Clone Me Please: Esther Barend

“They always said, ‘Acting normal is crazy enough.'”

Yesterday the idea came to me that my love for writing and painting are like the emotion I have for my children (in a way). I had only one child for eleven years. Bearing that child alone, just out of college, and becoming a parent shaped who I am. My daughter was essentially attached to my hip as I made my way into adulthood, marriage, career, etc.

When the second child came along years later, I knew who I was. While we waited for the fresh little “chunk-a-lunk” to introduce herself, I wondered what it would be like to have a second child. Could I love it as much as the first? How would that work, and what would it feel like?

So how is this related to writing and painting, you wonder?

Well, like my first child, my love for writing has always been attached to my hip, growing stronger as I developed. It shaped who I am, and seems to be tangled with my very soul, beautifully fused in some fateful way. Years into it–when I thought there would be nothing else–painting came along. And just like the heart miraculously expands to love another child, my creative soul, kernel, base (whatever you choose to call it) seemed to explode, ensuring plenty of room for both.

My guest today, renowned artist, Esther Barend, reminds us that it’s tough to do it all. And she’s right! Like Esther, I wish I could clone myself, and do fifty things at once. Years of corporate culture induced time management and multi-tasking has helped but, like a good mother, there are days when I wonder if I can provide each with the right level of attention.

Esther didn’t grow up with a creative silver spoon of support in her mouth. The specific encouragement she needed was often missing. We recently learned that best selling author Margaret Weis’ parents were generally supportive of her highly focused interest in writing although they didn’t always understand it. Esther’s story and comments provide an interesting contrast.

Esther brilliantly touches on two important themes for creative individuals. How we can possibly act on all our ideas and creative interests, and how parental support influences our self esteem and our hope of following through … on anything.

As for me, I can’t give up either of my children, and I can’t give up writing or painting. Wish me luck! As Esther points out, cloning may be the best answer …

I often wonder if most highly creative people are born knowing what they want to do. Have you always wanted to be an artist, or was it a specific creative interest that evolved over time?

From the moment I could read I wanted to become a writer. The idea that you could create a fantasy life yourself, printed so others could enjoy it too, attracted me. So I started writing my first ‘books’ at the age of 7–picturing a life I wanted to have but didn’t. I showed the first ‘book’ to my parents, but after their reaction I decided to keep the next ones for myself. They were making a bit fun of it because one of my aunts thought she was gifted (which she wasn’t) and wanted to become famous, no matter what or how. My parents often said that I was like my aunt, which of course I didn’t like at all.

My father painted in his spare time, my mother was a ballet teacher. I was gifted with both their talents. I liked drawing and had high grades for the drawing and crafts classes in school. In my spare time a drew a lot and I attended ballet classes. But I had very low self-esteem. I always thought that I did not have enough creative talent to be able to go to the academy of arts and I was not stimulated by my parents either (which confirmed my thoughts of not being good enough). For a while I wanted to study dancing (to become a ballet teacher, like my mother) after high school. But my feet and body grew too big (for a while), and I had no self-confidence at all. So I decided to do something with my talents for languages.

A few years later blood proved to be thicker than water. It started as a hobby and evolved into my work: designing jewelry. For several years, I made two new collections of jewelry. The jewels were bought and sold by shops who sell exclusive clothing in The Netherlands.

Years later, I don’t know why because I had never made one brush stroke in my life, I decided to go to the Academy of Arts and follow painting classes… and next everything fell in to place. I found my destiny… or maybe it found me. The ball was set completely rolling after a renown gallery owner asked me to become one of the artists in his gallery! Art is a way of living now and I’m earning my living with it. I have to admit that I get a lot of energy from the spontaneous reactions of people (all over the world) on my art and of course the sales (I celebrate every sale, because it’s great that someone likes my art so much that he/she wants to own it). It gives me wings and keeps me going.

Do you have other creative interests, and if so, what are they?

