Artistic Growth

How to hunt and gather inspiration.

hunt The earliest artists were hunter-gatherers, and seriously? So are we.

They moved from meadow to meadow, terrain to terrain. Their pace followed the seasons, a different practice in the summer than in the winter. They stored up for times of hunger, adjusted as fields became fallow and as fruit became scarce. They understood drought, moving as water and weather took them.

Like them, we can't grow our own creative sustenance—those things that inspire and drive us. We have to go after it, gather it, and store it. We have always been and will always be hunter-gatherers. Thomas Merton said, "The imagination needs time to browse." So give yourself permission to browse, to wander around for the creative fodder you need.

To maximize your creativity, you must rely on a variety of sources:

  • Go on creative inner-pilgrimages to foreign artists' styles, or use foreign writing prompts.
  • Chase down the wildest color schemes or hunt down the secret to the golden mean in photography.
  • Look for inspiring input in "remote" places you've never visited: different books, galleries, forms of poetry.
  • Brave the unfamiliar terrain of new tools and techniques: software, plot style, composition techniques, etc.
  • Try new foods: take a course, read a new textbook, enroll in a class.
  • Explore your curiosities and questions! "[The artist] opens himself up to all influences—everything nourishes him. Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand—particularly what he does not understand." Henry Miller

I'd also recommend considering a seasonal or monthly (or moon-cycle) approach to gathering inspiration:

  • Which seasons yield the most inspiration? (Winter is beautifully introspective for me, summer is too busy.)
  • Focus on a certain creative input for a month then cycle to a fresh field of fodder the next month.
  • Choose themes or color schemes based on the weather and the season, letting nature guide you.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo or participate in a similar challenge for visual artists.
  • Set a creative goal for the season or the year, and see how far you can get with it. (My goal = 200 paintings. Due to an unforeseen serotonin drought this winter, I don't think I'm going to make it...)

Go after inspiration like our hunter-gather predecessors. Feed that starving inner-artist, and she will have the energy and vitality you need in order to live out your creative dreams.

A gentle word of caution: Those courses on marketing and social media are not necessarily creative fodder... While they do help you understand the business side of creativity, they don't invest in the creative side of your soul. When you consider courses and classesartist, look for experiences that will enrich your *creative process* not your *business process.* I know we have to live in both worlds, but the one that stirs your soul and raises your voice the world is your *creative process.* Focus on feeding your starving inner-—she probably doesn't wake up in the morning craving marketing strategies, she craves the sweetness of inspiration! Give it to her. Regularly.

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Do you have a Creativity Manifesto?

Why are manifestos so important? They keep the end in focus. They keep us on track. They supercharge our resolve to go after the things that are important to us. Even Frank Lloyd Wright had one. "In other words, the manifesto is a personal or even handwritten statement intending to shock, inspire, or offend." (here) In this case, we are aiming to inspire ourselves, yes? So, let's steel ourselves. Let's look ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves to get out there and create because creating makes our world a more beautiful place. You can take a look at instructions for writing your own manifesto:

And if you're curious, here's my creativity manifesto:

"Creating is like breathing – more like exhaling. If I don’t create, my soul suffocates. As I create, I listen to myself. I discover emotions and fears and passions and convictions. I pray soft and subtle prayers—both mine and others'. 

While I create for the sake of my soul and for the sake of the message, I also create for the sake of creating. I enjoy the process, the challenge, the adventure. I hold moments of creating as a discovery, not a job or goal, but as a discovery of what is within me to create.

To maintain a level of creativity, I rely on new inspirations and old routines. I always find novel ways to create, whether it be through new tools of creating, or new mediums. Predictability and routine provide the best environments for my soul to have the energy to create. If life demands adaptation and change (both being very creative endeavors) then I will be depleted of my inner creativity.

To foster my creative edge, I must constantly educate and challenge myself: New books, new lessons, new tools, new goals, new creative endeavors. If I don’t grow, I will lose speed and possibly halt. This development is a monster of a task, and I often feel I am hindered by my own limitations. But I will continue to grow. I will continue to climb upwards to new heights of achievement. I may never ascend to the top of this Everest, but I will strive to get above the snow-line.

Each year I will make a creative goal for myself.  This goal will exist as an end in sight and a way to monitor progress, and will also fuel me to keep a steady pace with new ideas and tools and challenges."

