The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis – Qbis

Welcome to another instalment of The Creative Life interview series!
Each month shines a spotlight on how business owners incorporate their creativity across all aspects of their life, and give some ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how they started and plan for their business.

This month I’d like to introduce you to The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis of Qbis: engagement & partnership specialists.

Jacinta Cubis connects people and facilitates partnerships for social impact. When not facilitating a workshop or drawing out the story of a partnership, she’ll be on her yoga mat, in her art studio or on the tango dance floor.

Jacinta Cubis featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Sophie Read, Concrete Cloud Photography

Jacinta Cubis facilitating a conversation with her favourite tools – open ears, a smile, coloured pens and a canvas. Image credit: sophie read, concrete cloud photography

I really enjoyed talking to Jacinta. She is truly a Renaissance woman! She has so many creative interests in addition to her partnership brokering business. I love the enthusiasm that she brings to everything that she does.

In this interview you’ll learn about:

  • Having a creative outlet helps with problem solving
  • The importance of being yourself to connect with and get new clients
  • Using creativity to become more grounded and escape anxiety and being in one’s headspace
  • Breaking patterns to get out of a rut and working out what to do next
  • Ideas for scheduling your diary to make time for creativity
  • Making sure you have a call to action in your marketing and communications.

So read on to learn more about Jacinta and her Creative Life…

What are the different hats that you wear in your life?

I’m Tim’s partner.  I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend. I wear so many different hats. Tim calls me a hummingbird. In more formal terms, that’d be a renaissance woman. Genuinely. And that’s why I love variety in my business. It’s why I have been brave enough to go freelance, because I love variety. I paint, I’m a painter. I’m a tennis player. I’m a tango dancer. I speak French. After this interview, I’m going to my hourly French conversation to keep up my French language. I’m a Francophile. I’m a yoga practitioner; I go four days a week. I don’t know if I’d call myself a gym junkie. I’m not, I go to a trainer once a week. I love it. I’m a jogger, a runner. I ride a bike. I swim. I really do do a lot of things. I sound like a real show off, but they’re all really genuine interests.

And people say, “How do you fit it in?” I don’t always. Tango is falling back a bit. But when I turn up on Sunday to dance it’s still beautiful. What’s lovely is finding the threads between them. Tango and yoga really complement each other because they’re both grounding. {Laugh} And I didn’t even mention my business! And I’m Qbis. That’s why I want to be on my own, in terms of Qbis. I want to be a partnership broker on lots of different partnerships.

How do you express your creativity?

Well, as a practical example in work? I doodle all the time. In meetings. I draw and I paint. In meetings with clients, I love it when I get to whiteboard. At the end of the meeting with a recent client, I said, “We’ll need to do a brief for a graphic designer, and get them to do an infographic.” And she said, “Why can’t we just use your whiteboard?” And I thought that was lovely. I said, “Oh no, you couldn’t put that out to the public.” And then when I sent around the document summarising the purpose of the project I got feedback saying “Ooo love the graphic.” That makes me so happy, that what I enjoy doing to capture people’s ideas resonates with them. So in the work environment that’s probably how I express my creativity. But I would also say that it’s things like my constellations on my ears {pointing to earrings on ears.}. I’ve got four earrings in one ear. And I love choosing my earrings in the morning. I like that part of it, in the clothes I wear. The flat where I live and wherever I inhabit is bright and colourful. And in tango. Absolutely.

Name three words that you’d use to describe your work.

Exploring, connecting and curiosity.

Jacinta Cubis featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Sophie Read, Concrete Cloud Photography

ALL Ears to a workshop participant’s ideas. image credit: Sophie Read,
concrete cloud photography

How did you get started in your business?

