Category Archives: Creativity
So, I know I’ve been pretty absent around her for the past few weeks. A lot has happened. I’ve sold a couple of small paintings, had strep throat, met a rattlesnake on a hike, and turned 24. My domain even expired while I wasn’t looking! I haven’t been online much at all, and I’m actually ok with that. Sometimes we need to unplug.
Most of the reason I’ve been gone is because I’ve been in a serious creative funk lately. I’ve started a few new paintings but I’ve run into some walls with both of them. Nothing a little modeling paste and rethinking can’t fix, but walls nonetheless. I haven’t worked on my novel much, I haven’t been very active on Etsy, and my studio is such a disaster that I can barely fit in there.
I figured I could either hide behind some fluffy posts or just take a break. I chose the latter, because I knew I’d be in the mood to post again soon.
So, about creative funks. I don’t like to call them “blocks” because it sounds like something outside of ourselves that’s causing us to avoid creating, but it’s really not. Nothing that has happened over the last few months could have inevitably blocked me, but a funk, now that feels more like the sticky, mucky, internal mess that this really is. I picture it as getting stuck in molasses or tar; the gunk that clogs up our creative channels if we don’t clear it out in time. That gunk will always come, but it can either get stuck or pass through fairly painlessly.
In the past few months, I’ve uncovered and run into rejection, shock, the possibility of major change, shame, anxiety, guilt, regret, and all kinds of stuff that loves to gunk up our creativity like a giant hairball in a drain. This all came on fairly quickly and I didn’t really allow myself the time or means to move it out before it congealed. I avoided talking or thinking about it and instead read a bunch of (amazing) books, busied myself with household chores (my apartment is still a mess somehow), organized my ever-growing Pinterest boards so I can access my inspiration easier, and taking lots of walks. I knew that funk was there, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I’d let myself think about it in passing moments, tiny bites at a time because the whole elephant just seemed like too much.
I haven’t nailed down a surefire way to get out of these creative funks, but I do know that our spirits and therefore creativity are an ecosystem as delicate and complex as any rainforest, and all the little elements need to be there and working together in order for the whole to function properly. The extinction of one insect, the absence of one seemingly trivial ritual can potentially throw the whole system out of whack. Life is far too messy to balance properly, but we can make sure that the necessary things get taken care of. Creativity is a delicate little creature that needs proper care to survive. ”
Real” artists aren’t exempt from this. All creators struggle to keep their systems balanced, though some may have themselves figured out more than others. So, my solution for my creative funk is to do what I can to restore the environment in which my creativity can thrive. This means different things for different people, but for me it means making space for “creative playtime”, reading inspirational things like Laura Hollick’s blog or The Artist’s Way, and making sure to connect with myself by journaling and daydreaming instead of filling every free second with other reading or Minesweeper.
This morning, I’m planning to take myself shopping for art supplies with the rest of my birthday money and then having some creative playtime before I go to work. The thought of artmaking actually terrifies me at the moment, but I know that bribing myself with some new toys from the art supply store will coax me out of my shell. Whatever happens in the studio today will be ok, even if I completely ruin whatever I’m working on, make something wonderful, discover that I want to go in a completely different direction, bawl my eyes out, whatever. It’s all ok.
We’ve all been there, and a lot of us never seem to leave. Life seems overwhelming, scary, or confusing, or maybe all of the above.
This isn’t a gloomy post. Feeling like this sometimes is just part of life and it usually means we’re on the verge of something important. The longer we stay stuck here though, the longer it takes to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel.
So when my head is spinning and I have no idea what to do or which path to take, here’s what I do:
- Cling to truth: When you’re confused, nothing feels better than to anchor yourself with things that you know to be true. List them. They can be as simple as “My husband loves me” or “I am a good person”. Confusion is to not know, but having truth is to know. Once you have a grip on that, you can figure the rest out.
- Realize that everything is ok: I tend to get caught up in my own little maelstrom of emotion, but sometimes I need to step back and notice that the sun is shining, the cat is sleeping, the world is still turning, and nothing is really wrong. Not in the grand scheme of things. The drama is all inside me. I don’t have to listen to it.
- Do a tiny thing that scares you: If you’ve been cleaning the house with a Q-tip to avoid working on your novel, sit down and write a page. Set a timer. If you’ve been putting something off, do a tiny bit of it. Bribe yourself. Set a timer. Whatever gets you going, do it.
I actually did all three of these things today, and I feel a million times better. If you feel confused or overwhelmed at all, I highly recommend it.
Have a great week!
I haven’t listed any new work in awhile, but today I’m posting a few new small paintings in the shop today:
Purchase here. This painting features layers of crackled gesso painted icy blue and white with a black tree. I really love this one and I had a great time making it. I’m not sure what prompted me to paint something so…frosty looking, but I’m really happy with it.
Purchase here. This painting features a young ghost girl standing under a white tree with collaged red orbs and a stamped moon. I love the veiny texture that comes from using thick paint on hand-carved stamps!
Purchase here. In high school, I carved this linoleum block stamp of a tree, and I’ve used it quite a bit since then (like in this piece). I love combining linocut with collage and painting. I printed the tree onto newsprint and sealed it onto a flat canvas board.
