The new year is thankfully here. Like many people, I’m trying to figure out how to be the best I can, in the new year. What systems help me and what bad habits hurt me when it comes to staying creative and working towards my goals?
Daily dreaming and planning in my notebook. This helps me stay focused on what I want to work on. I dream, I plan, I look back and see what projects I may have forgotten about. I’ve been doing this almost every day since I started my blog 7 years ago, maybe longer.
Painting early in the day vs. attacking my to-do list. I’m more likely to paint if it’s one of the first things I do. If I start with work or other to-do list items I’m doomed for the day. I find it so hard to get back to a free creative mind after the other stuff.
A project. Whenever I have an ongoing project or theme that I’m working on, it is so much easier to motivate myself to sit and create. There is something driving me.
The weather. A bright sunny day and time spent outdoors help inspire me to create.
Regular creatively. Even if it’s just 10/15 minutes a day, regular creativity inspires more creativity. Although I made the resolution 7 years ago and started this blog to reinforces it, I still regularly have to recommit to creativity. It’s constant work – but so much reward!
I’m Eileen, a watercolor artist. 13 years ago I didn’t draw or paint! A lack of confidence held me back for years. I now believe talent is just a starting point. Creativity is for everyone! It has brought so much joy and opportunity to my life. What are you waiting for? I’ve developed a process for you to follow! Get my book “Creative Exploration” and explore mediums and subjects to find your thing! Develop your own creative practice! Learn more here.
I was sewing the other day. Trying to make a few new masks. Sewing is a new thing for me. I’ve tried it here and there over the years but waited so long in between that it always felt like starting over. Now that I’ve been doing it more regularly, I’m getting the hang of it. There isn’t as much of a struggle.
As I sewed I wondered what new things – art, craft, baking, etc. – I would carry on with after quarantine is over? Based on what I see online, lots of people are trying their hand at new things – baking bread, painting, etc. or getting back to things they used to enjoy – puzzles, game night, taking walks, etc. What will we take with us into the new normal of life?
The silver lining in self quarantine is that some of us have had this time to explore things we normally don’t have time to explore. A friend of my sister’s messaged me and said she hadn’t painted in decades, but wanted to try again and asked what paint and tutorials I recommended. Often it is hard to know where to start.
How do you know what medium to begin with? How do you find an art medium that speaks to you? I went through this myself when I started My Creative Resolution. Throughout the process of exploration painting in watercolor was what rose to the top. For you it may be something totally different. But how do you find your thing?
I’ve developed a process for you to follow, that walks you through trying things, while developing a regular practice of creativity. Fifteen minutes a day can be sufficient! We start with the basics, no fancy supplies needed, and slowly work up to trying other mediums. There is room for your interests here. After all, your exploratory journey should be based on you!
Often the hardest part of anything is starting. So many things can hold you back – fear, uncertainty, a lack of confidence. It’s important to take stock of those things so they don’t slow you down. So you can move forward.
Since I was young I loved art, but like many people, I got away from it. But the desire to be creative stuck with me, even if it was dormant for a long time. It wasn’t until I had a career and family before the desire became stronger than the things holding me back.
Before I started my creative exploration journey, I took stock of all the things holding me back. One worry I had was about other people judging me and anything I might create. I realized creating wasn’t about how others viewed my abilities and “talent.” Creating was about me, and how it made me feel. There would always be people who didn’t like what I made. This shift in thinking freed me up to move forward.
I’ve never looked back and never regretted committing time and energy to creativity. It fills me up and brings me so much joy!
These days I can’t blame lack of time for a lack of painting. Being stuck at home, I’ve got nothing but time. What I am struggling with is what to paint. Sometimes it seems easier to go on my iPad than to figure out an idea.
Coincidentally my son asked me the other day, “Do you always know what you’re going to paint?” As I indicated, the answer is no, and it can be a real roadblock. When you are out and about, experiencing life, you are soaking up inspiration. Nowadays, not so much.
Here are some ways to find creative inspiration during self quarantine:
Go outside (in whatever way is safe for your situation). Walk around your neighborhood, or your yard, or sit by a window. The birds, trees, flowers, clouds, all provide inspiration. Absorb it, and take photos.
Look through your phone. What inspiration did you capture on your phone that you never drew or painted? Now you have time. I’ve made albums on my phone to separate inspiration photos.
