How Do You Practice Creativity?

Every fall as kids everywhere go back to school and the seasons change, I get nostalgic for back to school shopping, new supplies, new clothes, new shoes and basically renewed energy. Sometimes students ask me deep questions like how to get more creative energy, how to really sit down and create something new that is not just repetition of the same thing or a copy of what someone else is doing.

The answer to that question is two fold. I love Elizabeth Gilbert's description about how she says you have to show up for the muse to show up, in other words you need to put time in the studio or office or at the computer to be present so that when the muse strikes you are ready. You do not wait until the muse strikes to run to your studio. So first I keep fairly regular studio hours so get things done and try to schedule certain hours and days of the week for marketing, accounting and emails and things like that. 

Second I believe firmly that in order to have creative ideas and energy come out of you, you sometimes have to refill the well first. You might think this is an excuse to spend time on youtube or trolling pinterest pages, but it is necessary as a creative person to see imagery. Even a walk around the block, flipping through magazines at the drugstore or looking at the housewares section at Target can be inspiration. In walking in an urban environment I notice patterns of sidewalks, architectural details, piping, wrought iron grills, etc. In walking in a natural environment I notice the shape and spacing of leaves and flower petals, spider web structure, fresh new growth and dying decayed leaves, reflections in puddles and movement of weeds in the wind.

  All these images are both consciously and unconsciously added to a sort of arsenal of ideas in my brain. While a simple flower might inspire me to literally paint a flower, sometimes it is merely the pattern or combination of patterns that appears later without even realizing it. The dots of water on a spiders web can become a stencil, a sketched ladder shape, dashed lines across the corner of a painting. I never know when these images may be needed or necessary, but I want them to be there to be ready for me.

  There have been many articles written about writer's block, but artist's block is a thing that happens too. Looking at the empty journal page or canvas  or paper can be daunting, but jumping in and putting down color, pattern, shapes or lines can start the flow of images. In many cases I put down a color and then realize it is the wrong color, painting over it with gesso or another color suddenly creates the perfect color or texture that I did not know I had been needing all along.


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