Expanding Your Creative Horizons Beyond Politics

Jamie Corley has the kind of story that many creative practitioners might want to hear right now as the cycle’s hours extend from full-time to all-the-time. Following a health episode in late 2014, she left a prestigious job on the Senate side of Capitol Hill and, after running a business connecting the tech world with DC politics, she began producing fine art under the banner of Jamie Corley & Co. Shoppe. 

Corley still keeps an eye on political design and in an interview with C&E shared her insight on the latest trends and offered advice on how to stay creative.

C&E: What political creative are you seeing that you like?

Corley: I think the visual branding for a lot of candidates has really elevated, and voters expect that, too. They expect clear, compelling visual branding — consistent visual branding. So your yard signs match your website, match your collateral and your mailers. I’ve definitely seen bolder use of colors, which excites me as an artist. I’m actually really curious about visual branding tools, like Canva or VistaPrint, how they can help elevate the branding of local candidates who probably can’t afford to spend $50,000 on a branding guide for a school board election or a city council election. These tools are making good design accessible and I think that’s really exciting in politics.

C&E: How did you start painting?

Corley: I’ve always been a visually creative person and after long days on Capitol Hill, it started as a stress release. Painting just in my little studio apartment in Washington, DC. Then in late 2014, I had a really serious medical event that totally transformed my life. I had a tumor on my spinal cord and I had to have really major surgery. I ended up leaving the Hill and moving out to San Francisco, really made fine art and painting my priority but always liked having my foot in the political world. 

C&E: Did you feel while you were on the Hill that you weren’t able to be creative, or you weren’t able to be creative enough?

Corley: I always thought my job on the Hill and politics in general is very creative, whether it’s coming up with strategy ideas to pitch to the team to get a message out to the right audience or writing press releases, quotes and social media posts. That really worked a similar part of my mind as painting does.

It’s just that one is, I suppose, less visual than painting. But I definitely feel the same muscles working when I’m thinking of a press campaign idea — whether it’s for campaigns or a non-profit — and coming up with an idea for a fine art series. It’s more similar than people probably think. I feel like a lot of my friends [on the Hill] started to explore different avenues whether it was photography, or guitar and things like that. I obviously transitioned it into a full-time career, which makes me a bit of an anomaly. But I think campaign people and people who work in policy are very, very creative.

C&E: How did you finally make the break into full-time creative work?

Corley: It started very slowly, like a lot of transitions do. I started just posting my work on Instagram and then people started asking to buy it and then I started to feel confident pitching my work to galleries. I will say that I really leaned on those skills from my experience as a press secretary when I was reaching out to different companies to carry my prints, or to local newspapers or blogs to write about my work. My experience on the Hill of working with the media, of being able to craft a story of being able to create social media plans absolutely played a role in my success as a full-time artist.

I think that’s what makes people who work in politics unique if they ever transition to a different industry, whether it’s art or technology or finance. When you have worked on campaigns or the Hill, you’ve really been able to quickly grasp a large knowledge base of such a breadth of issues that I don’t know of any other job or industry in the world where you get that type of experience.

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