Technique. Perhaps there is a technique you admire others doing. Try it! Find reference photo appropriate to that technique and practice. I admire paintings with sun dappled water, so I found a photo and tried it.
Catalogs. I keep catalogs to use as reference. Athletic attire ones have great figures to practice from, and sometimes great scenery. Recently I painted a skier and mountains from an ad in a magazine. I also painted a woman doing a headstand. I love the Burpee plant and seed catalog, such beautiful flowers and vegetables to paint!
Look around your home. Walk slowly around your home and see if there are any interesting subjects or arrangements to paint. Try to look at your space with fresh eyes. Or paint or draw an ordinary scene like the couch with a lamp, but add interesting wallpaper to it. Reimagine your space.
Set up a still life. Create an interesting composition with things in your home. The refrigerator is a great source of interesting looking things. Cut some fruit in half.
Portraits. In self quarantine with loved ones? Make them the subject of your next project.
Color. Try a project where it’s less about what you are painting and more about the color palette you are using. You could even recreate a painting you’ve done before but with a different color palette. In my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program we explore painting using Monet’s winter palette. It is such an interesting exercise!
When I was a kid I compared myself to other people. Was I faster, smarter, a better artist than so and so? Part of this had to do with the insecurities of being young. I thought my “abilities” were set in stone. I never thought about how I could improve in an area. As a swimmer, it never occurred to me that I could train differently, harder, or improve my stroke to get better. And we didn’t have access to endless resources on the internet to help with improvement.
Comparing myself had negative effects on me. If someone was better it devalued what I could do. It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. In my book, Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life, I share the story of getting to high school and seeing amazing pencil portraits by a girl named Peggy. Seeing Peggy’s drawings made me feel bad about myself. It never occurred to me that I could learn new techniques and practice to develop my skills. Looking back – yes Peggy’s portraits were impressive, but all they really did was shine a light on the fact that I lacked shading skills, and experience with portraits. Instead I thought the “comparison” showed I lacked talent and wasn’t “good enough” for art school.
As an adult I’m much more focused on what I’m doing. When I paint, I’m challenging myself. I work at it because I enjoy it, but also because I want to improve. I now know that practice plays a huge part in developing skills. If I’m struggling with a technique I’ll spend time experimenting and sometimes look online for tips. I don’t necessarily equate knowing a technique with being “better” as I would have as a kid. I just think of the person (I learn from online) as more experienced in that area. Or I think of them as someone further along in their creative journey.
I think of each painting as a learning opportunity. What went well? What aspect do I need to work on? Identifying areas to improve upon is the first step to getting better. Even paintings that are unsuccessful are helpful in that they reveal areas to work on. And everyone has their own way of painting (drawing, creating, etc.), their own unique style, which is another reason not to comparing yourself to others. Keep the competition with yourself.
Recently I went to a high school reunion. I went to an all girls high school – which is quite a bonding experience! The “reunion” was a party a bunch of us threw to celebrate our fiftieth birthdays. It was a lot of fun and great to see and spend time with this great group of “girls.”
A few friends commented that they love watching me paint on Instagram. One said that she didn’t remember me being creative in high school. While I loved art class in high school, I certainly didn’t spend my off hours creating. What I think is interesting is that when it comes to creativity most people have an us or them mentality. They assign themselves to one camp or the other – creative or not creative.
They assume you must have an innate talent to paint and probably have always done it. What I believe is that ANYONE can do it. You might deem yourself “terrible” at the start, but with time and effort it is almost impossible to NOT get better. But, it’s hard to convince some people of this. It’s almost like converting them to a new religion. They firmly believe they belong in the “not creative” camp and aren’t willing or don’t think it’s possible to venture out.
What camp are you in? Have you ventured out of your original camp? Or are you ready to?
Nache’ is a designer and maker and I’ve listened to her podcast – which highlights creative women and their side hustles – for years! Talking with her was so much fun! In Nache’s words,
“Eileen never gave up on her dream of being creative. In this episode, she explains how creating an art blog helped her gained the confidence to get back into painting and inspire others. She also walks us through how and why she built-out courses after a tutorial went viral on Pinterest, her process for developing a creativity book, and why she continues to create simple tutorials for those getting started.”