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Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas

Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas #creativity
I had the pleasure this week of hearing Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, and author of the famous book, “The Creative Habit” speak at Hofstra University. Her book, which I already read, is on many “best books on creativity” lists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak. She was no nonsense and honest, especially in her advice to the young dancers in the audience.

She began the talk, after introducing herself, by going through the book briefly and summarizing each chapter. Then she asked for questions from the audience, and while some were specific to dance, some were great questions that led to interesting answers – like “How do you know the difference between brainstorming and over thinking things?”

Twyla talked about the time she left NYC and went to a farm, where she and other dancers “worked.” No thought of celebrity or success, or social media (which didn’t exist at the time), but just focusing on dance. I appreciated this reminder that creativity is about putting in the work.

She said, “It takes work to have new ideas.” They don’t just hit you out of nowhere. You have to get going first. You have to be in the habit of “going.” She talked about the “rituals of preparation” and how important they are – whatever they are for you – to get you going. Once you have an idea, you move on from the ritual.

As a painter this all makes sense to me. The importance of sitting down every day to paint. Starting with anything to warm up and get going. I sometimes find the sitting down part is the hardest. Life is always trying to get in the way, even guilt that I should be doing something else. But this thought replaces the guilt, “I am a painter. I paint.”

Learn more about “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp here.

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Just 5 minutes of sketching

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I’ve been sketching everyday. To accomplish this I’ve committed to “just 5 minutes.” Even on the busiest days, I figure I can spare 5 minutes. My old schedule was of a couple of hours of creating, one day a week, with shorter periods added here and there. But by the time another creative day came along, I sometimes couldn’t remember what I had been working on. These short sketching sessions keep me in the creative mode. They have been great. A great way to practice, come up with ideas, or just relax. And sometimes it goes beyond 5 minutes. 🙂

Hope your having a creative New Year!


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Just get started…and the ideas will come.

settingup
I try to paint or draw everyday. The first step for me is to pull everything out of the closet and set it up on the kitchen table. This seems like an obvious step, but my point is I don’t wait for that bolt of inspiration to strike.

Occasionally, I know what I’m going to paint as I head for my supplies. More often, as I pull out my sketchbook and paints, I think, “I have no idea what I’m going to create,” followed by, “oh! I can paint [blank].”

I know if I don’t pull out the paints, nothing will get done. It’s rare that I’m about to put pencil or brush to the page, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do. The process of pulling everything out and setting up, usually allows an idea to form. I think this is only possible, because I stay open to inspiration. When I see something that strikes me, I take a picture – even at the supermarket! These inspirational moments are in the back of my mind. I guess you’d say I’ve done my homework.

Gerber Daisies at the supermarket:
supermarketpic

startofgerbergerbersupermarket

I’ve written several posts that relate to this topic of “What to paint?”

I remember very clearly the moments before I started working on two of my favorite pieces from last year. I sat down to draw and had no ideas. In both cases I stepped outside to the backyard and looked around. In one case I took a photo of the Montauk Daisies and went back inside to paint them. The other time, I collected a couple of leaves and other things and brought them inside and started to paint. You really don’t need much to get you going.

With watercolor, the painting often needs to dry between layers. So I leave everything setup all day, and from time to time, sit down to add details. It works better for me to finish in one day. If too much time goes by, my interest wanes, and the chances of finishing decreases.

My Process:

  • Setup
  • Decision on what to paint*
  • Start
  • Get in the “zone”
  • Add finishing touches throughout the day

*Sometimes my first idea isn’t the painting I continue with that day. It’s more of a warm up. But more often than not, I stick with that first idea.

How do you decide “What to Paint?” I’d love to hear! 🙂

I took this picture while I was out running. Maybe it’s my next painting…
futureflower