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How to Build Your Creative Confidence

25 Jan 2021
Talent can only take you so far – we speak to a pair of determined creatives about picking up the skills to forge their own paths.

Those who have the courage to turn their thoughts and ideas into visual realities reach a crossroad at some point in their process – are they prepared to go all in?

For painter Danae Ripley, the answer to that question was never in doubt.

“There’s nothing I'd rather do,” Ripley declares. “Painting for me is fundamental, it’s tied into dreaming up a better world. I would say the inspiration comes from being very moved by paintings, they are incredible non-verbal things. I have a lot to say, but often find I can communicate certain ideas more coherently in a painted language.” 

The same applies to Aotearoa’s self-described “underdog rookie in the Typography scene,” Jaime Kapa. 

Like Ripley, she knew she had the drive to commit to her craft. “I strongly believe as a Māori female practitioner, we as Māori are representing, acknowledging the interconnectedness and interrelationship of all Tūpuna who have gone before us. 

“It is my whakapapa, recollected memories and narrative passed down that drives my vision and the essence behind my work.”

Finding your path

While faced with different objectives and drawn to different disciplines, both Ripley and Kapa found the same path to reinforce their creative confidence. Unitec’s Master of Creative Practice provided the vehicle for them to advance their creative careers.

Danae Ripley. Photo: Supplied.

“I enrolled to improve my studio processes and engage in a research project which was rigorous and clarified my conceptual ideas,” Ripley explains. “Also, it was necessary for me to have a private studio space where you can throw paintbrushes in exhaustion at the end of the day and wander back in that following day.”

Kapa says “the MCP course has allowed me to explore and research my passion for type. It has guided and given me the tools to expand my creative knowledge.”

Opening your eyes

The postgraduate degree is a melting pot of art forms, creating a dynamic community of diverse creative practices from visual to performing arts, toi Māori to design – culminating in individual exhibitions, performances, prototypes or publication.

Being surrounded by such variety was an eye-opener for Ripley. “We started our critical reading research with students in different creative disciplines. It was useful to learn about other postgraduate projects to test whether our ideas are important and individual.”

The structure of the course grounds the students in academic learning, challenging them to question ideas, explore new professional practices and build an advanced level of capability in their chosen practice.

Jaime Kapa. Photo: Supplied.

The winner of the Bold Innovators scholarship, Kapa is forthright about what she’s taken from her time at Unitec. “It would have to be perseverance and patience – two things I did not have when starting the course. It really pushed me to my absolute limits and has allowed me to realise what potential I have as an artist.”

Ripley is equally as adamant, praising the high-quality supervision of the Creative Practice staff. “I’ve become a more efficient painter by being given the time and critical feedback to gain fluency with materials and visual ideas.

“The environment is very supportive and constructive.” 

Grab the future with both hands

The public soak in Jaime Kapa's 2020 typography exhibition at Unitec. Photo: Supplied.

As well as raising her newborn baby, Kapa has her sights set on establishing a type foundry, focused on the creation of unique Aotearoa typefaces.

“The objective behind my work is firstly opening up conversations about whakapapa, it invites people to understand the importance of an oral tradition being represented through a visual typographic form.

“Establishing a type foundry will encourage other design creatives to learn the lost art of typography, and help give our ever-evolving history and culture typefaces which we can all identify with.”

Oil paintings by Danae Ripley. Photo: Supplied.

Also not content with marching to someone else’s beat, Ripley is a co-founder of Auckland’s Sanc Gallery on Upper Queen Street. “It’s a painter-run space that we’ve set up to champion contemporary painting. We saw a gap to fill in terms of showing dedicated, established and emerging painters. It allows us to show our own work (with her Masters project No Hem on display in April) or put on the shows we want to see.”


Written in partnership with Unitec. To find out more about the Master of Creative Practice, click here.