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Summer of Discovery

  • Gathering shells to bring home inhales and exhales of our beloved ocean.
  • Counting the collection of shark teeth.
  • Learning to love fresh in-season veggies.
  • Finding a pace by painting in small squares.
  • Looking long into the mirror of the "Highly Sensitive Person;" seeing myself there, all of me.
  • Inhaling the words of Elaine Aron, Juliet Benner, Kelly Schneider Conkling, and Richard Rohr.
  • Stretching my hand to those last few inches to grasp my own visual voice.
  • Stumbling upon "visio divina."
  • Being present.
  • Art as prayer.
  • Centering prayer.
  • Soul-scapes.

I can still feel the shifting and settling deep down below the surface. The whispered discoveries. The lists of truth. The pages of illumination.

Creativity Tips: a little big poster from me to you

Need a little inspiration? A little something for your office or studio space to help you remember how to ride those waves of creativity? I've been collecting a list of tips and tricks I've learned along the way, and wanted to share them with you in the hopes that you will go forth and make great things!

So I made you a big and bright poster that you can print or share or use however you'd like!

To download the pdf, clickity-click the poster, or HERE:

Creativity Tips Thumbnail

 

My Four Step Creative Process

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It's simple, really. And it needs to be. The act of creating is daunting enough. Who needs a complicated process to get it done?

My four step creative process:

  1. Input: I am constantly gathering visual material. Harvesting. Studying. They come through many venues. My eyes stay open to things that grab me.
  2. Ideas: If something grabs me, it often inspires a new painting idea. I collect these ideas in a spark file that I can access at any moment.
  3. Go: If steps one and two have been regularly attended to, I will not have a shortage of inspirational energy when it comes time to step foot in the studio. I chose a "next thing" and I go with it.
  4. Flow: Given the proper conditions, my concentration will slip into the flow state. This is ideal, as this facilitates peak creativity and concentration. And when this happens, the creative process is magical. Powerful. Tantalizing.

To confess, I have most definitely simplified these stages for you so you could fill in the blanks with your own preferences. For instance: What are the venues of my visual input? See? That part doesn't matter. What matters is that my eyes are on the look out. The point of #1 is for you to keep your eyes on the look out as well.

And, to be honest, I need these to be in a simple, memorable format, so that when I feel blocked, I can search through these steps to discover where I need to place more energy and time. Sort of a mental cliff-note reference card that I can flip through when I'm stuck. There's always a step waiting for me. Always some stage of this process that I can easily insert myself into and regain momentum.

It's not such a mystery, really. It's about keeping myself somewhere in these steps. This is how I get it done.

The Essence of Voice

They said that in desperation, O'Keefe reviewed all her previous work and "decided to paint in ways that would please her." This brave choice resulted in the signature Georgia O'Keefe style we know so well. On a quiet morning, I flipped through nearly 300 snapshots of my work, searching for those that speak to me, that I enjoyed painting. The result is a collection of 50 that I think reflect my artistic voice.

Some common elements:

  •  Vibrant color
  • Landscapes, seascapes
  • Text
  • Textures
  • Strong horizon line
  • Grids
  • Natural elements
  • Messy scrawling areas of paint
  • Natural organic subject matter
  • Emotional aesthetic
  • Indistinguishable brush strokes

Here are some that still stick with me. Do you see any similarities?

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May Receivings and Revelations

May: the month of flow and uniforms and sunshine and vitality and hope... "Emotional venting without accompanying insight does not produce change." Robert Emmons

Hemingway: masterful ability to stay in flow. Always quit when you know what is next. Maintain momentum.

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-- Renaissance: a revival of intellectual or artistic achievement and vigor

"For the creative mother, creativity is her life force that makes her bloom. Take that from her and you take her soul." Lucy H. Pearce

...if you allow it, you have to live with it. Do you want to live with it?

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Perfect is often the opposite of play.

Someone else's "no" might be the space I need.

Is your creative work draining you? Which aspects?

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Findings: - Chelsea Bentley James - Schwinn comfort hybrid - Owls - HSP, HSP, HSP!!

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Learnings: - I cannot grow lavender in the house. - Legos and little girl journals bring me life. - Input => Ideas => Go => Flow - People want to touch my hair. - Myself as an HSP... - "We are deep but we are not bottomless wells." Lucy H. Pearce - Focal Point = place where lightest lights and darkest darks converge...

Gold? Gold...?

What are our strengths as HSPs?

These are just some of my May musings. The month rained inspiration and discovery, and I managed to catch as many drops as possible. I anticipate that I will continue to drink from the well of May for the entirety of the summer. I expect June and July to be just as magical.