Monday, August 25, 2014

Nurturing Creativity

Playing with carving my own print blocks

I suppose we all have the occasional dry period when nothing seems exciting, when we just don't feel like picking up a brush, when we're tired or overwhelmed.  And in fact I have a whole post in the pipeline that will be a follow-up to this one, addressing those things that kill creativity--or at least inhibit it to the point of entropy.

And honestly, when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, what inspires us--what nurtures that mischievous and elusive muse--is as individual as we are.

Often, what works for me is to make a list--well, two of them really.  One list of those things that feed my soul, and one of the things that definitely do NOT.  I have done this little exercise time and again through the helps me take compass readings and make sure I'm still on course, as well as where I need to jettison some cargo or turn the wheel a bit to starboard.

Who wouldn't wish to see a few more of those stars like silvery eyes in a velvet sky, eh? (And yes, of course my sailor husband would remind me that starboard isn't up--work with me here, all right? I'm sailing this imaginary sloop...)

I've been doing a lot of jettisoning, lately.  Simplifying, getting rid of excess Stuff--belongings, ideas, occupations, imaginary or outworn obligations.

Making room for Creativity.  For life.

For we ARE creative beings.  That's what we do. Whether we create a piece of art, a symphony, a happy child, a balanced budget, a good meal or order out of chaos, we are fulfilling that urge. I once wrote an article suggesting that that is what we have most in common with the Creator; I still believe that, and I'm more grateful than ever, 25 years later.

Dip pens cut from feathers or sticks

So.  What nurtures creativity?  What inspires me?

Here's my list--this week.  Make your own.  They may be quite similar, they may be entirely different, but they must be honest, straight from the heart. 

  • An open mind
  • Paying attention
  • Meditation
  • Listening to what really matters to me
  • The light on my sleeping husband's face
  • Quiet
  • Time
  • Books
  • Textures
  • Joseph's hands
  • Flavors
  • Play
  • New places
  • Old ones...heart homes, near and far--places that have touched me
  • Music
  • Rest
  • A new tool--a new pigment, a fountain pen that's smooth of nib, a vegetable peeler, whatever!
  • Paper I love to work on
  • Beauty
  • Nature
  • Light
  • Color
  • Learning
  • New ideas
  • Reviving old ones that work 
  • Taking time for me (if I give it all away, I have nothing left for any of us)
  • Honesty
  • Friends who "get it"  (Get what, you say?  Well, that's as individual as we are, as well.)
  • Art--seeing what others have done or are doing can spark a conflagration
  • Rembrandt sketches, Vermeer's chiaroscuro, Winslow Homer's watercolors...
  • A new direction (the stamps above were my balance from too many weeks of the same kind of thing)
  • A different medium--almost but not quite the same as above
  • The grace and antics of cats
  • A quiet chat with an old friend
  • A new discipline
  • Old photos
  • Time for memory
  • Interaction with others...for me, sparingly, but still...
  • A quote that speaks to me
  • That One Perfect Word--you know, the one that strikes the ear and makes everything different  
  • The sure and certain knowledge that there is no one right way when it comes to creativity

A friend's recent art on used teabags inspired these two...thank you, Palma.
My own technique was different...but her work let me take off from there!

And once I have my list?  I do more of that.  Whatever it is, whatever I have time for.  What bubbles to the top, what serendipity throws my way.  What insists I pay attention.





  1. Great list! And what a wonderful idea - sometimes actually putting pen to paper makes our blessings much more real to us. And, "friends who get us" - so important and affirming.

    1. Oh I do find that to be true, Erin! I will be addressing gratitude lists in a future post...probably more than once!

  2. Recent inspirations:
    - A quote I want to embrace
    - Listening to 'deep' lectures, and capturing images that pop into mind
    - Perfect paper in my journal
    - Something I want to say to a loved one on a postcard
    - Translating sensations and impressions into swirls and bubbles
    - Wise words I want to pin down and revisit later
    - Miniature dropper-bottles of ink and empty fountain pens
    - Color play of all sorts
    - Revisiting a page in my book and adding color with Inktense or mixed inks
    - Play with school supplies and a waterbrush
    - Lovely watercolor paper pre-cut to Postcard size
    - The list of inspirations posted in Cathy Johnson's blog
    - Comics to borrow from as I train my hand at placing my figures into backgrounds
    - Late night music-listening
    - The muses, the amusements, the accoutrements, and the enhancements.

    1. What a wonderful list, Gretchen...and yes, I love writing those quotes down in my journal to revisit.

  3. thank you for the reminders.
    late night music
    new tools, papers, colors, scraps, bits, what have yous
    other people's art, new energy, new styles

  4. ....haven't got enuf paper fer me list, practically everything inspires me, I get overload and shake because I can't get to some paper and paints, sometimes when I get into the studio I have to make myself breath deep and slow to calm me down. Mind you, even the shakes can produce some interesting fun textures. Thanks for all your generous tips and pointers, you're a star :-D

    1. Kat, that sounds wonderful...excitement is a great creative tool.

  5. As I read this it struck me that you are one of the few artists that really nurture and give to your audience, without preaching or boasting or making one feel inadequate. I come away feeling inspired, grateful and my heart warmed and it's been a long time since I felt that. Thank you so much!

    1. You brought tears to my eyes...thank you so much.

      I believe we are ALL born with this wonderful gift to use in one way or another, so how could I preach or boast? "My way" is no better than anyone else's. Our job is to encourage one another, don't you think?

  6. Love this Kate! Here's my morning list:

    What nurtures my creativity?

    Other artists I admire.
    Viewing art I love
    Time in nature
    Time with friends
    Going thru old art journals
    Learning new things
    Trying new techniques, methods, ideas
    Walks in the woods, along the ocean
    Taking a new class
    Teaching others
    A good book
    Good music
    Beautiful words, thoughts, ideas, things, places
    Sometimes failure – and that stubborn streak to keep trying
    Quiet times
    Mornings – the quiet times sipping coffee – easing into the day
    Taking time to explore something new
    Sometimes a walk thru a new store that I wouldn’t typically visit
    Sometimes bookstores
    Sometimes even a stroll thru the produce section or especially farmer’s markets– all that color!!! All that variety!

    1. WONDERFUL list, Miss Lin...I love going through old journals too, and revisiting favorite books.

  7. I am grateful you started writing again. And creating, by the way. I am totally blocked in the moment but surely i´ll get through. This happens from time to time. This time it is an exhibition i would like to contribute but they ask for bigger formats - bigger than A4, and i like creating smaller paintings. So i do not do anything because i shy away from the bigger sheet. And end up doing nothing. Silly, isn´t it? That´s why i write: it would be so kind of you to show the making of the teabag one? You draw through the tissue, is that right? With ink? I appreciate the faded look of the sketch and the broken texture. Anyway, have a nice day!

    1. Maike, I think we all get blocked--or overwhelmed--from time to time. Thank you! And yes, I totally understand what you're saying.

      I used a used teabag that's been allowed to dry and get stained. I laid it on the paper, rewet it with my sprayer, and drew on it with two different brown watercolor pencils. It soaked through, making the "ghost" image, isn't that interesting?

    2. Thank you so much. I already began to wonder how to use the staining power of Rooibos tea. A ghostly image, yes, that is a good description for it. I am looking forward to your following posts!

    3. I haven't tried that kind, but I did find peppermint quite staining--almost black, to my surprise.

  8. I am so very fortunate to have "found" you! (videos, books etc) Thank you doesn't quite cover the inspiration I have gained from your insights.


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