53. Ronald Paredes: Rediscovering creativity

Sue Stockdale talks to Ronald Paredes a Latin-American artist, graphic designer, and podcaster from Caracas, Venezuela about how we can rediscover creativity within us. Born and raised in a family of painters and designers, he has always been in contact with graphic arts and visual communication and found himself shifting his professional life between his three passions: art, graphic design, and psychology.   

With over 20 of experience in the creative industry, he continually balances his personal projects as a visual artist with his work in the advertising industry. Parallel to his work as a graphic designer and his artistic activities he started conducting studies and research into creativity and its connections with psychology, neuroscience, and creative processes to rediscover our natural creative capacities. He uses this information to produce and host a podcast called The Creativity Roots.   

Connect with Ronald at Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and his website or watch his TEDx talk 




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Key Quotes:

‘I’m originally from Caracas, Venezuela. I was born there, in a family of artists and designers’

‘What I tell people is – if you’re capable of understanding a joke or making a joke, you are being creative’

‘I found out that when you start developing a language, you start losing creativity. There is a connection that when you start developing critical thinking- you start developing this fear of judgment’.

‘Creativity is an innate, human capacity. Every single person is creative.’

‘Creative confidence is when you discover that you have the ability to do something and that it makes you feel good about yourself.  It opens a door to a world of possibilities, and then you feel free to explore’.

‘I live by the principle that I don’t care what other people think – don’t be, scared of being seen. Because that’s very important’.

Ronald Paredes Transcription

[00:00:00] Sue: welcome to episode 53 of the access to inspiration podcast. I’m Sue Stockdale, your host for this series, where you can be inspired by people who may be unalike you. All our guests are amazing, talented, ordinary people whose stories reinforce the characteristics that we want to see more often in the world. Authenticity generosity of spirit and humility. Our mission is to inspire change through conversation. And as we’ve now published over 50 episodes, we want to measure and evaluate the impact of this podcast in society. And we’d like your help. Please take a moment at the end of the podcast to conduct our two minute survey or leave us a voice message to give us your feedback, details of how to do this are on the show notes. And it will be provided at the end of the episode. I’m also on our website, access to inspiration.org on what today’s episode, my guest today I hope will stimulate your curiosity as well as your creativity. Ronald Paredes is a Latin American artist, graphic designer and podcaster from Caracas. Born and raised in a family of painters and designers he found himself developing a curiosity about what is at the intersection of his three passions, art graphic design, and psychology. Ronald started conducting research about creativity. And it’s connections with psychology neuroscience and the creative processes as a way to rediscover our natural creative capacities.When I spoke to him. I learned why sleep and regular breaks are vital to the creative process and how singing in the street or playing the guitar can contribute to what he calls creative confidence. Welcome Ronald to the podcast. Great to have you here.

[00:01:59] Ronald: Thank you for having me.

[00:02:02] Sue: I’m intrigued to find out more about you and particularly what compels me to have a conversation with you was this connection between creativity, art, and psychology. So there’s plenty for us to speak about today Ronald.. So maybe just tell us, first of all, where are you from and where you’re living currently and what you’re doing.

[00:02:20] Ronald: I’m originally from Caracas, Venezuela. I was born there in a family of artists and designers. Interesting story. My dad and my mom they’re both artists and that’s actually how they met. So my dad, he used to be like the boss of a drawing, design studio. This was in that time when there was no graphic design, it was called like a commercial. My mom she was an arts student and she was working in the studio and my dad was her boss and she tells me that she hated him so much because he was so mean to her. So typically, you [00:03:00] know, when the boy likes the girl, he picks on her. So my mother will go back home. So frustrated that man, I hate him so much. Look at what happened.

[00:03:12] Sue: That’s a wonderful story.

[00:03:13] Ronald: That’s how they met. And they grew up between drawings and oil painting. And my dad used to have a stationary design studio, so I will help him designing logos and stationary and stuff like that. Since I was little, I was doing.

[00:03:27] Sue: And did you have a paintbrush in your hand rather than a pen or pencil?

[00:03:30] Ronald: Yes. Whatever I could produce to make a mark, I would use it. It’s funny. My dad, he was so busy, but when he had some time, he will try to teach me, say with my mom. So it was always there. Present. The creativity in the visits to the museum.

[00:03:45] Sue: You had the interest in creativity and art. And how did you move from Venezuela to where you are now?

