Creativity

Sometimes I feel that creativity is like when you have a word “on the tip of your tongue” and can’t quite think of the one you’re looking for. It’s like I’m constantly having these fleeting visions and flashes of things I’d love to make happen but when I sit down to do it I’m grasping at wisps and clouds of ideas that blend together into a haze and dissipate. And sometimes, the word you’re looking for comes back to you right away. And sometimes those ideas materialize how I was hoping. Other times, a lot of potential options come to mind, but none of them feel quite right. Some of them take a lot of painful searching, or never come back at all.

I’ve written in the past about getting out of your comfort zone, but in creativity, sometimes you need to keep one foot in that comfort zone to get over certain bumps in the road. For example, I love drawing with chalk on a chalkboard. Typically I would say pencil and paper is the most natural and easy medium for me, but I honestly think chalk might be it. There’s something about that white on dark background, erasing with the swipe of a finger, that always feels good to me. Plus, it can look more polished or finished, whereas sometimes a pencil sketch never graduates from a sketch, or the lines don’t erase as cleanly.

Of course, another artistic comfort zone for me is wildlife. Plants, animals, anything of the sort is a subject I can (and will, probably) draw forever. However, sometimes I get too stuck in my “favorites,” where every time I go to draw flowers I draw the same few ones in the same style. This is when it’s fun to go outside or even browse pinterest for different wildlife examples so that instead of the same old basic leaf or the flowers in my garden, I can discover some new or more exotic examples to interpret in my art. That’s what I did for this illustration today; combined a few different flowers and plants that I’m semi-familiar with but had never really drawn before, with a go-to luna moth 😉 as the focal point, and using chalk because all other mediums seemed too complicated for what I was going for. Another fun thing about art is that you can make up your own plants or draw several that would never be naturally found together.

It can be helpful to also search illustrations of wildlife and such to see other artists’ interpretations of things to try in your own style, however it does tend to stifle your own inherent originality if you’re constantly looking at the work of others. We were taught in one of my design classes early in college that “curation is creation,” which is very true, because your own taste will lead you to combine things in a way that no one else can, but if you are aiming to create your own fresh art, too much curation can overwhelm the doing. I find that sometimes I consume too much art and illustration just out of a love of seeing beautiful things that people are making and then get lost in that feeling that every good idea has already been taken. This is of course, absolutely not true. People are making new, original, lovely things every day, which means you can too! But that’s where it becomes important to separate yourself from all that virtual “inspiration” and just try to find inspiration from your own life and environment, because you will always be unique as your own person with your very own experiences.

That applies to pretty much everything in life: you always have a unique and valuable perspective to offer. In this rat race of a world we live in, especially for those in college or starting a new job or career and facing potential failure or rejection, that can be hard to remember sometimes, but that’s the one true thing you will always have to leverage: there is no one else who is you. 🙂

Blank

Life is like a series of blank notebooks. You open one, and the pages are lined nice and straight. It has a pretty print on the cover. You write in it. You go outside the lines a bit, maybe scratch out a word or doodle. You abandon that one after just a few pages. Put it in the bottom of a desk drawer. Maybe you find it again years later. Maybe you tear out those first pages and start new, maybe you leave them and enjoy looking back. In the meantime, you’ve gotten a new sketchbook. This one doesn’t have any lines at all…the pages are a crisp, off-white, blank canvas. The cover is leather-bound, so it feels more special. You struggle to make the first mark. It feels like it needs to be significant. You stick with this one for a few years, only occasionally making progress through the pages. Eventually, you get better about just using it and not trying so hard. You know you’ll keep this one forever, because it taught you a lot, filling it with all those ideas.

After a while, you realize you’ve accumulated quite a few notebooks over your life. The ones from when you were young are scribbled in with abandon. The ones from your adolescence are a bit more careful, but with pages torn out and discarded, and usually only a quarter of the way full. Now, in adulthood, you’ve gotten a lot better about using your sketchbooks. You don’t buy new ones all the time just because they’re pretty or cheap. You make sure you approach them with purpose, but you don’t stress about it anymore, because they’re for working through things, making lists, drawings, rough drafts, doodles, and plans. Some of them get a little beat-up from lots of use. You realized a while ago that you maybe didn’t like the ones with too much structure, and prompts, and lines, and decorative designs. Maybe you like the blank ones, but the dot-grids are a nice middle ground. Some structure is good.

Can you picture this metaphor? Are there “notebooks” in your life that you regretted buying, tore pages out of, look back on fondly, passed along to a friend, actually completed and felt really good about? Replace “notebooks” with projects, experiences, lessons, seasons, etc. Every notebook that comes into your life is a blank canvas, sometimes completely, sometimes with a few guidelines, and it’s up to you to use it the best way you can. I guess this is a good metaphor for the beginning of a new month as well. It’s another new sketchbook to start with 27 more blank pages ahead. Happy May 🙂