Creativity is something many folks think occurs in some magical way. The artist/crafter/creator gets some sort of visionary impulse that propels them unwaveringly toward their (typically fully internally realized) masterpiece. Maybe once in awhile – mostly in the movies and in books – but creativity typically expresses itself through practice and exposure.
Like any “muscle”, our brains are exercised by what we think and do. If you are like me (please tell me I’m not alone), COVID has put a serious hit on my motivation to do much of anything. I have done some additional baking, made a few tee shirts and tea towels, cleaned everything, and watched every ridiculous movie on multiple streaming services. And I’ve done a lot of just sitting in numbed sorrow. Any of that sound familiar?
Well, I’ve decided that it is time to get my brain “up off the couch”. I LOVE being creative. It’s part and parcel of my self identity. And I do not want THAT to become another loss in the massive mess going on right now. In fact, I see it as a baseline survival skill that HAS to be preserved and nurtured.
So this post, and more to follow, is about how to take some simple steps toward your (and my) creative survival. This isn’t about “becoming” an artist – it is about reviving/supporting/revving up your creative self. I hope you will come along for the journey.
Exercises for This Week
This is a version of an exercise that has been around for years. It is one that many visual artists use as a “warm up” before they start a new project. This version is simplified because we are taking baby steps.
This is the favorite part for many! First I want you to just look around your space and find something for this exercise. If you have a drawing/sketch pad, that’s great – but don’t go online to order anything just yet. (If you do – I recommend starting with this little mixed media journal.* I like the smaller version and carry one in my backpack everywhere I go!) But for this exercise, any surface you can write on will work: printer paper, card stock, use the back of an old envelope (GREAT way to repurpose junk mail).
Same for your drawing instrument. In fact, I would recommend just using a pencil. You don’t need an eraser this week!
- You are going to draw a row of circles, then below that a row of squares, then below that another row of circles. You will have nine (9) “canvases”.
- DO NOT erase or attempt to make perfect any of the items in #1. In fact, DO NOT erase anything you do today.
- “Name” your first row of circles “Lines”.
- “Name” your row of squares “Circles”.
- “Name your last row of circles “Dots”.
- Take a deep breath, hold it, and let it out slowly.
- When you begin to use your drawing instrument, the intention is not to create a particular, recognizable item. The goal is simply to add the lines, circles, and dots in a relaxed way without thinking about it. Just touch your drawing instrument to the paper and keep making the lines, circles, dots. If you create something recognizable, great. If not, GREAT! If you create a structure or pattern – GREAT! Just go through the motions.
- Within your “Lines” canvas, simply draw lines, any size, any direction, any length.
- Within your “Circles” canvas, draw circles. Again, any size, any place, as many or as few as you wish.
- Within your “Dots” canvas, use dots of any size and put them anywhere. Fill up as much or little space as you wish.
Evaluate and Repeat
Did you notice something different in the image above? Yup. I changed the name of the “Dots” canvas to “Dots/Shapes”. Not one of the rules above said you could not change the rules. HOWEVER, for TODAY just choose ONE canvas to rename/repurpose. There is a reason to limit the change to one. Just trust me on this.
Now, take another deep breath and let it out. Look at your first set of canvases. No judgement – just look them over. See how your brain is working. Did you draw all straight lines? Well heck that’s interesting! Do all your circles touch? Stay apart? That’s unique and something to think about.
Move to a different place on your paper, or turn the page if you have a book/pad, and set up nine (9) new canvases. Go through the exercise one more time. If you are enjoying this, you can create one more set of nine (9) canvases – but then STOP. Seriously. Go do something else. Relax, do the work you need to do, just let this exercise percolate a bit in your brain.
Tomorrow or the next day – no rigid schedule – go through the exercise again. Still no pressure, no “purpose” other than to simply let your mind relax, your hand move about the page. Look over what you have done in previous days compared to the more recent days. I’m not talking “improvement” here – just observe how your brain is approaching this each time. In a few days I’ll post another exercise and the journey continues.
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