> Articles >
The Creative Life >
Dana Brandley, Rutgers University
Interviewee: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
Brandley interviews Mike de Sousa, the Director
of AbleStable®, and unravels his motivations
and thoughts about creativity and the creative
What is your motivation for creativity?
There's little doubt my experiences as a child left
me with the need to express myself about the world
and to try and understand the people around me.
I had a difficult and unconventional home life.
There are different ways people deal with that,
some hide away in a shell, some lash out, some take
drugs in a forlorn attempt to escape, some create.
It also seems there is a certain propensity in some
people to experiment, investigate and express, more
so than others. I hesitate to say there are 'creative
people' and that I'm one of them as my firm conviction
is that we all have the capacity to be 'creative',
but that different factors can make people feel
inadequate or unable to create. People will say
'I can't paint' or 'I'm not creative'. The truth
seems more that people have been discouraged because
of a critical remark or seeming lack of success
in a certain medium.
Like many who create, my drive is routed in the
ego which can be at once a potent, yet at times
illusory, force. My need to create something that
is more permanent than the brief puff in time that
is my life is, I believe, a common one.
Another central motivation for my creativity is
my need to connect. The irony here is that if you
have a sense of good connectivity with those around
you, and that you feel recognised, valued, and understood,
it is less likely you will be driven to express
your world view in the hope others will share and
connect with it.
There are times when the exploration of the medium
itself is my central focus and motivation in creating
a work. In these instances I hope others will be
enriched by, or enjoy the beauty or otherwise of
Lastly, there are ways of living and behaving that
I value, that I feel are mutually enriching. Part
of creating works that others experience can represent
my values and propagate them.
What do you create when
That depends what the focus and audience of the
work is. I've used many mediums to express myself
and share my thoughts and observations about the
world. I began concentrating my creative efforts
in the field of music, composing instrumental works
and songs, then went on to develop my literary skills
for a few years writing poetry, and short novels.
After an intense period of self-directed study I
began to draw and paint. Finally, the Internet provided
me with a context where I could marry non-performance
media. So now I run AbleStable, a web site that
I hope grows into a significant cultural destination
where people are encouraged to explore and develop
their own creativity. It also happens to be the
perfect context for my own eclectic interests and
skills base. What do I create? To get a more concrete
view of that you'll have to browse an exhibition
at AbleStable I've curated and contributed towards.
Do your personality states
change when you are creating?
There are those who will say they are consumed by
their medium, that they are taken over by a force
beyond their control, that 'they' are no longer,
but 'at one' with their craft.
Yes, I am consumed by what I am attempting to achieve
through a given medium, but this is not the exclusive
territory of the 'creative person', more the territory
of any person who commits themselves to doing a
job to the best of their ability. I am deeply suspicious,
as are many 'non creative' people, about the 'cult
of the artist', that somehow the artist is 'more',
that they feel, more, that they see, more. That
their personhood changes when creating in some mysterious
way that the rest of us cannot comprehend. I suspect
this is routed in our need for shamans, priests,
and the like who are viewed as helping us and advising
us about the world around us. Interestingly it is
more likely the artists themselves and the 'industry
of the artist' who perpetuate this view, rather
than the common person. Those who call themselves
artists are all too easily, in my opinion, prone
to over dramatise their abilities and 'gifts'.
Artists feel the same hopes, fears, and desires
as all of us, they may have chosen to develop their
skills in expressing those experiences, and at times
they may articulate the world around them in a novel
and interesting way that is pleasurable to our senses
and intelligence, but their experiences are no different
than the ordinary persons'. Some will argue an artist
sees colour and pattern differently, a composer
hears sounds we cannot, 'creative people' 'feel'
more, experience more, can perceive beauty, more.
We all experience the world differently than our
neighbour, we all see, hear, touch, taste, and smell
as islands connecting across the ever present space
between us. Artists are no different. My personality,
like everyone's, is conditioned by the context I
inhabit. The physical, social, and psychological
context. Do I change? Yes, but so do we all.
What is your definition
That's a tough one. Here goes.
Gathering personal experience, knowledge, and skill,
then using these qualities to produce an answer
to a challenge of some kind.
Was creativity encouraged
in you as a child?
I was brought up by two aunts, both encouraged me
to express myself. I have no doubt the encouragement
of children's creativity (or lack of encouragement)
forms the basis of our later confidence and attitudes
Do you teach children or
Yes. Mostly children now.
Do you think all people
Yes, but not all create.
What advice would you give
a young person starting out in the field?
Create as much as you can, whatever the medium.
Experience life, travel, talk, watch, listen, observe.
Be honest to yourself and others. When a work isn't
finished don't pretend it is. When a work is complete,
let it take on its' own life. Don't bullshit. Be
humble, don't brag. There's always a bigger fish
who knows far more and is better skilled than you,
learn from them. Question others, question yourself.
Keep a watchful eye on your ego, if it grows too
large your work will diminish. Be articulate, at
least about your work. Don't expect money from your
work. It may come, it may not. Create because you
need to, not because you want to. Try your very
best. Study. Share your talents. But most of all,
create for a noble purpose, the world will be a
better place, and you will be content.
Describe your work methods
I gather material, research, consume. Allow myself
to journey to unexpected places, trusting my instinct,
my feeling, the sum of my knowledge and experience.
After I have as much as I can gather laid out before
me, I pause. Sometimes for days, for weeks. Until
I sense I am ready to begin. I have a general idea
about the work, but my plans are open to change.
I start: the hardest part. Gradually, slowly, the
work takes shape. Form and structure is always at
the forefront of my mind as I fashion the materials
of the work. At many times I do not feel I am creating,
more that the work has only one way it can grow,
I direct the inevitable flow of material and form.
There are moments of great self achievement, and
times of immense frustration and doubt. And then,
like a child's smile, and quite unexpectedly, it
Brandley conducted this interview as part of
her course on Theorising Creativity at Rutgers
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®.
Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music
composer, photographer, print and web site designer,
If you observe inaccuracies in our in-house
contributions or wish to contribute an article
or review to be included at AbleStable®
Although our contents are free to browse, copyright
resides with the originators of all works accessed
at AbleStable®, and unauthorised copying
or publication of our site contents is strictly
AbleStable © 2002-2007
Material: AbleStable © 2002-2007