[00:03:52] Ronald: Well, funny story, since I was little, I had a thing for Chinese girls and I met one and that brought me here to China. It’s been 15 years. I’m no longer in that relationship. I have a son from that first marriage. He’s 10 years old now and I remarried and I, now I have another boy, four years old, so I have two Chinese boys. Yeah.

[00:04:18] Sue: Are they creative?

[00:04:19] Ronald: Very much. Well, my oldest son, he likes to draw a lot and the little one he likes to draw, but it’s very difficult to keep him sitting in that place for more than five minutes. He’s very naughty.

[00:04:33] Sue: Drawing and moving.

[00:04:35] Ronald: But the little one is more into the music thing, singing and dancing and the music. So there’s always an element of creativity and try to let them explore. I believe in letting the kids explore and find their own way, their own path. So that’s what I tried to do with them. Yes. It’s very, very important.

[00:04:55] Sue: How did you develop an interest in psychology?

[00:04:58] Ronald: I couldn’t tell it was natural. Always. I remember when it was time for me to choose to go to college. I asked my dad because I was between psychology and graphic design. The things at the time, having a career in psychology in my country, it wasn’t like very lucrative. And my dad being a designer himself and art, he told me no go for graphic design. It actually, what I wanted to do was to study art, but I decided for graphic design because I will get the same resources that I could get in art, but I could get a career in a commercial advertising agency or in a commercial studio. And that’s what I did. So I decided for graphic design, but I always had the thing for psychology. So I kept breathing and studying and researching.

[00:05:40] Sue: And what have you discovered? What’s the connection in your mind between the two?

[00:05:44] Ronald: Well, started making the connections between creativity and psychology. Later in my career, I’ve been doing graphic design for over 22 years. The thing is we have this label of creativity being an activity for artists, and it’s not [00:06:00] creativity. Absolutely everything every single thing that you do, it requires creativity. If you go for science, if you go for accounting mathematics, my God mathematics is super creative and people will say, well, I’m left brain. I operate with order and logic. So I’m not creative. And that is a massive misconception. So I started researching and I found out that it is incredible. The amount of research that has been done about creativity in psychology. We don’t know, we are not aware of. So it’s very, very much linked.

[00:06:33] Sue: You’re even making me think about how I apply creativity to these conversations. And my immediate thought was about where I take the questions and what sparks my imagination from what I’m hearing from the guests. So even in our interaction, just know, perhaps we are utilizing creative.

[00:06:51] Ronald: Yeah, we’ll use creativity every day. What I tell people, if you’re capable of understanding a joke or making a joke, you are being creative. So we have to forget that idea, that creativity is just for artists and embrace your creativity in other areas. The reason why it is so long the link, if it’s very, very complicated, the link when you’re starting school, primary school in, when we started losing our creativity, when we’re in kindergarten, we are free to explore. Well, it also depends on the school and the teacher encourages that curiosity, but you are free to explore, but as soon as you start the school then you have to perform in a certain period of time.We take away something that is very, very important in creativity. That is. You are not allowed to fail anymore. So if you’re not allowed to fail, you’re not allowed to explore. If you are not allowed to explore your have no time to be curious. And during our education, we don’t have time to be curious. We don’t have time to explore. You have to perform and you have to perform well under scrutiny in a certain period of time, if not you’ll fail. And that is gradually killing your capacity of being creative. So that’s when we started losing our creativity. And I found out that when you start developing a language, also you start losing creativity.There is a connection there when you start developing critical thinking and you start developing this fear of judgment when you restrain yourself. So basically the lack of creativity that we suffer. Innovations innovations and innovation, social innovations, religious innovations, educational innovations. I’m writing a book about it because for example, when you’re sick, you go to the hospital to get diagnosed. And once you get diagnosed, then you can attack the problem. So that’s basically what we have. We don’t even know this inhibitions exist and then we cannot free ourselves from those inhibitions.

[00:08:45] Sue: I think it’s a really interesting thread that you’re uncovering here, Ronald. And it’s making me think about the world that we do live in does very often contain boundaries, time, limitations, cost, limitations, [00:09:00] expectations of society. And so on. As you’re saying, given that we aren’t necessarily free to explore in quite the way we would do as a child, how can we still tap into creativity? Given, there are some set of boundaries and limitations.

