CREATIVE HEROES: My Advertising Friends

28 02 2016

My sweetie, Steve Davison won a lifetime achievement award at the Annual Advertising (ADDY) Awards.* And BAM…it hit me afterwards. I’ve now started my new series on Creative Heroes, which is about someone living a fully creative life and not only was my sweetie a creative hero, but as I watched the intro video of past winners, I realized they were all creative heroes of mine. As I watched the show and saw brilliant, beautiful, touching and funny work, I realized I was in a room full of creative heroes. That award show and that evening was a love fest. My advertising peeps have somehow married design, writing, marketing, business and have turned it into a career. We actually get paid for this! It is an industry that I am proud to be a part of. It is the filter though which I see the world.

The night of the ADDY Awards was about honoring creativity. It was about those in the business that show up with their A game. As a friend said in the introductory video, “good is the enemy of great”. That’s really a hard thing to do. We get bogged down with life, people who don’t understand, and all the other excuses we come up with, when we settle for good enough.

Maybe because it’s hard to continually push yourself that the advertising people I know live by the philosophy, “work hard and play hard.” I’m invigorated when I’m with my tribe. It’s a multigenerational tribe; with friends who go back to the Mad Men era to 20-somethings who are fearless in their brand new careers. As my sweetie said in his acceptance speech, “the business may change technically, but it doesn’t change creatively. It’s not the tools that matter, it’s the people.”

The lifetime achievement award Steve received was a surprise to him, but I knew about it. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that I kept the secret. Our table was filled with family and industry friends. These are friends that he gets together to watch football with, and they are also past AAF-BR club presidents and lifetime achievement winners. Our table was jokingly called the Mt. Rushmore table because of its collective age. But that table was also filled with a lot of creative wisdom. As I progress through this new series, I’m realizing a hallmark of living a creative life is surrounding yourself with creative friends.

I’ve written about my sweetie before. We met 30 years ago when he was the hot, tv commercial director in town. He knows every aspect of film/video production. He is an artist with the camera and I’ve heard him say, “it’s like painting with light.” One of the things that drew us together as a couple is the history we shared in the advertising world in our southern city. One of the things the South does really well is storytelling. And that’s really what advertising is, telling a story.

Living a Creative Life
Steve’s creativity is not left at work. He is a talented furniture maker. Our home is filled with pieces he’s built. He’s renovated our master bathroom and built a new deck in our garden. He is also a remarkable cook. I’ve got the extra pounds to show for it from our six years together. His dishes are not only delicious, the presentation is also carefully considered. A perfect evening for us is sitting outside on that deck with friends laughing and storytelling, and eating a great meal that Chef Steve has prepared and paired with the perfect bottle of wine.

I am so thrilled that Steve was honored by his peers. I’m also honored to be reminded by how much I love my creative tribe. We are all creative heroes.

Connections: Steve pointed out in his acceptance speech that he came back from Viet Nam and started his career in 1970. That was the same year that his father won this same lifetime achievement award. A few years later Steve was a volunteer producer for the ADDY Awards at the long-gone Aubin Lane Dinner Theater. I realized that I was also in attendance at that show. My father produced his own commercials and I was thrilled as a young teen to go with my Dad to my first ADDY Awards show. There is just one degree of separation in Baton Rouge.

* It’s called the E. A. “Pete” Goldsby Silver Medal Award and it was awarded by his peers in the American Advertising Federation–Baton Rouge (AAF-BR).

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CREATIVE HEROES: Marie Constantin

11 02 2016

Marie Constantin, photographer, home renovator, fiddler, lives a creative life. She lives in the present moment, sees the holy in the world around her, and infuses her life with joy. She has a loud laugh and her friends hear it often. We also hear righteous indignation when she sees injustice. Her creative soul radiates her humble joy. I immediately thought of Marie when I thought of starting a series on Creative Heroes.

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Mother Teresa
As I start to write this, Marie’s photo of Mother Teresa is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The journey of how it got there is about her living a creative life. Marie makes a living as a photographer. I met her when I hired her for a photo shoot, when she was fresh back from a trip to India where she went to volunteer for Mother Teresa.

She learned early in her photographic career that she needed to spend her volunteer hours doing something other than photography. Marie would often volunteer at the soup kitchen run by Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity. Her helping out at the soup kitchen led to friendships with the nuns. They invited Marie to go to the Mother House in Calcutta. She went as a volunteer to do whatever was needed. What later evolved was whenever Mother Teresa was in this country, Marie was asked to photograph Mother Teresa attending to the business of the order. She got to know this remarkable woman up close and personal.

Not long after Mother Teresa died, Marie got a message from someone with a thick Spanish accent, which she promptly ignored. Fortunately the caller was persistent and they eventually connected. It was the Vatican and they wanted to use a photo she had taken for Mother Teresa’s Beatification. CBS Sunday Morning told the story of Mother Teresa through Marie’s eyes. I watched Marie on this national news program the morning of the Beatification. She was in St. Peter’s Square being interviewed with the huge billboard size photo she took, behind her hanging from the Basilica. Now that Mother Teresa is being fast tracked to sainthood, it’s still Marie’s photo that is the official Vatican image.

Marie's photo at Mother Teresa's Beatification

Marie’s photo at Mother Teresa’s Beatification

What makes Marie’s Mother Teresa story so powerful as a creative journey, is that it started a recharge from her day job as a photographer. That down time from work enhanced her professional life in a huge and unexpected way.

Living a Creative Life
The same creative energy she brings to her professional life fills her whole life. She bought a run down craftsman home in Baton Rouge’s oldest neighborhood that she saw potential in. Today she sees her home as living in a work of art and it’s on the Historic Registry. She’s bartered her photography skills for things like a stained glass door and she used color experts, designers and craftsmen to help actualize her vision. One of my favorite spots in town is sitting on the big swing on her wraparound porch, having a glass of wine, watching the world go by, while we solve the problems of the world. She has built a community of creative people who inspire her and who are inspired by her.

She also loves the rich culture of south Louisiana. She turned a fishing camp outside of town on the mighty Atchafalaya River into a Zen oasis and named it the Flying Alligator. It’s complete with a swinging bed and an outside shower. It took her a year, with her chain saw and lawn mower, to cut a trail through the woods. It’s a magical place where one can find solitude and meditation within nature.

Marie on stump

Marie Laughing

Marie at the Flying Alligator

It’s also a place where friends and family gather for eating, drinking and music. She decided to learn the fiddle a few years back. She went deep into Cajun country to find authentic teachers. She’s now friends with Grammy-award winning musicians and it’s common for a bunch of musicians to jam together on her camp’s big screened in porch.

The pier in front of her camp is named Flyin' Alligator waterfront lounge

The pier in front of her camp is named Flyin’ Alligator waterfront lounge

Marie can be seen in a traditional Mardi Gras costume made by her Cajun friends at the pink-flamingo-filled Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade that rolls by her craftsman home. Or she can be seen taking a photographic portrait of Louisiana’s new Governor. She brings the same joy and passion to both.

Mother Teresa said, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” Marie’s life is a joyful, creative net. She is a creative hero.

Click here to watch an extended conversation with Marie on creativity.

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CREATIVE HEROES
Click here for
The Birth of an Idea

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