I still love writing but it never came to a book (not yet). I did several projects with other materials and I’ve agreed to start a collaboration with an other artist in sculptures, beginning in a few months.

I’ve got so many ideas in my head that I need to clone myself to execute all of them.

There is a stereotype that creative people are “different,” which can be a positive or a negative at times. What are your thoughts on this?

It is more than true. I love being an artist. I love having so many ideas and dreams. I love being idealistic. Unlike when I was young, I’ve got a lot more self-esteem now. It came along with finding my destiny as an artist. The positive things about being an artist I cherish every day.
The negative things I try to live with. Because it can be a burden, too. I cannot stop looking with artists’ eyes. In fact I’m always working. Whatever I experience and/or see goes directly to the archives in the catacombs of my brain. And of course some things simmer on ‘the ground floor’ for a while, before going to the archives. Also, I always feel the urge to surpass myself. But I know I cannot keep on doing that all the time. And I get bored quickly… I want to try and do it all.

Having a free mind is awesome, but it makes life complicated at the same time because a lot of people don’t have a free mind. So I run against a lot of walls, prejudices (of others), and misunderstanding.

Personally I’ve learned to live with that. But in general, I don’t understand people at all. What, in God’s/heaven’s/Allah’s/earth’s/cosmos’ name have we people created? Why did we make such a mess of the world?

I’ve managed to find a way to live with these thoughts. For a while they’ve pushed me down, made me depressive. But nowadays I focus on the positive things of life. It is an art to look for the positive things in everything all the time, but as I always say–it’s in the manner of seeing that moves your understanding. It makes me feel a lot more happy and, despite the negative things which of course are also in my life, I can honestly say that I feel very lucky.

Do you believe being creative has caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life’s aberrations, or both?

Both. In fact, you can see answers to this above. Being creative–but not daring to be–has caused me aberrations. Finding my destiny has helped me deal with life’s aberrations!

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you’ve dealt with it?

The only people who didn’t understand my creative drive when I was young were my parents. Back then, I never dared to discuss my desire to become an artist with anyone else because of my lack of self-esteem. They always said, “Acting normal is crazy enough.” The strange thing was that they were creative themselves! But their goal was to become rich (which I understand because of the time they were born, they were raised, etc.) so their mindset was that I’d better find a profession to become rich, too. I didn’t deal with it very well. I suppressed my feelings because I wanted to be a good daughter. I know my parents think different now! And I have to add that for them rich meant “being independent and being able to do whatever you want to do–and you need money in order to do so.”

Maybe nowadays there are people around me who do not understand my creative drive. If so, it says a lot about them, and nothing about me. I don’t care at all.

I often wonder, “Am I truly creative or do I just think I am?” Have you ever wondered about this? In a world filled with creative people and people who think they’re creative, how have you been able to distinguish yourself and your talent, despite any doubts along the way?

Yes, I have wondered about this. As a young person, I was convinced that nobody was waiting for me or my art. I was convinced that I was a nobody. I shouldn’t have listened to myself. I’ve learned the hard way.

Unfortunately many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. How do you cope with disappointments? What motivates you to keep going, to not give up?

I’m one of the lucky people who’s achieved the success I dreamed about. I’m busy expanding it now. But I’m not without disappointments in my life. In fact, I’ve had plenty of disappointments. I’ve had my share and I’m convinced I’ll get my share in the future, too. But I don’t want to think like that.

I motivate myself because I’ve got some kind of engine in my body that keeps me going and like I’ve answered before–I get a lot of energy from the positive reactions of others.

I often wonder about the similarities and differences creative people have in terms of though processes. How would you describe your creative process? How does your mind work?

