25th Trillium Award

Does Marital Bliss Equal Creative Harmony?

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Shaun and Christina Patterson are artists who have taken on the greatest creative challenge of all: artistic collaboration with your romantic partner. Together they have founded Big Fox Creative, and under this umbrella they write and illustrate children's books, design one-of-a-kind wedding cake toppers, develop video games — and of course, sneak in a smooch whenever time (and patience) permits. Their latest project is the children's book Fairies on My Island (Acorn Press).

As we head into the season when many of us are spending more time than usual with our loved ones, Shaun lets us in on a few secrets about how to make a creative union work.

Does Marital Bliss Equal Creative Harmony?

By Shaun Patterson

It wouldn?t be a shocking statement to say that relationships are challenging. We spend life finding ways to navigate a sea of dynamic personal and professional relationships, some more successfully than others. As an author or artist, the relationships that we develop with our creative partners can be fruitful, borne out of an environment of positive tension. Just when you think you have a handle on it, add another dynamic by making your creative partner your spouse.

My wife and I had both been illustrating books for Acorn Press when the opportunity came for Christina to write and illustrate a whole book herself. She was lukewarm about the idea of writing and I was very keen to try my hand at it. So our first project together happened with very little forethought as to what we would be dealing with in our professional dynamic together. We knew right away, though, that we wanted to parlay our own individual achievements into a mutual success that we could both grow and reap the benefits of.

Having two creative people working together has the potential to be heated, as both parties are very invested in the project. You have to remember to always respect the artist?s (or author?s) opinion, which means learning the difference between situations when you should stand firm with an idea or acquiesce to the other person?s judgement.

Artists and authors all run on very different schedules and have days that look anything but typical. Early on in a project, Christina and I like to set out certain milestones and then have periodic check-ins with each other. This gives us the confidence to not have to worry about the other person?s progress or ever second guess their time management.

Admitting what may be a skill or shortcoming is never easy to do as a couple. Being able to be honest with your other half will allow you both maximize your effectiveness working together. I know that I will be writing the next book and my wife will be illustrating it. We have established that we both have a certain leeway to art-direct and edit each other?s work, in order to be creating the strongest piece possible.

I have a Master?s degree in business, so I really enjoy the strategic elements of a project and focusing on creating milestones in what I see as long term goals. My wife has an amazing attention to detail and really raises the bar with the level of finish on our projects, oftentimes bringing to light things that I had not even considered. These differences could easily be points of conflict in working together, but by being open and honest with each other, we are able to turn these differences into competitive advantages.

When you work busy days jobs and run a number of creative-based businesses, it is easy to become very focussed on your ?to do? list and what needs to happen next. Oftentimes Christina and myself are taken aback by some genuine piece of verbal or written praise about our work. This gives us pause to take a step back and actually bask in our accomplishments for a moment or two. You really need to take the time to allow yourself to be proud of this thing that you are creating together. These reflective moments are what end up giving you both the feeling that whatever barriers you come up against, it is all worth it in the end.

Shaun Patterson enjoys writing children's books as well as genre fiction. He holds a BFA and an MBA, and has been working in the arts and culture industry for over ten years. His experience includes positions in video game art and production, marketing, design and business development. He considers himself a business-minded creative with a real passion for art, writing and entrepreneurship. Find out more about Shuan by visiting his website at shaunpatterson.com.

Christina Patterson is formally trained as a graphic designer. She is a professional children?s book artist, painter and sculptor. Since 2004, Christina has been making quality sculptures for clients worldwide, including celebrity clients such as David Copperfield and Regis & Kelly" Find out more about Christina at her website for Custom Cake Toppers.

To find out more about books by the Pattersons and to purchase a copy, click here.

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