A charcoal drawing of students working on their own art pieces inside one of the art classrooms at VIU.

One of Dexter Pham’s charcoal drawings while in class/ Image via Dexter Pham.

How do we find our creativity?

Inspiration can seem like a skittish adopted cat coming into our home for the first time. As badly as we want to go to it and let it know we’re a friend, it darts away under the couch or the bed every time we get near. No amount of toys or cans of tuna will get it out and we finally have to give up.

I turned to Dexter Pham to see how he coaxed his inspiration out of its hiding place. Pham is a twenty-two-year-old artist from Vietnam and a second-year Visual Arts student at VIU.

His art has a variety of mediums. He used to work mostly with graphic design and oil pastels, but his current favourite is charcoal drawing.

Pham’s solution to finding creativity was quite simple:

“To me, art is just the enjoyment of doing it,” he said. “Before I start, I like to listen to music or watch a movie, and as I process what I’m seeing or hearing, I look for the emotion that I’m experiencing and then try to find a way to capture that.”

There isn’t any surefire way to get in the creative mood because it varies between each person. Classical opera may work for one person, heavy metal for another, and complete silence for someone else. One cat can love chasing string while another doesn’t want to move at all as it sits on your lap.

“You have to look for what makes you relax,” Pham said. “Relaxing in art is key. When your mind is thoughtless and has time for creativity, you start to look at your perspective differently. You start asking questions about what you’ve never noticed before.”

So we leave the cat under the bed and go about our business. We wash the dishes, sit down with our laptop for a while, make ourselves a drink. And eventually, the cat pokes its head around the corner. We created a space for it, and it came.

After talking with Dexter I’ve learned that inspiration is often not born from doing something—it comes when you are open enough to expect nothing.


Bella is a second-year Creative Writing and English student at VIU. When she was six years old, her mom helped her write her first book, “The Shed Princess.” The Grand Forks Library even kept it on its shelves for a few weeks. These days, Bella is on a mission to have her books on every library’s shelves.

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