By Cynthia Drack
Life. It has a funny way of placing you in the position you were destined to be in.
It was a quick decision to move to Europe. My husband got a job, we spoke about it, we said yes, we told unhappy family members and off we went. There wasn’t much planning, other than always wanting to live in Europe. The different cultures, the art, the food, the city and country landscape, the feeling of being European and breathing passion into life, every single day. I always knew that I would somehow, one day, come back to the “homeland.” (I was born in Malta… so it’s close enough.) Although I love crashing waves and walking on sun-kissed sand, surfing and lying on a 40℃ beach, getting sunburnt, in Australia, is not for me. This juxtaposition and the continual evolution of self, emotionally connecting to old cultures and art has always been embedded in me. Hold this thought.
I have been painting and drawing from as early as I can remember. From drawing detailed cartoons to replicating oil paintings with colored pencil, even as a young child. As I began winning school and local council competitions, I was motivated to explore my passion further. So I drew and painted whenever I could and enrolled in extra curricular art activities.
At school, the careers counselor encouraged me to enter graphic design; however, I had no interest in electronic art at this point. So, I studied family and child psychology, my second passion, for four years and then business marketing for another four. During my studies, my yearning for self-expression grew stronger, so I enrolled in nightly art courses that encompassed painting, drawing, ceramics, mono printing and stained glass window making.
Working myself up the corporate ladder, I became Head of Marketing for a merchant bank in Melbourne. In this role, I continued to design and create for their Australian and offshore investments. I soon built a team of graphic design artists to help with the bank’s smaller subsidiaries, like child-care centers, that allowed me to continue to express my creativity despite being in a corporate environment. Life: allowing me the experience of managing and marketing multiple small businesses.
So fast forward to Munich, 2007. Moving here, although unexpectedly hard, was a great move and gave me the courage I needed. We started a family and I slowly moved away from my sixty hour working week to concentrate on being a full time mother of two girls. Within the first few years, I was greatly inspired by their curiosity for all things related to art.
So this is how my ‘real’ art journey began.
I asked a small group of friends to join me for an afternoon of ‘arts and crafts,’ when my oldest child was two. I bought my materials, prepared my class and set up the room. I was extremely nervous. Big men in burly suits sitting at a boardroom table were a piece of cake compared to a bunch of two- to three-year-olds and their very talkative mummies. I was super shy as a child, and running a class with children was bringing back childhood memories of fear of not being good enough. I was, however, determined to get over this fear. I was an adult, damn it! Get it together. Life is too short for this crap. You only have one life, make it exceptional, I kept thinking.
Everyone’s feedback after the class was overwhelming. Both kids and their mummies had a great time working on the two art projects together. I stopped perspiring. I loved working with these kids and took inspiration from their bright, happy faces.
Over the next few weeks, I ran more art classes with my friends and their children. I was on a high. I had never imagined I could do this. How could I turn this high, this passion, into something sustainable and real? I was sharing my art.
So, bouyed by my passion and enthusiasm, and firm belief that children need to explore and develop their own artistic abilities, I thought long and hard about starting my own business. This thought petrified me, but I was in the zone of making a difference, not just in my life, but in the lives of kids, parents and their families.
I quickly started speaking with friends who became invaluable emotional support and helped me to articulate exactly what I wanted. I consulted my husband, who sacrificed many hours of his own time, making sure I stayed on track by listening to hundreds of ideas on how I wanted to be different. To make a difference.
I wrote a business plan. (Gee, that business degree and experience came in handy.) I wrote class plans. (Gee, my years of creating my own art came in handy.) I created workable programs to harvest family dynamics and developmental milestones. (Gee, my psych degree came in handy.)
I started to realize that all my studying and life experiences led me to this point. This is where I needed to be. This is what I am meant to do. “You are whoever you want to be,” I kept saying to myself.
From this awakening, Little Picassos Schwabing was born. I advertised slowly, as I was still fearful of failure. People who weren’t just my friends came to my classes. Phew, I thought. I must be doing something right. Over time I ran another class, and then another, then another. Different age kids, classes without parents. I was loving my art classes, and the kids and their parents were, too.
My whole being was being consumed by how I could make Little Picassos better. By nature, I am not a competitive person against others. But I am damn competitive against myself. How could I sustain making a difference to children and their self confidence, their learning curve, their ideals of creating and having fun with art? So over time, I tweaked my business plan, I focused, I modified, I offered new types of classes and found new, workable solutions within my own capabilities and loves.
So here was a breakthrough moment: as a teenager, I was not really good at Maths after 9th grade. It was important for me to make sure my girls and others did not have this self image. So I started a STEAM camp geared mainly towards girls, introducing fun and creative ways to combine art and science.
I continue to strive to allow children to truly express themselves, to laugh, to see that nothing and nobody is perfect, to understand that achievement is a process and yes, you are going to get a few bumps along the way.
Over the last two years, it became apparent that adults needed a creative outlet, too, so many parents encouraged me to start Big Picassos for adults. So yes, I am continually challenging myself and overcoming fears and boundaries made by others. I teach fun paint nights and technique classes. It’s a completely different dynamic, but in the end, we are all “big” small kids deep down who want to be accepted and want to have fun and laugh, by being creative a little more each day.
I absolutely adore what I do and I think that is, within itself, contagious. I am really lucky to have a supportive family who puts up with my craziness of late hours painting my own art for exhibitions, and early mornings, creating art class plans for others.
Having my own art business that educates and inspires children and adults has fulfilled my passion for assisting others in finding their true creative self. I have grown and Little Picassos Schwabing has with me. I have gone from teaching one small class a week to teaching over 150 children, aged 2-16, on a weekly basis. I now teach at kindergartens, private schools and hold private group classes.
If you love what you do, you will excel. ️
Cynthia Drack is an art educator and artist. She channelled what she learnt through her work with artists, graphic artists, illustrators, technologists and child care centers into a love of teaching art in a non traditional format: Little Picassos Schwabing. She holds a Bachelor in Business (Marketing) and a Bachelor in Arts (Psychology) and uses her knowledge of psychology and her expertise in visual communication to allow children to nurture their love for art and art making.