[00:09:15] Ronald: But the first thing that we have to do is identify those innovations. What is that is keeping you away from holding that guitar and start, you know, banging those strings or dancing in the street? It is funny because when I was in my country, I used to walk from my home to the advertising agency and I will have my ear phones, and I will be singing. I’m a horrible singer. My boss told me once I saw you in the street, seeing me like an insane.

[00:09:46] Sue: I mean, it’s probably glad you were doing it in the street.

[00:09:52] Ronald: If this kind of thing that we restrain ourselves from doing that it is necessary. So the creativity is there. I always tell people you don’t teach creativity. There are so many courses. Workshops and classes around the teacher, how to be creative, not you don’t teach creativity. Creativity is an innate human capacity. Every single person is creative. So what you have to do is rediscover your ability to be creative. And it’s basically getting rid of this inhibition. I don’t like that approach that a lot of people have. For example, there are a lot of creative coaches that they go with a holistic spiritual approach to develop creativity and they tell you, well, close your eyes, take a deep breath and connect with the universe in the, yes, that works. I don’t know what Im doing. What is the process behind that? Why closing my eyes and lets be honest that’s not something that is for everybody. A lot of people are going to be turned off by that kind of approach. And it makes people think that creativity is only for people connected with the ability to connect with the universe. There’s not an explanation of how you close your eyes, take a deep breath and connect with the universe. How you do that. What is the process behind? Yes, that works, but there is, there is a reason why that works.

And I’ll tell you a small example. When you close your eyes, take a deep breath and you make silence. Like you’re doing meditation. What you’re doing is you’re allowing your brain to take a break. So the brain is designed to process information. The more you feed information to the brain. And the more you feed them with a stimuli, they bring, keeps gathering, gathering, gathering, gathering, and never stop. So the moment you stop the brain is time to start processing.And that’s what we do when we sleep. So that sentence that we say are going to consult with the pillow. What is happening is that the brain has gathered all this information. And then when you are sleeping, that’s the time that the brain have to process. So when you allow those breaks, those. During the day, you’re allowing your brain to process information, to digest everything that is being gathered. And then you can [00:12:00] think clearly I used to practice meditation and this teacher, he had this perfect analogy. So imagine that you have a water hose and you put the finger in the mouth of the hose all the water is going to come out all over the place without any order. So when you liberate the hose all the water flows through. It’s also, it’s basically an analogy for the brain. You could feeding information, information, information, and the brain don’t know how to do with all that. The moment you stop and you take a break that’s when we start processing everything and then you start thinking more.

[00:12:36] Sue: The conversation continues in a few seconds after this. If you’re in a busy person and probably always feeling behind, then you may be wondering how you can get more done in less time. One solution is working with a virtual assistant. They can help with social media, graphic design, customer service, copywriting, digital marketing, and many more things. iWorker is a social enterprise that connects you to talented remote workers from countries in crisis. Most of our team come from Venezuela a country facing dire economic circumstances by hiring from iWorker like we do, you’ll get back some time for yourself and help to change a life. Find out more by listening to episode 20, where I spoke to co- founder, John Miles, or you can look at their website. iWorker.co to find out more, now back to the podcast.  So you’ve given us an understanding as to why people might encourage that approach. For example, with creativity. Where my thinking is going Ronald is around the importance of safety. My sense is people don’t want to let go of their inhibitions because they don’t feel safe or they feel uncomfortable to put that pen to paper because they don’t feel confident enough to do so. I’m also thinking about our purpose of our brain, or at least our primitive brain is to keep us safe. So I’m wondering where in your research and your thinking safety plays a role?

[00:14:11] Ronald: Well, when you talk about safety in the way that. That you have a space for you to express yourself freely, to take a canvas and start painting. You have to understand that the things that you do, you do it because it’s good for you. I tell my students sometimes. You don’t paint because you want to be a painter. You paint because it’s good for your brain. You don’t play guitar because you want to be a musician and you have to be a musician. You do it because it’s good for your brain. It’s an exercise that you do. And everything you do is it’s like that. So I’m not going to play ball because I’m not and I’m not going to be in the big leagues as an athlete. It doesn’t matter. You need to do exercise because it’s good for your body and it’s good for your brain and you’re going not be the worst player, but you do it because it’s necessary for you. It is good for you

[00:14:58] Sue: So helping people to see [00:15:00] that there’s a value and a bigger reason for partaking in these activities. It takes me on to thinking about how you then utilize this approach of making a mark on paper and following that to come up with some results. What is it that you use when you’re creating something?

