In The Spotlight: Peter Scriven

The first time we saw his website, we were taken aback. Many photographers, artists and designers have created exciting portfolios using Pixpa, but this website had taken creativity to a whole new level. Australian artist Peter Scriven combines elements of Indian spirituality with modern day sentibilities with consummate ease and hence we are glad to share our interview with him today.

To see more of this work, you can visit his website Trishul Creative.

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1. Tell us something about your early days. Was it planned right from the beginning or was it a sort of epiphany that led you to where you are today?

Peter Scriven (PS): In my life as an artist there was never anything like an epiphany, no bolt of realisation moreover it has always been a simple, deep, powerful knowing. Personally I don’t believe anybody ever reaches the place they are today following a path that is truly ever direct or straight. This is especially true of the path followed by anyone with an artistic temperament. I know this was certainly true in my case. The artist I am today is more the combined result of a process that has combined growth, development, failure and experimentation. All of my life and work has been overseen and guided by a deep, inner and universal force.

As with most creatively minded children my childhood is filled with memories of constantly drawing and creating. As a child I was always producing works of ‘art’, which at that time seemed so wonderful, yet now make me cringe. I grew up in a normal, working middle-class town in country Australia. It was by no means an artistic environment. The closest ‘creative’ member of our family is my father who was a engineering draughtsman with the railways. So being ‘arty’ meant that I have always been a bit of a ‘purple sheep’ amongst a family of farmers and blue-collar workers.

Originally I wanted to become an architect and design interesting domestic spaces. As is often the case with the way the universe works (and my average math’s grades) that dream didn’t happen. Throughout my school years I continued to paint, draw and create. After high school I ended up putting myself through art college (part-time) while working as a clerk in the railways. Art college in the 1970s in Queensland was a mind shifting, creative yet also fairly conservative environment. In my time there we were exposed to a gamut of artistic disciplines. Realising the tenuous life of an artist and with a paying future in mind I majored in graphics, although truth be told my passion lies more with the fine arts than the commercial ones. After graduating I was lucky enough to land a role as a junior art director in a Brisbane advertising agency, mostly on my drawing and rendering ability. All those years of drawing and scribbling did pay off. Since then I’ve worked as a creative, designer and art director in advertising and design agencies. Two years ago I took the plunge, left full-time employment and have since been working as a freelance creative director. While working at my day job in advertising I continued to paint, draw, exhibit and sell. The majority of my works are on paper and I predominately work in watercolours, pastels, pencil and gauche. I’ve exhibited in a number of group shows as well as putting on a fairly successful solo show in 2006.

Even now the discovery and experimenting process continues. I’m currently working on my next solo show while trying to balance my graphic, fine art, yogic and philosophic endeavours. The path I’m on continues to twist, turn, shift and constantly excite.

2. The name Trishul Creative suggests a very close relation to Indian philosophy and culture. Can you elaborate your India connection a bit more?

PS: Among the many diversions on the path to where I am has included a few different sorties, amongst these has been becoming a Buddhist as well as a yoga teacher. Although brought up in a solid Christian environment, philosophically I was not comfortable with the basic principles. In my late teens and early twenties I spent a number of years exploring and researching a number of religions and eventually I found a strong affinity with Buddhist philosophy of self-responsibility. He karmic nature of beings the maker or ruined of ones own life holds great appeal. Along the way I also discovered yoga and its holistic benefits. Consequently I have been for many years been a practicing Buddhist/Hindu. I came to yoga through meditation and from there after many years of practice as a yogi made the next level move. In 2011 I travelled to India to become a qualified Sivananda yoga teacher.

As a yoga teacher, and having worked for so long under the deadline pressures that are part and parcel of the advertising industry, I have personally sought to find a real work/ life balance. This search is reflected in trying to balance the three different aspects of my creative output – art, design and yoga. Because there is a close association between yoga and Vedantic philosophy there was a natural draw to use some Hindu or Buddhist symbology when creating the brand for my freelance company. Shiva’s trident spear (trishul) was therefore a natural choice. It having three aspects of the universe in the three prongs which clearly mirrors the three aspects of my creative output.

3. We can see a wide range of artistic and design activities on your website. For the benefit of our readers, please explain the nature of assignments you take up.

PS: There has always been a strange logic, even if not always apparent at time, to the assignments I have undertaken. From a design point of view even though I have been a freelance contractor and an employee most of my assignments are direct by the needs of the client. More often than not they seem to utilize more than just one aspect of my repertoire. Because there are so many aspects to a design project what I have constantly found of most value is to look beyond the initial brief. Most of the time its advantageous to look at the big picture and try to understand the customer as well as what the client is selling. Then drilling down to dissect the various parts that make the whole. Constantly changing focus, forward, back down and up.

The same principle I generally apply to my art, although the key factor in most of them is that they are direct reflections of my emotions at the particular time and place. Everything I paint is from life to a large or small degree. Sometimes it was a place I visited or an idea that was spurned by a visual cue. Sometimes it is the work of another artist or a technique that plants the germ of an idea to create an artwork. One of my lecturers at college exposed us to the idea that there are no new ideas in the world. What does create the new is the combination of two thoughts or actions that have not been tried before. Consequently whether in a design or artistic assignment there is a general recipe that includes a portion of experience, an element of technique and a large dash of experimentation. There is no such thing as total failure, just lessons learnt.