About a year and a half ago, I left a large organisation with a generous redundancy package I thought that this is my opportunity. But I took a job that was too good to refuse; four days a week, thinking I could work on my business one day a week. That proved not possible, but it did give me time to plan and test out what is I like doing and how people respond to what I thought was my service offering. I transitioned out of a very large organisation to a very small NGO that I used as a basis for supporting me as I set up my business. I had a couple of clients while working four days a week – that was really hard to manage. But it gave me a taste where I thought, “I just have to launch.” So I was going to cut back to one or two days a week, but I jumped ship at the end of March this year. So it’s been five months.

And it also came from having worked in large organisations and written really good briefs, I wanted to do the work that the consultants I was hiring to do work for me. They seemed to have variety, and it was interesting, the flexibility. I wanted to be in their shoes.

What do you love most about your work?

Connecting people and the bright ideas that spark. I love it when, and there’s one client I’ve worked with, where she says, “When we both get together, we both jump off chairs.” That’s what I love – that enthusiasm.

Jacinta Cubis featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Confluence 2015

And with another client we get new ideas every time we work together. I’m like, “Oh you could have a community garden here. And you could have an artist in residence.” And he says, “Exactly! I didn’t know what would happen when we met up but I just wanted some ideas to spark.” And you can’t hear the excitement in my voice, but that’s what I love when ideas come out and connections are made.

Jacinta as lead facilitator at Confluence 2015. Image Credit: Confluence 2015

People get excited and they go and do stuff as a result. It’s just not ideas and nothing happens. And I love it when people and organisations go “We bring something to this partnership.” Another organisation I worked for went to another NGO and said, “We don’t have money, but we have a great human resources department. Can you use that?” That’s fantastic that they can get all this valuable human resources advice. There’s no money on the table but it’s a good partnership. People can be partners and work together towards on a common goal without money necessarily changing hands. I love it whenever that happens. In previous jobs, when organisations start calling each other partners as opposed to sponsors or donors, or they’re not recipients any more. I like that.

So you open people’s eyes to seeing possibilities?

Yes. But it’s also about people seeing that we could work together, because I was reacting in the same way as they had reacted. Generally, my enthusiasm is what wins people over. People respond to me because of that.

How do your creative pursuits influence your business or other aspects of your life?

I think going to my art studio. It’s just around the corner. I’m not getting there enough these days. I want to get there more regularly. I’ve recognise that when I go to paint or work on a drawing I’m thinking through problems or issues, whatever they are in my life, or in my business, or with a client, or getting a client, writing a brief or how to cope with that collaborator. I will be stewing away on it that won’t be conscious while I’m painting. I’m convinced of that. And the same way in my yoga practice as well. I’ll finish a yoga practice and sometimes I’ll get a random thought that I’ve been sitting on for ages and it’ll be resolved or I’ll have found a solution. I’ve moved through it. It doesn’t mean that I get a complete answer, but I’ve moved through a problem.

Jacinta Cubis' art studio featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Jacinta CubisJacinta’s studio. Image Credit: jacinta cubis

Going to the studio is very important, and painting in that space is very important for my resilience and balance. And if I don’t go to tango, a friend of mine who’s a personal coach says, “You need to dance.” If I’m not dancing, I’m so up in the anxiety of a new business I lose my groundedness. Being grounded is one of my characteristics. Apparently, I’m a very grounded tango dancer according to some of the leaders who dance with me. They recognise that. In yoga, I’ve very solid on the ground. I’m not very flexible but I’m very solid on the ground. And in the same way, if I have that nice solid, grounded feeling it comes from painting, tango and going to yoga (I think yoga is creative). And my partner notices it too. If I haven’t been painting, or I haven’t gone to tango then I’m not the same person. I’m not rounded out. Your question was about do how your creative pursuits affect your business? If I am grounded, then I approach my business from the same aspect. I think they’re like yin and yang in that they’re not opposites.

Also in my business I find any opportunity to draw caricatures and cartoons; any opportunity to be creative. I love workshops where people are drawing, using coloured paper and sticking things up and moving around. I love bringing that. Although I have to be careful not to over-engineer that because I love it. So if the workshop doesn’t call for it then we don’t need it. But any opportunity to draw is fantastic.