[00:15:19] Ronald: I tried to pay attention to what I have in my surroundings. Another tip that I give to my students is that your brain is like a toolbox. So you need to collect the tools that you might need in the future, and you keep them there. Listen, to all kinds of music in you will be surprised of what you will discover. Go to the movies, go to the opera, read books that is so much information and you keep it in. It was great for me to work in advertising because when you work in advertising, you understand how that works. People. There are directors, creative directors in advertising. They understand this very well. You have to fit yourself with everything, listen to all kinds of music, either you like it or not.

So we would listen to classical music to the lowest darkest kind of music. Possible. And then when you go to produce can campaign for design and you will have that reference and the most wonderful thing that you will be able to connect with any kind of people. You will be able to connect with any kind of social, economical status. So that makes you a more diverse creative, but that works the same for everything. Not only for advertising, but for everything. If you’re going to be in an artist that you’re going to be a musician, if you’re going to be a teacher. If you’re going to be a salesman to be able to speak the language of the most posh person, as well as the person who has the lowest level of education and you speak the language and you know, the mannerism and you know how to connect with these people that is creativity, and that comes from that toolbox. So the more information you gather, the more flexible you are, that’s basically what I do with my art. I try to fit myself with as much information as possible, and I have this big bank of reference.

[00:17:08] Sue: And with that reference, where does environment play a role in expressing that creativity? Does it make a difference for you where you’re doing your work?

[00:17:17] Ronald: Very much, very much in the podcast. I talk about that. I talk about how much of the environment is important for. I don’t know if you will be familiar with the people who are in an office working and they have the pictures of the family and they have a poster they like and have a plant that is so important. That is so important because that gives you ownership of your space. And when you have ownership of your space, then you have a platform and you’re free to express yourself. You’re safe. We go back to that safety issue that you were talking about when you own this space and when you have a control of your own environment, then you feel comfortable and you can express yourself and you have your resources handy.[00:18:00] Even when your desk is a mess. Which I don’t recommend because it’s distracting, but for some people, it is good to have the resources at hand. So I have five project going on and I have everything that I need for those projects in my desk. And it works for some people, but environment is very, very important to control, to own your own environment and make an environment where you feel safe to express yourself. You feel comfortable that would allow you to flow as a creative.

Sue:  That’s a great example of that. Ronald is in these podcast conversations, the listeners may not be aware that we are always able to see one another. When we’re having the conversation. There’s a capacity for video. Some guests prefer to turn the videos off because they say it’s distracting to how they’re thinking. Others prefer to have it own so they can have that kind of visual connection. So even I experienced that in people being comfortable enough in their own environment to have these conversations, to be able to express themselves.

Ronald: Yeah, that’s so true. Actually, one of the most famous interviewers in the world from NPR, Terry Gross is a very, very famous interviewer. She has been doing it for over 35, 40. And all her conversations in her podcast are like that she’s in a studio, in a room in the United States, and she’s not in the presence of the interviewee. He’s in another place in the other side of the world. And they don’t look at each other. They just listen to it. But that’s how they have their conversation in. Actually she talk about that. She has a very dark room with a dim light and, you know, that’s her environment and that’s how she feel comfortable. And the other person is over there and they’re all look at each other and it’s very effective. It works well for them.

[00:19:42] Sue: The sense that really any of us, the more we become aware, we discover ourselves, we discover what works for us, the environment, this suits. We discover where we can feel safe enough to actually be creative is all going to create greater possibilities.

[00:19:59] Ronald: Yes, it is something called a creative confidence. When you discover that you have the ability. To do something and you are actually good at it or not necessarily that you’re good at it, but that it makes you feel good. Makes you feel good about yourself. It opens a door to a world of possibilities and then you feel free to explore. It is so sad to see people 35, 40 years old that I know people like that. But they told me, I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what, it’s my passion. I don’t know what to do with my life. When the middle age crisis hits and people, they feel lost because they have been doing something all their life that they don’t feel comfortable with. They don’t feel happy with it are not satisfied.