In summary there is nothing logical or planned with the assignments I undertake. Although I find that each successive project usually builds on the work of the previous or earlier projects. Consequently there is a relative pattern to the type of assignments although they are often quite similar. Mostly it is about adapting to what is required by the client or by ideas that have arisen. It is following that winding path that takes us all continual up the mountain of growth.

4. You also talk about work life balance and practice Yoga. How have they helped you in your own life?

PS: Whenever I have a new idea or a shift in thinking for an existing or current project, whether it is a design or creative piece that shift often comes out of a stillness of mind. Some of my best work has been in a focused, almost meditative or heightened state. A force beyond my own self has almost guided some of my paintings. Often during these creative periods time has literally stood still. Although this is not a state that one can live their entire life, through the constant practice of yoga I find that it is easier to drop into that heightened state of creativity.

Sivananda yoga, which is why I was drawn to teach it, takes a very holistic view of yoga. That it is not just the series of poses (asanas) which most people in the west perceive as yoga. Yoga is a combination of the making the right choices in exercise, breathing, meditation, eating as well a thinking. The same process goes with any form of creative output. No artist can truly live isolated from the world and yet they can develops from it the best methods, materials, techniques, skills and thinking to produce great work. So it is in my case that I find the combination of yoga and art, of mind and body, is natural one. It has, I believe, radically helped me shift my thinking, develop my work and deepen my craft as an artist.

5. How important do you think is to have a portfolio website for professional artists like you?

PS: As a creative who deals in the real world of advertising having a website that truly reflects an artist, and their personal brand, is of paramount importance. It is especially important in this digital age when an artist’s audience is not just local but global. An artist with a website is exhibiting on the world stage. Having one that is not only beautiful, functional and reflective of themselves but also adds to their audience appeal. Most artists tend to focus on what they do best, which is to create art yet marketing one’s work is of equal if not greater importance. A good website is one of the key tools to market yourself and your work.

For a multinational corporation or a single artist the development of a strong and consistent brand image is fundamental. Consequently having a professional and functioning website is incredibly important. For a number of years I had a functioning website that didn’t truly reflect my art or my brand. Of course I had designs for a site that did reflect who I am as an artist and my art. For a while the time constraints of producing sites for my own clients plus the simply excessive development costs of my designs kept the designs on the shelf for at least two years. With the Pixpa system I was able to quickly (over the course of three days) create a fully functioning website that much better reflects my creative work and my personal brand.

6. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who would like to build their own business?

PS: Constantly creating, producing and developing, as an artist is absolutely fundamental to who we are as creative beings. Of equal important though is the marketing and branding of any aspiring artist.

Given the potential of the digital marketplace as well as the spread of social media and blogging it is easier these days for an artist to connect with other artists through digital artists collectives. Most artists create in a fairly rarified, bubble-like atmosphere and we all tend to have a little of the ‘purple sheep’ in us. Therefore we have to work harder to connect to our audience.

Art is often seen as elitist, something greater than ourselves, something almost magical or spiritual, especially to the general populace. Yet from a commercial point of view we can exist without being able to sell. Every artists is running a ‘business’ and ultimately all business net to ‘viable’ so the constant growth we know is important as artists needs to happen to a similar degree with marketing ourselves and our ‘business’. Another piece advice I was told is that as artist we need to create every day, even if it is only a mark on a page, every day in some way we need to constantly be producing and creating. Our creativity should never be static neither should our ‘marketing’ of our brand it needs to adapt and shift to suit the changes and focus of our ‘target market’. In the digital realm nothing is static and nor should our website.

From a website ranking point of view the fresher and more constant a post the higher it ranks on search engines. This applies to blogging as equally as to developing as artists. We do not ever reproduce the same piece again and again. The same goes for he ‘ business’ of being an artist. We need to constantly create, to produce, to grow, to market and to sell. Which helps us to create and produce as well as grow as business people and as artists.

7. Finally, tell us about your experience in building your website using Pixpa.

PS: As I said earlier, working in advertising I have being cognizant for a long while of the potential of exhibiting in the online arena. Hence the need to have a great website that showed my work to in the best light. I had for a number of years one that functioned, but was a poor offering. It also more importantly did not reflect either my art or my brand. Which is why when I read an article about Pixpa in an online design magazine I immediately checked out their offering.

I was to say suitably impressed. Although I had tried to build a site previously using a template based website I found its convoluted functionality frustrating to say the least. Whereas with Pixpa the process was smooth and intuitive. It flows together like a website system that was designed by artists for artists. In fact within three days of concerted effort I had a beautiful website live on the net. The other site was immediately relegated to the cringe bin. The best part is that the site, and the Pixpa system, is the amazing range of inbuilt functionality. As no site is ever truly static since publishing my site I’ve added new work, the shop function and irregular blog posts. With thanks to the crew at Pixpa I have a website that reflects my brand and my personality.

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