How do you make time and space for creativity?

I’m not making much time for my painting or drawing right now. But in terms of making time and space I’ve invested in a very small dark studio – the darkest, smallest one in a great block in a building of artists, real artists that exhibit. I can sustain that cost. If I had a light filled beautiful studio I probably couldn’t afford it. It also means creating a space where everything’s out. All the canvases and paint were locked away in the flat. I never got them out unless we’re on holidays. Now they’re out. I just walk in and start. It’s important that they’re all there. It’s really messy. I’m a really neat person generally, but the studio’s a mess. I don’t even put the paints away. So it’s about access. It’s two minutes from home. So I can walk or ride my bike there. I can even go there for an hour and it’s useful. I do have to plan to get the washing done, all the tedious stuff done, the housework done, so that I am free to go to the studio without anything bothering me.

I create the time and space. It’s in my diary. It’s colour-coded.
‘Studio’ is colour-coded. Jacinta Cubis painting in her art studio featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Jacinta CubisThere’s something called ‘Wellbeing and fitness’-
it’s colour-coded.
It’s very reassuring that I’ve got that in my weekly diary.

Oh I forgot to tell you that I play guitar. So we also jam as well. I love that. I love it! And that’s in the block. We probably only jam once a week. I’m a hopeless guitar player, but we jam and sing. It’s fun. That’s with my tennis playing buddy. I wouldn’t call tennis creative, but it can be I guess. But I love doing that. Often it’s a choice between tango and guitar.

jacinta painting in her art studio. image credit: jacinta cubis

And which way does it go?

Depends. Depends how I’m feeling. If it’s raining and I don’t feel like riding to tango, then I’ll go play guitar. And if my guitar buddies are there, right that minute, then I’ll go play guitar.

And does it give you something different?

Yeah, absolutely. Tango can be a bit stressful because if you don’t get asked…it can put you in a very vulnerable place. Tango makes me feel vulnerable. Painting makes me feel like I don’t care what anyone thinks about my paintings. Guitar is so much fun. We laugh. We sing. Yes they’re very different.

So what makes you go back to tango?

Because when it’s good it’s amazing- when you have a connection with another leader that you dance well with. It’s beautiful. It’s worth dancing with four average leaders to get that one beautiful connection. It’s good for me to follow, good for me as a feminist, and a strong Australian woman, to learn how to follow is really good.  I think that it’s also really good for my facilitation practice. Before a meeting, if something’s going to challenge me or be quite complex, then I’ll draw two stick figures doing tango. I’ve got this caricature down pat that reminds me to follow the group. That’s also how I take my creativity into my work.

How do you balance being creative or innovative in your work in relation to delivering what your clients want?

I’m a really good writer and I’m super organised. I prepare meticulously. That comes from an English language teaching background where you have a class plan and there are a few learning outcomes. If what I’m doing doesn’t have an objective, then why am I doing it? I get great feedback. So I guess the consistency of high and good feedback about my workshops, my strategies, what I’ve written is indicative that I deliver. For twenty odd years I’ve worked in strategy, so I get strategy. I get deliverables. I’m also very practical and pragmatic, so I don’t just write the strategy I’ll deliver. I think the writing side of my brain, even though that’s creative, I’m a very clear, simple, plain language writer. And I think that helps me plan and the clients can see that it’s a very clear proposal. So I get feedback like, “You detailed the process so well. I knew exactly what we were going to do.” I don’t see that as being at odds with my creativity. Maybe if I didn’t go down to the studio, dance or play guitar then I mightn’t have the space to see the whole picture. Someone told me the other day that I think conceptually. I don’t know if that means visually? But she said, “You think so much more differently to me.” She’s a scientist. Whereas I’m more of the art side. There’s a term in partnership brokering where they talk about whether it’s an art or science. I’m of the view that it’s both. But clearly I bring an artistic side (not to mean that I’m a good artist). I need to work more on my scientific side. I am committed to process. But I can tend to just go off and do the process. So I have to test my hypotheses? Maybe do a few more experiments before I jump in? That might be encouraging my scientific side a bit more.

