I have begun to reflect more deeply on my desire for control over reality. Many times, I have felt extremely controlling, and this has caused me much suffering and anguish. Giving up our expectations for the future is a learning experience. And no lesson is better than what we are having now, in the midst of the pandemic. The virus showed us that, suddenly, our plans can go downhill. Not everything is in our hands. And opening yourself to the fluidity and surprises of life is a wonderful thing. What the world has to offer us is far more valuable than we can imagine.
Someone recently asked me about my creative process and I had to stop and think about it before I could come up with an answer! Probably because my creative process is not something that I’ve been developing for a long time. I really just started being intentional about it in the last year, actually.
But at the time, I answered that question with how I clean up my space so I feel prepared to sit down and create. Subsequently, I have put more thought in to this and I realise there are two other parts to the process that come way before cleaning and go deeper than just than tidying up the art material and loose papers on my desk.
Before I jump into how I arrived at my current creative process, I want to share a little about how I pretty much didn’t have one of my own despite being “creative” practically my whole life. The people who know me would probably tell you I was always a creative person. Since starting art classes as a 10-year-old, graduating from university with a degree in Fine art, and then working as a visual designer and Art teacher for over a decade, I was always involved in something artistic.
I used to think the time I spent at work designing creative lessons for my students meant I was being creative every day. But what I discovered just this past year is that when it came to creating for myself, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. When it came to my creating for myself, there was just me, some art supplies, and a big blank sheet of paper.
Many a time I remember thinking to myself “…now what?” I got everything out and was ready to paint and drew a complete blank. I also knew that whatever I was going to put down on that paper was going to suck and there was nothing I could do about it except just get over myself. I think I ended up painting some really sad looking vegetables and fruits. I threw them away almost immediately, but now I wish I had kept them! What I realized then, was that I wasn’t feeling inspired or confident and knew I wasn’t going to be painting if things were going to continue this way.
Partly by accident and partly by nature, I’ve found a creative process that has become about getting into the creative mindset, fighting any fears about creating terrible work, and giving myself the space to make anything I want.
I did some thinking and it comes down to three things in no particular order: reading, writing, and cleaning.
I have always loved reading, more so in the past year. Reading has had the most impact on my creativity. Somehow in the last year I ended up reading a lot of self-help, feel-good books either on my own or that were gifted to me. Being exposed to the messages in those books has really changed my perspective.
To summarize my current creative process, it would be: read, write and clean. I read to stay inspired and keep my creative spirit happy, I write to clear my mind so it’s open to new ideas, and I clean to clear my space so that it’s ready to receive whatever mess I’m going to make.
Now, I use watercolor more lightly. With paint, brush and paper, I let go of the illusion of control. I try to seize the moment as a practice of contemplating what is the here and the now, the present. I’m just at the beginning of this journey — I still have a lot of paintings to do! For now, I choose an inspiring photo or image and try to reproduce freely. There is no right or wrong when you decide that it is all a great experiment. The colored water moves through the paper, mixes with the other colors, does not make mistakes: it turns the experiment into something unique.
It’s my hope that this process keeps me believing in my own creativity, allows me to have fun, and ensures that I never lose the wonder and curiosity behind making things. I enjoy finding out how others stay creative and keep inspired day to day. If you’d like to share your process, I’d love to hear all about it – so please share!