Mind Hacks For Your Creative Vision
While going through old folders, I came across this prep work for an art talk I gave last year on harnessing creativity. If you have feedback or thoughts, I'd love to hear it!
To stimulate your critical thinking about how you create and interpret art. To analyze fears and unhelpful habits in order to make room for creativity and growth.
Your fears are vital pieces of information that you can use to learn about how you operate as a person. There is so much to gain from assessing how these fears shape your daily decisions, your relationships and your creative decisions. Fear can crop up in any aspect of our lives, and art is no exception. Even if our fears don’t make sense, are useless or pull us back from what we are planning to do… if we let fear roam free it will guide our decisions and opportunities. Is fear useful? Yes, sometimes it saves lives. When creating art, I think of fear as swift and effective as fire retardant on your creative vision. Naming and owning your fears are essential for being able to move past them.
Story of the Two Wolves
There’s a story of the two wolves in Cherokee culture in which a grandfather teaches his grandson an important life lesson.
The grandfather tells his grandson that there is a battle going on inside all of us. It is a battle between two wolves that live inside us.
He says, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ that live inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thinks about it for a while and says, “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather replies, “The one you feed”.
Examples of fears in relation to creativity:
My art is never going to progress
No-one will ever be interested in my art
XZY’s art is so much better than mine
I’ll never learn how to do this technique
It’s too intimidating to speak about my art
This gallery is never going to accept my work
I don’t know how to become a successful artist
It’s too risky to experiment or change my art style.
Activity Question 1: Write down one unhelpful phrase that pops into your mind that spoils your creativity.
Habits are the things we actually do with ourselves each day. It’s what truly makes all the difference between a tortured and a successful artist. Habits can be insidiously destructive, or incredibly time-saving. Without recognizing the power of unhelpful habits, it is unlikely that we would change them.
We all have a laundry list of habits that steal away our creativity. The following are examples of my own unhelpful habits that I have (and continue) to attack.
Staying up too late
Looking at paintings of other artists right before doing a painting
Using facebook or Instagram before painting
Not keeping my studio area clean enough
Letting tiredness get in the way of creativity
Not having my canvases prepped
Activity Question 2: I would like everyone now to write down 3 examples of unhelpful habits that sour your creativity.
The “antidote” to fear
I see this is a two-pronged approach 1) vision and 2) action. These create a feedback loop that diminishes the power of the fears that are hijacking your creative vision. What does it mean to have vision? And is it the same as artistic style? I believe these are two very different terms. Vision is the direction, the meaning and impetus to create. It is what gets us feverishly excited when the ideas are forming for the next piece. Artistic style is the vehicle that these concepts are carried through. Perhaps you love to paint, sew and lino-cut. Your vision could flow continuously regardless of the medium used. Each are very different activities, and your artistic style would emerge within each domain. And perhaps you have multiple artistic styles within each domain. Through the different mediums and different artistic styles, your vision would draw all these pieces together. It is your vision that is the core of who you are.
On the other side of the feedback loop is action. So what does it mean, and what does it look like to take action? It means to take conscious steps towards the vision that you have, and to create opportunities for you to be able to be as creative as possible in the least restrictive environment. Creativity can be fickle, doesn’t like repetition, refuses to be restricted, and often visits for longer or shorter than we have time for. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic does a beautiful job of explaining the capricious nature of creativity. So as artists, we need to make creativity feel welcome when it comes along, and also able to march on even if it’s not there. So I’m going to tell you some of the things I do when I’m absolutely not feeling creative:
Clear my studio space
Prep my canvases
Shop for art supplies
Look for art galleries or competitions online
Print out photos for inspiration
Work on the website
Read, and read and read about art or related topics
Listen to podcasts about business and art
Document thoughts, inspirational quotes, and ideas in a sketchbook
Plan, reflect and research
And what I do to welcome creativity, when I want to paint…
Make many, many cups of tea
Put on Elvis radio station
Banish unhelpful thoughts
Avoid Instagram and Facebook for the day
Put my phone calls and messages on mute
Start the day early
Activity Question 3: I would like everyone to write down 3 strategies you can use to create the least restrictive environment for creativity.
Us artists have a hard time letting go of art, or often prefer giving it away rather than selling it. And the idea of self-promotion makes many of us nauseous. An artwork is something that you have birthed, shaped and created. It shows the inner workings of who you are, especially the parts that yearn to be expressed. And so how can one possibly put it for sale, and talk about it with detachment? I’m going to refer to one of my favorite quotes from the book Big Magic, “What you produce is not necessarily always sacred just because you think it is sacred. What IS sacred is the time that you spent working on that project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”
Once an artwork is created and finished, it needs space to breath and grow on its own. If we are too attached, it’s painful to hear criticisms or interpretations of our art. I always see my art has like a novel. When you read novel, the writer provides the storyline and it is you, the reader who imagines everything. It’s a collaboration between the writer and reader each time someone picks up the book. Of course, I will have my own insights and interpretations of my own art, but what matters for a finished piece is how it inspires, or creates opportunities for connection between the artwork and the viewer. As expressed by Alain de Botton in Art As Therapy, “We call a work beautiful when it supplies the virtues we are missing, and we dismiss as ugly the one that forces on us moods or motifs that we feel threatened or overwhelmed by.”
The final point regarding mindset that I am going to talk about today is about community. How you view your artist peers will make a huge difference in the opportunities for growth and learning available to you. There is much that we can learn from one another. If we have a reductionist viewpoint of the art world, ‘that there’s only X number of buyers and therefore I have to compete’ then it is a missed opportunity for developing valuable connections. The alternative is to have an abundant viewpoint. The more we share and support each other, then the stronger our art community, and broader our ability to expand the confidence of our general community to interact and engage with art.
Activity Question 4: So now I’m going to ask you all to by writing down your response to the following question. What is your creative vision for 2019?
Allow yourself to be silly, take risks and put yourself out there
Stop for a moment and consider your intentions when creating your work. If you are being swayed by ideas on Instagram or pinterest, perhaps its best to do something else. Always paint for yourself, not for likes or attention.
Making the experience wonderful, such as painting with a friend or to your favorite music.
Use curiosity-based questions when creating, such as “I wonder what will happen if I…”
If you find something inspirational, rather than trying to copy it, analyze the elements of the painting that draw you in, and focus on those elements in your next painting. This will ensure you are true to your learning style and still learning and growing from your research.
We are life-long learners; curiosity feeds the soul
Stay true to your creative vision
Identify your fears and barriers, and strategise to manage them
Create situations to fully harness your creativity
Give and share with your art community