Jacinta Cubis facilitating featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Jacinta Cubis

TIME, treasure, talent – what can each partner bring? Image credit: Jacinta Cubis

What inspires your creativity?

That’s a hard thing to answer. What inspires yours?

Anything really. It could be something I see, something someone says to me, watching movies, reading a book.

Yes, movies. I love movies. I’m a photographer too. My original passion and interest in my degree was film making. I love going to films. I would so love to be at MIFF {Melbourne International Film Festival} every day. I love how films feed you. If I was a scriptwriter- that’s what I’d do here, or a cinematographer, that’s what I’d do there. I love leaving the cinema with how film enriches you. But music as well. When you pull over when you drive that you have to stop and listen because you’ve heard something so beautiful. Music is really important when I’m painting. But it could be a podcast too. What inspired me the other week I went to an academic talk about business and human rights, and the speaker had the most beautiful Mancunian accent. I loved listening to him and how he wove his words together. And I left that to go hear Alain de Botton talking about love. They were both cerebral experiences. Then on Friday night I went to Ira Glass with the two dancers. So it was a week of real food for the brain and the soul. That nourished me so much to the point of tears, happy tears. “This is what,” I said to my partner, “I want to get out of my work.” If I’m not getting this out of my work, then what am I doing it for?

Also, the photos I take or what I might post on Instagram, because it’s more visual. Beautiful photos. I love imagery and I’ll take architectural shots. The world around me inspires me in many ways. Walking out of our block of flats and looking at the green vista of Darling Gardens is beautiful.

So is there anything you do to prepare or to do get into the zone?

When I go to the studio I put on my painting clothes. I learnt the hard way that if I don’t do that. That might be one entry point. So I go to the studio and that usually means making sure I have my headphones. Because I’m sharing, if there’s other people on the floor they don’t want to hear my podcast or my music. And an apple, a bit of fruit. I make sure I have a bit of fruit, so I’m sustained music-wise and fruit-wise. And I change into some painting clothes.

For tango it’s a warm up. You know a physical sort of stretch, a warm up. And for work, for home, in the home office, it’s having my mobile next to me so I can time the Pomodoro 25 minute sessions, and an ottoman for the cat, because the cat likes to be in the room with me. She can’t sit on my lap or on my computer so if I put her on the ottoman she stays there. That’s setting up for work. Oh, and water.

It’s like the physical cues are telling you something. “I’m about to work. I’m about to paint.”

And if I’m not at the studio and we’re doing something boring, like watching TV or it’s a bit of a dead time at home, I know that I need to nourish myself. It’s not even conscious. I’ll get out my beautiful blank book that someone gave me for a birthday. I get out my aquarelles and I colour in the pages, and then I’ll paint on the aquarelles with water. (You might have seen these on my Instagram.) I cut them up and they become my homemade cards. So everyone in my family and friends get my homemade cards. But they take a bit of work. So if we’re doing nothing, Tim is reading out the crossword quiz, I’ll just be painting those things. That’s a bit mindless, but it’s fun. It’s colouring in. There’s a design there, but it’s not thought through. That just means that I need to put in a clean tea towel or serviette on the lounge. And when I’m doing it the cat comes and sits right in the middle. She wants to be involved too. It’s very funny.

What do you do to overcome a creative rut or when you’re feeling stuck?

Break patterns. Have to break patterns. The studio. Going to Bellingen Camp Creative. I did an acrylic class. I wanted to do something different than I what I’d normally do. In the studio I’m using ink and drawing. I’ve drawn and done real portraits for friends, Dad, and Tim in paint. I’ve done ink for people. I just gave my Sister-in-law an ink for her 50th. She loves it, made her cry, which is nice I guess?

