A Story on Letting Go and Reconnecting With Your Creative Flow
Professional illustrator and creativity coach, Araki Koman, has taken numerous improbable turns to be where she is now. This is the extraordinary story of how after ten years of creative block, she learned to listen to her inner child, let go, and flow.
"I was a very creative child, and becoming an artist was something I always wanted to do," she began. "Right out of high school, I applied to an art program. But I was terrible at science, and France has quite an elitist education system, so I got rejected from the one school I applied to, and that was it. I decided to stop trying. Instead, I chose to focus on another passion I had of exploring the world and discovering new cultures, and that led me to international business school.”
Between ages 16 and 26, Araki dove into the business world and denied her artistic nature completely. “I had a lot of creative people around me, and still, I would say to myself 'I’m not that.'” For a while, it seemed not to matter. She got a Masters degree in international marketing and spent most of her time traveling around the world living as a nomad, a lifestyle that shaped an enormous part of her current persona. “Moving from country to country, I was sort of forced to adopt a minimalist mindset. And with this habit of constantly de-cluttering, slowly came the space for clarity, the space to breathe, and the space for imagination.”
When further describing the moment she first felt the need to reconnect with her creativity; Araki mentioned laughing that she believes clarity came because of her “serial quitter nature.” She explained: “whenever there’s something I don’t like I just leave, even if I have nothing else waiting for me. I have this intuition that always comes from the same part of my body, usually the stomach area. If I know it’s time to leave a job, that stomach ache will be there whenever I’m at that job, and if I don’t act, other things will start surfacing.”
She spoke more about her last job in online marketing since back then the stomach ache would not go away. “I started doing some soul searching every day after work, I began meditating, and one day the message came clearly, it said: 'go back to what you used to do when you were younger.'"
Fear was a feeling that arose with that message, and because of that fear, Araki didn’t jump directly into illustration at first. It was a road that began disentangling slowly. “At first I went safe and chose to do a course in graphic design,” she mentioned. “It was something close to my online marketing career, so I felt I could always go back if it didn’t work out.” Gradually, she allowed herself to take bigger, bolder risks, and to embrace the fear that comes with audacity. “To be honest, I love the journey. Constantly discovering what’s hidden behind the fear, unraveling parts of myself that I didn’t even know where there, it’s exactly what makes my life so exciting.”
We go deeper into the theme of fear, and particularly into a subject that comes up a lot when speaking of creative pursuits. “Were you afraid of not having enough money?” we asked. She guaranteed that sort of fear has been present “from the beginning.” “Even when I enrolled in the graphic design course, a part of me would think, 'What am I doing? This is so expensive, and I might not find a job after.' At the same time, the inner voice that brought clarity would remind me that I knew there was something higher than myself. This profound faith has been essential to me, and when I follow this deep intuition, I’m sure there’s only abundance coming from that place.”
This abundance Araki speaks of is one she believes comes effortlessly. “As humans, we tend to think that struggling is necessary, that we need to go against the current to succeed, and that life has to be complicated. I’ve realized it doesn’t. Life is constantly showing us the way; the problem is we don’t listen. When I began to draw again, I was only doing it every three or six months. Even so, whenever I showed my work someone would send me an e-mail asking me to join an exhibit or to be part of an event, there was a lot of big stuff coming from little effort.” She recalled how she took this as a definite sign that illustration was the way forward.
Around the time this path began to reveal itself, the Paris terrorist attacks of 2015 occurred. “I had been very close to the area where it all happened, and I couldn’t help but think ‘If I had to die tomorrow, what would I have regretted? That question led me to fulfill another wish of my childhood and move to Japan for three months.” It was there, where Araki began a 100-day drawing challenge that unleashed the sea of commissions she’s received since. “And to this day, things just come by themselves, I’ve had commissions from dream clients, and they’ve just come to me effortlessly.”
This ease in living is something Araki chooses to incorporate in everything she does, including, of course, her art. “I draw women because it’s easier for me,” she asserted. “Creatively I also feel it’s more interesting to draw women because of the curves, and the diversity of ways to express ourselves, but in truth, it’s what comes naturally to me.”
We drifted away from the subject of illustration, to speak about her current home, Bali. It’s the place she’s chosen to build her most recent project: PRECIOUSIMPLICITY. This initiative seeks to help others overcome creative block and "authentically reconnect with their infinite source of creative power using minimalism, nomadism, and slow living principles."
She spoke lovingly about the new venture, with complete certainty that it's what she's meant to be doing. "Over the years a lot of people have contacted me to talk about how I overcame my creative block. I've realized the hurdles we go through are meant to shape us to serve, and right now, I feel called to help those who are going through the same issues I overcame."
It's not to say Araki never deals with creative block. This old friend still knocks on her door now and then, though she’s learned to confront it in many ways. “Sometimes when I begin a project there’s fear, and I have no idea how I’m going to deliver, but I’ve learned to recognize that’s the mind trying to control. To flow, you must let go, so I listen to music that puts me in a state of trance, where I’m not thinking anymore, I’m so deep into the music that my mind is busy listening, while the rest of my body, flowing, just starts drawing.”
*This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
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