Or yes, try a new Moroccan dish, design a tunic, make some Japanese tsukemono (kraut), solve a prickly problem or try a new approach to writing. (Thank you Andy Couturier for your book and your class!)
|The old Marrakech Cafe is what got me started on the Moroccan-food kick! Now I make my own...|
And for me (and for many of us), what can kill creativity--and the desire to create--are several.
Like my very personal discipline of making a list on what nurtures creativity, I find it helpful to write down those things that do not. It fixes them in my mind and reminds me to run like a rabbit, for my own sanity and peace. Sometimes that list is noticably shorther than the one that inspires creativity, and for that I am grateful.
But somehow this "list" got a bit wordier and a good deal less "listy"! Here goes...
Rules, with a capital R, for one. You must NOT use this or that tool, you must NOT erase, you MUSTN'T use opaque paint with watercolor--or that feeling that you MUST do something every day, hence creating pressure to produce over being inspired or responding to something you care about.
We are not factories. We are creative souls.
The idea that you must use this medium or that, and you mustn't use the other one...for me, whatever works to express what I NEED to is what I use. If I want to use a pencil, I use it. If I want to go all ink, I do. If I jump right in with watercolor with no guidelines at all, then that's what the piece asked me to do. If I feel like giving myself guidelines--or making the underlying drawing the work itself, embellished with watercolor, then go to! If the piece calls for a touch of contrast where I've forgotten to leave one, a bright sparkle, I bring out the gouache or the white Sharpie!
But uniformity in rules or requirements? Not for me, thanks. Freedom to fly is what I need.
(Though actually, yes--I'll admit to a certain childish rebellion when faced with Rules--perhaps they DO encourage creativity, in a kind of reverse psychological way, for me! "Oh, yeah?? Who sez? Watch this!" Yes, I am a stubborn brat, why do you ask? )
Assignments--whether freelance, for pay, or casual prompts are not for me. Not any more. If it hasn't come from within, it doesn't satisfy my creative urge. (And mind you, many others find challenges and prompts extremely inspiring, making them their own. Perhaps it's all my years as a freelance artist, stomach in knots until the client responds, that makes me dislike these things so thoroughly!)
I suspect copying someone else's work can compromise creativity, as well. It's all right for learning a technique or understanding how the artist did what they did--after all, that's how artists learned, as apprentices, for generations. But creative?
Do you give a flying fig about "the Color of the Year?" I don't.
Creativity is our OWN response--to a subject, a mood, a color, a quality of light. A loved one. Something we care about!
Working from a photo is borderline, for me. I'm not into photorealism, at all--a camera can do a much better job than I can, and truthfully I don't have the patience for such exacting work.
And often, photos flatten the scene and obscure detail--especially on a sunny day with deep shadows. The main challenge of translating the wonderful 3D world to the flat 2D surface has already been solved in a photo. And we are often tempted to render it exactly as it appears, with little personal response, really. No tweaking, creative editing, or immediate gut-level response.
Have I worked from photos? Of course I have. I take hundreds, and sometimes I can't wait to render them in watercolor--or interpret them in watercolor, perhaps I should say!
Sometimes, back when I did much more freelance work than I do now--and thanks be to God I don't have to take every assignment that comes through the door, any more!--I frequently had to work from photos.
When I did hundreds of illustrations for The Walker's Companion, a Nature Company guide (long out of print, and Nature Company is long out of business), they did NOT send me all over the US to do the field sketches! What a dream assignment that would have been...
Often illustrators are asked to work far out of season, as well, in advance of the season for various wildflowers or other elements...so photos are our only recourse. Most of my Country Living Magazine illustrations fit that profile, as well. Baby bunnies are not born in January, but that may have been when I did this illustration.
I've done dozens of in-person demos with absolutely no opportunity to work in any other way...and of course, some of my favorite paintings have come from that necessity. But I did interpret, not attempt to reproduce the photo, as you can probably tell, below.
|This was a demo at Old English Garden Shoppe, in Missouri...a long way from Maine!|
|...and it was not winter when I painted this demo, also at the shop/gallery. It's nearby, and I HAVE painted on that road, many times--but this was a demo in the evening, not a sunny winter afternoon.|
Other things that can inhibit creativity?
- The Inner Critic*
- Pretty much any criticism (not the constructive kind, which, in fact, I am also not fond of!)
- Active discouragement (parents, teachers, siblings or spouses can say the most deadening things...)
- Lack of encouragement or understanding
- Expectations--our own or others' (let it happen, let it flow. Try being in the moment and see what develops.)
- Too many suggestions or requests (for me this includes "why don't you do this or that, why don't you make a video on X, or would you teach on color theory/portraits/oil painting," etc.)
- Lack of time
- Lack of confidence
- Comparing to others' work or skill
- Not taking the creative urge seriously
- Not giving ourselves permission to create
- Not giving ourselves permission to explore
- Waiting to find the perfect tool (brush, pen, pencil, paper, journal, whatever)
- Overstimulation (too MUCH information, too many options, too many choices!)
- Impatience with yourself
- Expecting to improve without practice (some people think they either "have it or they don't." Could you play the Canon in D the first time you sat at a piano?)
And alas, sometimes the clunky nature of sharing can suck the joy out of it. Photographing and tweaking, scanning and tweaking, uploading, etc....it may take more time than creating! So I give myself a break and just don't, unless I'm in the mood.
I know you can probably add to that list--I could, if I set my mind to it, but enough wallowing in the negative!
We need to do more than add to a list. We need to weed out those things that can be weeded, and find ways to deal with the negatives--creatively.
Simplify, give ourselves permission to create, to play, to "waste" paper or pigment (it is never a waste, trust me.) Set aside time, eat well, get more rest, turn off the TV, take a walk, breathe, use what we have rather than search for that special tool (the "special tool" is ourselves, our hands and minds and hearts.)
And enjoy that moment...
*How do I suggest dealing with that Inner Critic? Let ourselves greet that fearful, negative, or angry voice with kindness, gratitude and respect--it's only trying to keep us from failure, embarrassment or disappointment, after all. Then suggest it take a nice long walk, have a cup of tea or a cookie, we're doing what we need to!
What we were born to, really...