Boy and cricket bat in water ink on paper by Jacinta Cubis featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Jacinta Cubis

boy and cricket bat in water (ink on paper) by jacinta cubs. Image credit: Jacinta cubis

So I’m breaking patterns. Working on a detailed drawing. I’m not very good at realistic, but I’m delighted with what I’m doing. It’s good. But then I have to go back to a big canvas and bright colours. Breaking the shapes and breaking the patterns.

'Tangerine Patterns' by Jacinta Cubis featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Jacinta Cubis

‘Tangerine Patterns’ by Jacinta Cubis. Image credit: Jacinta Cubis

In my work life, there’s a kitchen bench that I can sit on. Or I can stand, there’s a standing desk. Getting away from the study area is really important. Going to read if I’ve got a big book to read. I’ll read that in the beautiful northern sunlight on our bed with the cat. So changing the space for different parts of my work. Going to a co-work space. Going to the State Library. Today I’ll go to a hot desk at La Trobe. Changing the physical space is so energising I find. That will get me out of the “What do I do next? How do I get this work done?”

What’s been your biggest learning from running your business?

It has completely validated that people do want to work with me. Two clients that I have got was purely through me. I met them- it was a spontaneous ‘wow!’ connect, we’d actually never worked together . I’d met them through an old job. We stayed in touch. One of them got back in touch with me and asked me to put in a proposal. What that tells me – if you’re just yourself and you’re authentic….And Tim has always said, “People don’t care about your website. They don’t care about your name, your business card. Once they meet you and if they connect with you they will work with you.” And I’ll get new clients as a result of that. Someone said to me the other day, “You look so great.” “Why?” “You look like you’ve stepped into yourself.” And I thought, “That’s interesting. Is that why I’ve got those clients?” And no amount of networking, marketing, or changing the colour of a logo is going to replace my connection with people. So I think authenticity works.

On the business side of things, are you a planner or do you go with the flow?

I’m both. I’m very organised. Some of the feedback I’ve got from co-presenters say how well prepared I am. And maybe I over-prepare. But I draw those little tango people and that reminds me to go with the flow.

So with your planning, how do you go about it?

I usually mind map on a whiteboard or use an A3 piece of paper. It’s always horizontal in layout. I will start with a mind map and put that into a free mind map software (XMind) that I found really useful. I still have to put it in a document that has a ‘why?’ – purpose, objectives, and small goals that might get us there. It goes back to a basic comms strategy – purpose, how we’re going to get there, key messages and then a little action plan- who’s going to do what, when. It’s so basic. It’s a solid foundation that comes from so many years of writing communications strategies. And it’s always got a call to action, even if there’s not a campaign. It’s a ‘Who’s your audience?”; “What’s your call to action?” and “What do you want them to do?”

What’s your big creative dream?

Rosalie Gascoigne became an artist at 70. I would love to be working as a full-time artist. I’d love that. And to be 6 months of the year in France and 6 months in Melbourne. Be there 6 months of the year painting in France and then exhibiting back here, or a bit of both exhibiting over there. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Do you have a favourite quote or saying?

Yes. It’s a long poem by… It’s actually un-attributable. It’s ‘Success’. I thought that it was attributable to Ralph Waldo Emerson but it’s been proved wrong. That quote’s in my wallet. It’s on the wall. One line I can remember is “Success is knowing someone has breathed easier because you’ve lived.” There’s other lines like “a healthy garden patch, the smile of a child” That reminds me that comparisons are odious (that’s Tim’s quote). Comparing yourself to others is such a recipe for disaster. I would have to say that “Success” {poem} comes back to me regularly.

Success quote featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis.

What would you most like to be remembered for?

That’s a hard one. That’s a serious question. I’d like to be remembered for having contributed to the world or a life- that I made a difference. I would like to be remembered for my contributions as a thoughtful family member; someone thoughtful, and caring but fun. I’d love to be remembered for partnerships that actually made a difference to the issues that they’re supposed to be working on.