I love these pieces because they’re the result of creative playtime.
Have a great…what is it, Thursday? Wow. One of those weeks.
Whatever it is today, have a good one!
People often tell me that they’re not “the creative type”. A lot of those same people tell me how creative I am, as if it were some rare trait that only a few gifted people possess.
Compliments are nice, but I’m here to tell you that creativity is not something you’re born with. There’s no “creative type”. There are people who tend to gravitate towards things like art, dance, theater, writing, and basketweaving. Some people are naturally unafraid to express themselves, while others are more timid. Some people are more visual and emotional and tend to think more creatively without really trying. This really isn’t any different from people who are naturally good at math, or who think analytically, or highly useful people like my husband who can look at any broken do-dad and know how to fix it (I, however, am much better breaking things. Match made in heaven, right?).
We all have a creative streak whether we use it or not. We may not all be inclined to paint or write novels, but everyone is moved by some form of creative expression, and I firmly believe that everyone can become adept at some sort of creative pursuit whether it’s writing operas or creating flower arrangements.
After years of listening to people lament about their perceived lack of creativity and my observations of “creative types”, here are some of the differences I’ve noticed:
- Don’t be afraid to screw up. People who are truly in tune with their creativity aren’t afraid of making lousy stuff. If you’re too afraid of messing up, you’ll never start, and nothing will get made.
- Let your ideas change and evolve as you create. I was talking to my friend the other day, and he told me that he doesn’t like to make art because it never ends up looking the way he pictured it in his head. This is a common complaint. I’ll tell you a secret: I make a lot of art, and it NEVER comes out the way I’d originally imagined it, but sometimes it’s even better. Creativity is not the ability to reach into your brain and pull out your intended creation intact; it’s more about discovering as you create and allowing your work to take on a life of its own. It’s spontaneity.
- Spend some time in La-La land. Though I was a good student, I used to get in trouble for daydreaming a lot in school. I even wrote a poem about it. If you don’t let your imagination wander, you won’t get idea; and if you don’t get ideas, how will you create anything? On the same note, it’s important to let those ideas marinate for awhile before you try to make them real. Yes, some ideas just burst for fully-formed, but that usually only happens in the movies. I recently re-learned this when I got the sudden urge to start working on my novel again. I’d been stalled for month even though I still thought about the story a lot. As the words flowed out during my writing session today, I realized that I hadn’t gotten to know my characters well enough, so no wonder the story wasn’t working! After letting them run wild in my head for a little while, I found out who they were and they were able to take on lives of their own.
I’ve had plenty of creative blocks before, and I’ve found that in each case I wasn’t doing at least one of these things. When I do all three, I find that my creativity flows like a fire hose. Try applying them to your own life. See what happens.
So, do you consider yourself a “creative type”? Do you run into creative snags?
I’m feeling kind of lazy today, so I thought I’d let you guys help me write my post today.
My favorite question to ask people when I’m getting to know them is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is usually after I’ve know them long enough that they know that I’m kind of a weirdo, so this doesn’t seem odd to them. I say it this way to grown-ups instead of asking “What do you want to do?” or the dreaded “What do you want to do with your life?” which sounds too guidance counselory. I like to ask this way because this is what we’re asked when we’re children, and this is what we ask children.
Children are completely honest and don’t worry about “can’t”s or the job market or limitations of any kind. They just say what they feel. This is a good way to find our real desires.
I want to get to know you guys better, and most of you have probably been reading this here blog long enough to understand my quirks, so now I’m asking you: What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’ll start: I want/wanted to be an artist and a writer, among other things.
Ok, now it’s your turn. Lurkers, this is your chance to say hello!
Ok, I’m going to keep this quick because I’m in a mood that I haven’t experienced in quite awhile.
The writing mood.
This happens to me sometimes. I’ll be working on one creative project and then wake up one morning feeling like doing something completely different. This happens with my art and writing. Thought I’m both an artist and a writer, I can’t seem to do both at the same time; I’m always both feet in either one or the other. I’ve made more art in the past couple months than I have in years, but I haven’t touched the novel I’ve been working on off and on for three years. Most of my readers probably have no idea that I’ve even had that project on the back burner. Two weeks ago though, I went to bed with all kinds of art ideas and a plan for the next day’s painting session and woke up with a hankering to work on my book.
That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, nearly every minute that I’m not at work. I’ve been living off watermelon and pb&j because I don’t have the patience to make anything else.
Some creative people have a single, burning patient to which to devote their time. Others, like me, have more than one. Sometimes it’s possible to split their daily activities to include both, but I don’t work that way. I’ve had to learn to go where my creative urge takes me. If I feel like painting, I paint. If I feel like writing, I write.
It’s kind of an unpredictable cycle and it makes it hard to set any long-term goals, like a goal date for finishing the first edit of my manuscript or introducing a new item to my shop or a new series of paintings this summer. I have to ride the waves though, because if I do anything else, the work won’t be as good.
I’m a writer at the moment, but I’m still an artist too. Who knows when the winds will change again. Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of art in me!
Trust the urge to create, no matter what that may be.