And that is terrible because life we say life is short. I don’t believe so because you can achieve a lot in a future. But to reach that point when you are lost, that you are like, you don’t know what to do. There is [00:21:00] this movie that I always reference is American beauty, where the protagonist, he discovered himself at 45 years old and he gets the car that he always wanted and he gets the job. They gave him the freedom to do whatever he wants to do the exercise that he wants to do, the parties that he wants to do that to buy the toys that he wants to enjoy. That is great, but he’s forced to go back to real life by the neighbor who wouldn’t accept the way that he is. So it is a great analogy. That’s why the movie is genius because it tells you exactly what happens when you try to free yourself and society try to reel you back into reality, but it’s that discovery of who you are that is so important that I encourage people to find. I tell people don’t be scared of being a fool, of being silly, because that’s the key, that’s where you’re going to find. What are the things that, that you enjoy, that you like, it’s an awakening.

[00:21:56] Sue: How do you take your own medicine? So to speak, Ronald, how do you apply that principle? That way of looking at the world to yourself on everyday basis?

[00:22:05] Ronald: I live by the principle that I don’t care what other people think as you’re walking along the roads. I don’t care. You know, I’m 46 years old and I collect my baseball caps and I have my toys and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can be a grownup with responsibilities and, you know, enjoy your toys and enjoy your music and enjoy your silliness. You know laugh and don’t be scared of being silly because that’s very important.

[00:22:36] Sue: So with your life’s experience to date and all the wonderful insights you have given us about creativity. What do you think your mission is? What do you think is what you’re helping other people to learn about?

[00:22:48] Ronald: I like to help people to rediscover that, that ability they have not been creative. That’s why I’m writing this book. I want people to understand that there is a process that is a step-by-step process that you can follow to identify your innovations. It’s like, there’s, it might sound silly and like a big dream, but I feel I’m convinced actually that people who feel satisfied with themselves and their life are less likely to be angry, to be frustrated.

I think that the reason why we have so many. Issues. So many problems with wars and hatred. And it’s because there is a deep, deep frustration in people, fear, frustration that come from your dissatisfaction with life. Your own satisfaction the satisfaction is the source of all these problems. People who are satisfied, people who are happy, people who are creating and are busy, nurturing their own lives and the life of their families. They don’t have time for hatred. Jealousy and envy and fear that I’m convinced of that. So I think that’s the big purpose now to awake people into the care of yourself, take care of your own life, take care of your own likes and dislikes and feed yourself, [00:24:00] nurture yourself in my country and say to people who’s always fighting. You have too much time in your hands to be checking on all the people’s life and what they’re doing. The currents.

[00:24:12] Sue: I think in our conversation today, you’ve given us some wonderful things to think about, to feed our imaginations with and to reconnect and perhaps rediscover what our creativity is and reflect on what you’ve said. If people want to find out more about the work that you do and connect with you on social media, how.

[00:24:32] Ronald: My personal website is, Mundosanto.com that is like a Spanish word.

[00:24:38] Sue: What does it mean in Spanish?

[00:24:39] Ronald: It means holy world. And that is, this is based in this idea that everybody is fundamentally a good person and our devices of the world what makes us corrupt. But I believe that every single person is a good person. So is a good giving, caring, living being and that’s our nature. So that’s what it means basically.

[00:25:01] Sue: Well, it’s been a really good conversation I’ve had with you today, Ronald I’ve really enjoyed it. You’ve certainly stimulated my thinking. We’ll put links to your website and your social media contacts on our show notes. So people can follow up with you. And I wish you all the best that with what you’re doing in China.

[00:25:18] Ronald: Thank you so much. So it was a real pleasure talking to you and I hope we can make it again sometime.

[00:25:25] Sue: Well, I hope you enjoyed hearing from Ronald Paredes about how he approaches creativity. It certainly made me realize that we all have that capacity inside of us, and it’s how we choose to rediscover it for ourselves. It’s really important. I wonder what it caused you to reflect on. As I said earlier, we are measuring the impact that our podcast has on society. And we’d love to get your feedback about how it has impacted you. Did it cause you to reflect on how creative you are or take a new action as a result, please help us by sharing your thoughts about this and all the episodes you’ve listened to.

It will only take you a couple of minutes. You’ll be able to find a link in the show notes or on our webpage at accesstoinspiration.org. When you find this episode on there, and if you prefer to leave us a voice note, you can do that on the webpage as well. We’d love to hear from. Let us know also who you might recommend as a future guest or what you love about the show and what we could improve as always, you can subscribe to our newsletter at the foot of the home page on accesstoinspiration.org, to keep up to date with all the latest news about the podcast. That’s all from us until next time when I will be talking to Christian De La Huerta who spends his time helping people to free themselves from self sabotaging so I hope you can join me there. Bye. For now.[00:27:00]