I would love to leave a legacy of work. I’d love to be able to point back and be remembered for what I’ve contributed professionally. I’d love to be remembered as a fun and caring neighbour and friend, and someone that people enjoy and want to get to know.

What are you working on right now?

I’m playing with the idea and wonder if there’d be any interest on Meetup for me. I would love to get people together working in partnerships to trouble shoot – What’s working? What’s not working in your partnership? So I can help and demonstrate to people. I tend to get work if people get to see what I do. So that would be an opportunity to demonstrate my value as a sounding board or coach on partnerships. I would love to get people together, if someone said, “I’m working on this partnership and I’m stuck, or this bit is stuck. Or we don’t know how to communicate this.” I’d love for people to come with what’s bothering them, where they’re stuck, what they need help on, and we’d have an hour brainstorm. That’s what I’d like to do once a month on Meetup. I need a venue.

Jacinta Cubis workshop featured in Inner Creative blog The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis. Image: Sophie Read, Concrete Cloud Photography

Collaborative conversations at one of jacinta’s workshops. image credit: Sophie Read, Concrete Cloud Photography

I’ve proposed to run a session at a  partnership forum in November. And I’ve got in touch with them to offer if I could do a partnership health check, say in a few 20 minute slots at the marketplace or maybe as part of the plenary so help people get to know each other better. I’d love to do that. I’m working on some really interesting issues with clients. One is scoping a new partnership; others are community engagement and facilitation work.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or give advice to someone about living a creative life?

I hate it when people say they’re not creative. It really annoys me because it’s not true. Planting a flower, or dressing your daughter, creating a meal is creative. I cook by colours. People probably don’t even know if they do that. Creating a nice space for your family to come home to or your visitors when they come over for dinner – that’s creative. How you turn the lights on – that’s creative. And how you set up the meeting room, speaking to facilitators- that’s creative. You all have creativity in you and I would encourage people to do whatever makes them feel good. So when they leave a movie, or they leave a concert, they leave a play, or they leave a sporting event, felling like they can say “That’s great!” but it doesn’t actually deliver anything practical. It’s still given your brain food for your soul, your heart nourishment. So make time for that, make the time and space for when you’re taken out of yourself and fed by someone else’s creativity.

For more information about Jacinta Cubis and Qbis you can go to her website (currently being redeveloped) or follow her on Facebook (engageqbis) and Instagram (@engageqbis). 

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8 thoughts on “The Creative Life of Jacinta Cubis – Qbis

  1. This really does sum up the creative Jacinta and her talents. Hope others will make use of her creative advice and sound understanding of partnerships through Qbis. Jacinta has a great rapport in a cross-cultural setting that I valued when scoping a film in Zambia some years back. Thanks for the blog.

  2. What an interesting read! We have known Jacinta for her whole life but there’s a lot here which was a surprise! There’s plenty here to read and think about-good positive stuff. Your interview allowed Jacinta’s bubbly personality to come through. What a good idea!

  3. I agree with you Jane 🙂 Jacinta’s enthusiasm is contagious. I am in awe of her energy and the gusto that she brings to her work, life and passions.

  4. Thanks Liz. Glad that the interview showcased Jacinta, and her many passions and talents. Likewise I hope that others engage Jacinta and Qbis to create a solid and holistic foundation for their partnerships.

  5. Thanks Tony and Elaine. So glad that I was able to capture Jacinta’s enthusiasm and passion, as well as the great work that she is doing through Qbis. I love doing these interviews because I get to learn so much in the process of sharing these wonderful insights and ideas with others. Interviewing Jacinta was a treat – am in awe of her world view and passion, nothing is half-hearted :-).

  6. Loved the interview. I too am inspired by Jacinta’s amazing energy and enthusiasm. I loved the quote too, particularly the line “To know that one person has breathed easier because you have breathed that is to have succeeded”

  7. Agree Stav that it’s a wonderfully inspiring quote – just like Jacinta 🙂 Glad that you enjoyed reading the interview.

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