LOL!!! How my mind works I don’t know! I just do what comes up. I’m quite disciplined. In the morning I get up, eat breakfast and next I run about five miles. I go to my studio and start painting. Through running I free my mind. Through painting I free my mind, too. Not thinking, but just painting gives the best results. Afterwards I often wonder where I was when the painting got painted. When I’m ‘in’ my painting I forget everything. I love that. I don’t want to be disturbed at all. I work every day during the week. And if I feel like it, sometimes I work on a Saturday as well. But I have children, and also there is the love of my life, so I’ve got to give them some attention, too. In the evenings I answer my mails, write my blog, try to follow the news about what’s going on in the contemporary art world etc. And of course think about the ideas that come up.

What are the top three characteristics of a highly creative person, in your opinion?

1) Having a free mind (and soul)

2) Having talent to create

3) Being social (knowing how to communicate)

Many creative people have tons of ideas but never follow through. I’m not sure if it’s because they lack drive, organization, or focus. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

As I said before–a lot of ideas I have cannot be executed because I cannot clone myself. If I do something I want to do it in the best way I can. Creating takes a lot of time. So I have to make choices and learn to live with the fact that I can’t do it all.

To learn more about Esther and her work, visit:

7 thoughts on “Clone Me Please: Esther Barend

Add yours

  1. I feel the need to add something.
    It seems like I put the all the blame on my parents (for not chosing to evolve my creative talents when I was young). But that is not the case and it would be too easy. I understand, why they reacted like they did back then. It has to do everything with the era they lived in and the way they were raised themselves. Of course this had implications for my self-confidence and the path I chose. But I take my own responsibilities for what I did and didn't do. And actually.. it's good as it is right now!


  2. Esther, Thanks for adding this important point. I feel the same way about my life. I was reminded recently that each person is a complex product of many things including the environment we were raised in, genetics, intelligence, and emotional disposition. (Of course, that's why two kids can grow up in the same family and turn out so differently.) Our parents are just ONE factor in the mix of who we are, and who we choose to be. I also believe that MOST parents honestly do the best they can. They have their own set of circumstances ….

    I'm trying every day to take responsibility for, and be proud of, who I am. It's tough when doing so may hurt someone else (a parent, for example) who may not share your value system. But isn't there a great responsibility to authenticity in this life? We only get one life.

    You are an inspiration to me!


  3. I would love to know about how being social helps a creative person in your opinion, Esther.

    The other 2 of the top 3 you listed are fairly obvious.

    It was also great to read about your parents and your aunt.

    The whole “memory”/catacombs and archives thing was interesting too.


  4. @ Penelope: You're so right. My parents honestly did the best they could (and still do) and they encouraged me in a lot of ways. I think that if they could do it again they'd encourage my creative talents more because they are very proud of me now.
    They've evolved too. Also looking back at my childhood I can honestly say that it was a very carefree period. Another thing is that I ask myself if my low self-esteem wasn't already in my DNA when I was born? It's so easy to make judgements afterwards with the facts of today. Being a parent myself of 3, I know how difficult it is to raise children, listen to them carefully in order to make the right steps, do and say the right things (words can be killing) etc… I think it's the hardest job in the world.

    @ Bob. Thanks Bob! Hope you're doing fine!

    @ Adelaide: Being a social person and knowing how to communicate are in my opinion very important for creative souls. I think that having empathic abilities makes that your mind is open for whatever happens in the world, for the feelings of the people surrounding you and for yourself of course. Besides the other advantages that this gives you in general, this feeds your emotions and ideas which you can project (sooner or later) on canvas or using other materials. Apart from the fact that pieces of art are tools of communication as well themselves, it's important that an artist knows how to communicate him/herself. If your only talent is creativity, your art will never see the day light. I mean there are a lot of creative persons in the world who make the most wonderful art, but who don't know how to make contact with other people… or gallery owners! They don't know how to present their art. Nobody is going to look for the artists hidden in their attics! Nowadays there are so many people who call themselves 'artist' that there is an overkill. So knowing how to communicate and make yourself seen is very important. Furthermore being social to me means too: Willing to listen to the opinions of others and not being afraid of criticism, but use the critics to evolve without losing yourself. You've got to be true to yourself otherwise this will affect your art.


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