about naps and sleep so I need that to fully recharge mentally and I make sure my total rest time is at least 9 hours in a day. My day starts before the sun rises even if it is a weekend and I prefer it such because it allows me to spend time with myself when the entire house is quiet, before giving my attention to others.

I used to do my daily sketching pages in the morning following Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" book and now I replace that with my morning Yoga/meditation session. I still do the pages but I direct and combine it with my sketching sessions. 


What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Be brave to put yourself and your work out there and to follow your dreams. Somehow the marketing and business part is always a bane as we'd rather have our head down creating in our space, but a little investment in networking goes a long way. Most creatives are introverts, so networking is much easier when done behind the laptop screen instead of hours in-person.

Make use of various social media platforms. Instagram is a visual platform and that is very much an ideal channel but there is also the ever-changing algorithm that one has to keep up to gain exposure. Consider Pinterest and LinkedIn as they have a much "stable" and long-term approach, also this will diversify your range of audience. There will be days when you question yourself, know that the temporary dip is only a rest phase before your next ascension.

Know that you are good enough and that there is a universe inside of your that is worth sharing. Doors will eventually open and while you are on your journey to the top, remember to be kind to those you meet along the way, for they too are chasing their dreams. Quoting from Paolo Coelho's "The Alchemist": "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.


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