22 years ago today, Jim Henson passed away, but he left the world with his numerous creations that continue to influence people of all ages today.
I wrote about Jim last year and how he revolutionized entertainment. I called him my “creative role model”, which he certainly is.
Though my work bares little or no resemblance to Jim’s, I’m still surprised by how much his work has affected my life and creativity. I almost always watch Fraggle Rock or the Muppet Show while I paint. If you’ve met me in person, you’ve experienced my oddball sense of humor and puns that were shaped by years of watching the Doctor Bob sketches on The Muppet Show. If you read my writing (which I’m assuming you do), you know that I have an optimistic view on the world and I use humor to get through the rough times.
Jim left a lasting legacy of silliness, creativity, optimism, and the general joy of being alive. Not everything he created was wildly successful, be he kept creating and playing nonetheless. He loved what he did and the people he work with. This is why he’s my creative role model.
Just for fun, tell me about your favorite Jim Henson creation in the comments! The Muppet Show? Sesame Street? Labyrinth? Fraggle Rock? Let’s hear it!
I’ve wanted to be a lot of things in my life. I’m interested in a lot of things. Even though I’ve always planned on being an artist and a writer, I’ve also seriously considered going into theatrical set design, archaeology, teaching, horse breeding, nutritional counseling, and art therapy.
The other day, Sam and I were sitting at an outdoor table sharing wings and mozzarella sticks, and we started talking about talents and abilities that we each had. It actually started by comparing his super-sensitive taste buds to my ears. Sam can taste things that I can’t, and I have some crazy-sensitive ears. For me, any sort of squeaky, scraping sound practically causes seizures, but I can also hear things in music that Sam can’t. He likes to play songs I’ve never heard to see if I can guess the band (if I’ve heard of the band, I can usually tell). I can’t remember the words of most songs, but I can remember obscure little beats and entire guitar solos. I hear music in a very visual way, if that makes sense. I could probably sculpt or draw the sounds. One of my favorite things to do in junior high was to listen to a song over and over and draw it.
I’ve taken voice and piano lessons and I’ve played with composing, but I’ve never really done much with music. As we ate our lunch that day, Sam asked “Why aren’t you in the music industry?”
I just shrugged. I love music, but I don’t know what I’d do with it. I also love animals and could happily be with them every day, but I don’t know what I’d do with that either.
Sam’s kind of the same way. He’s a man of many talents and he likes to experiment, but like me, he’s has a hard time settling on one career. He’s also dabbled in set design and engineering, but he’s also a web designer and he’s going to school for 3-D animation. He’s draws and he loves film, and he loves creating props for haunted houses. Someday he might open a creature shop and make puppetry-assisted animatronics for haunted houses and movies.
It’s hard to juggle so many interests. One things that I love about art and writing though, is that I can use them to cover all my other interests. I can write about anything, paint anything, learn about anything and let it show up in my creative. Everything I do, see, love, and dream about feeds my art and writing. Even though I’ve checked out plenty of different paths, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Though someday I’d love to go back to music lessons, I’d love to spend more time with animals, and I still think there’s plenty to be explored in my other interests. Those interests are there for a reason. I used to get frustrated that there’s only one of me and that I couldn’t do everything I want to do, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore.
I watch Sam juggle his different interests and ambitions, and I noticed that he doesn’t stress out about it. He doesn’t seem to worry that there isn’t enough time or that he’s doing the wrong thing. He just has a good time with it.
I guess that’s the best thing to do when you feel like your choices and passions are overwhelming. Just have fun with it. Let it feed you.
I like to play with different techniques when I paint. I like using different brush strokes to play with the visual texture, I love wrapping the canvas with string to create a little “frame” right on the surface, and I like using linoleum blocks to stamp right onto the canvas.
I have a linoleum block tree and some rubber circles that I carved on high school, and I’ve used them in dozens of projects since. I think that’s where I got started with celestial bodies and trees.
Anyway, I’ve just listed this result of some creative playtime:
I think I like stamping on canvas because the print never comes out perfectly like it’s supposed to in traditional linocut prints. I like to mix the colors that I apply to the block so that the colors blend into the print, and by applying paint instead of ink and using a brush instead of a roller or brayer, the paint goes onto the block unevenly and leaves behind a gorgeous texture that reminds me of leaf veins. That texture really shows up here in the suns.
This piece is on 11X14 canvas board. It would look great in a frame! Available for purchase here.
I love art. That’s no secret. I’ve met people that don’t love art, and I just can’t wrap my brain around it. How can someone not love art? How can someone go through life without encountering a piece of art that moves them? I don’t know.
Why do I love art? Here’s why:
- It can be deep and thought-provoking, or just pretty.
- There’s not right or wrong way to be an artist.
- It scrapes to the very bottom of my soul and gets to the little crevices. It brings things to the surface that I never knew were there.
- It fills us with emotion.
- It’s a universal language. It helps us communicate feelings that transcend words alone.
- Art is fun!
- It brings us together, and also brings us closer to ourselves.
- Anyone can make art. Anyone can have fun with it.
- Art heals.
- Art allows us to exercise one of our most divine traits: creativity.
What do you love about art? What do you love about your passion?