Painting small brings me joy, perhaps because it allows me to work in finer details…
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I really wanted to enhance the texture and strokes, as in all of my paintings. I am working on loosening brush strokes and relying color to form shapes.
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Part of my wetlands and their species series.
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So, I’ve been contemplating on the idea of creativity for a long time and I recently encounter a book titled, The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. In this book, she details ways to overcome a creative block. What I really liked about the book was the author’s description of creativity as a fountain that needs to be filled and nourished constantly. I decided to try some of the activities out for a week or two. I will revisit the exercises soon. I must admit that I did not try any of them long enough to see any significant result, but some of these may be helpful to you. I have compiled a mixture of things that I personally do, along with some of the ideas of the book that I felt were useful.
- Spending time alone– Distractions can inhibit one’s creative output. It is a good idea to unplug from social media and even the television for a day or two. It may be difficult if you hold another job, but if you are able to, do so! Instead, go for walks through the woods, visit a local gallery, a coffee shop, a bookstore, even a cathedral. If you don’t have much time, then try meditation, gardening, or knitting. Even if you’re not a nature enthusiast, spiritual, or are keen on the local scene, you would be surprised on what brings one inspiration.
- Read or listen to a good book– When I say good book, I don’t mean the latest popular novel. I am referring to something that challenges the mind, such as a classic book on philosophy, poetry, or some non-fiction work. I say “classic” because the words are written in such a manner that inspires thought and creativity. Older books tend to be lengthier in words and utilize better language in general. Pushing one’s mental capacity can help form new connections. I sometimes listen to an audio-books as I paint in lieu of music, which can alter one’s painting significantly. You can even listen to a documentary about an artist you admire!
- Revisit an Old Painting- Sometimes looking at an older piece gives you confidence to push forward as you will see your improvements since then. Looking at a piece from a time you were inspired may allow you to relate your mind to those creative forces that drove you during that time. You may even want to keep adding to your painting, or challenge yourself to paint something similar. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like and use that as a guide.
- Keep a daily journal: This is one that was taken from the book. If you find yourself stressed out with plenty on your mind, you will not be able to focus. The author suggests the artist or writer to write a page every morning of whatever comes to mind for a month. You are not supposed to re-read this and it does not have to make sense. The idea is to put your thoughts on paper so that your brain can focus. I tried this for a week, and was inspired to write poetry!
- Art Exercises– As an artist, there are times that your body says no, and that is okay. If I find that I am tired or just don’t feel up to painting, I don’t beat myself up! Maybe your body is saving your creative energy for the next great piece. It is easy to feel like you must do something– especially if you are watching people on Instagram, which relates to my first point. There are plenty of artist who spend months on one painting. However, if you must do something, my rule is to do a short 10-minute art exercise either copying an older master’s drawing or a small still-life. You may even scribble something from the imagination on paper. Those tiny workouts are going to improve your skills without making you feel exerted because there is no pressure involved. Start simple and small!
- Become your own judge– What I mean by this point is the need to compare yourself to others. There is a different between being inspired by another artist and comparing yourself to them. Negative thoughts pervade the mind and you feel inadequate. It is unhealthy and uncreative to base one’s work on what other artists are doing. This can lead to a negative perception of one’s work and dampen one’s creativity. Creativity works in a person who is confident with their own work. Instead, try saying positive things about one’s work and start believing them. All artists encounter the same problems and feel the same things. Many times, behind that one great painting you see are ten more that you don’t.
- Try a New Style– If you are bored, creativity will not come to you. If you are a Realist artist, why not try Abstract or vice-versa? Sometimes, learning a new technique or using a new tool can fuel that necessary creativity.
- Join a local figure drawing class– When are creativity is really lacking, a boost in moral and being around other artist can help you unblock. Figure drawing classes are usually not expensive, attended by artists of all levels, and can be relaxing.
- Be careful who you socialize with– People around us can contribute to dampening our creative side. In this group are people who party too often, who criticize your endeavors, who are negative, or complain about their lives too often. People who are constantly struggling with personal issues and choose you to vent can also do this. It is okay to be there for relatives and friends, but it should not be the only conversations you have. Choose to socialize with people with a similar ambition and you will see a tremendous improvement in your energy.
- Be thankful- I know this sounds too simple, but really. Think about the things you can do and how fortunate you are to be able to do them. The ability to create is a blessing and one must cherish it by given back to others and being thankful. Staying positive about your own life will allow you to appreciate every bit of it, even when your creative spark comes back!
If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments. I would love to hear some mores suggestions. What things do you do for inspiration or to get your creative energy flowing?
I added more details to this older painting.