Today I’m sharing an e-mail that I got recently, as well as my answer to it. I thought that you might find it useful, so here we go:
I am so inspired by your artwork and I love seeing the art of others that you share on this blog. I have always loved to draw and paint or any type of art really… but I have been having trouble summoning up my creativity. When I was a kid I could sit down and draw anything and I loved it but now when I sit down to draw or paint I can’t think of anything and I get frustrated and end up with something half finished that isn’t very good. I have always prided myself on my creativity but lately I have been so caught up in life and school that my creativity seems to have deserted me… Do you have any tips? You have created so many different types of art that I thought you might have some suggestion to help me be more artistic.
I loved the book that you daughter made, such a great way to make new friends!
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
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Thanks a lot for your kind words and for sharing your experience.
Regarding your question, I recommend to look at creativity as an intimate process and not as something external that happens only if you’re lucky that day. Art is not something separate from yourself. Art is you translated into whatever medium you decide to use. Here is a step by step trick to help you start somewhere.
1. Think about what worries you the most at this time.
2. Then write it down. It could be a simple description or an elaborate essay. Writing is one
of the most effective ways to activate our creativity.
3. Then try to draw that idea in the most basic way possible, like small children do.
The goal is to turn your idea into something visual.
4. After you finish, think about what you just did and try to repeat the process
but with different subjects. Instead of a problem or concern it could be a memory from the past,
a dream of yours, anything. But as you keep doing this, try to get more playful with the visual part. Give yourself small challenges such as representing an idea using only one color. Or representing your idea using cut outs from a magazine. The possibilities are endless. Just make sure to do whatever makes you excited.
After you get into this fun cycle of self-exploration, and representation, creativity will start flowing and you will start finding so many ways to keep going.
The point that I want to make is this: first, connect with yourself, regardless of your circumstances, and then you will naturally connect with your creative potential. Art is something that comes from some sort of self-engagement. I have observed that creative blocks usually happen when we’re not very connected with ourselves. This could be due to one million reasons.
I will give you a personal example: Moving to this country from Cuba was a dramatic change in my life. A few months after my arrival I had a solo gallery show in NYC but I felt totally blocked. I couldn’t create anything. My brain was so busy adjusting to all the changes that I felt paralyzed as an artist. One day I did what I suggested to you above. I sat down and realized that my main concern was that I couldn’t create anything for my show so I took a piece of paper and drew a “certificate”. It was just a stick figure of myself and some “official” words, something like: I officially declare myself the most creatively blocked artist on Planet Earth. Then I drew a medal and some trophies and small little prizes to “celebrate” my lack of creativity at the time.
That certificate/drawing made me smile. Later on I realized that I was just taking myself too seriously so I only needed to relax and accept that I was going through a challenging time. I kept doing this type of silly certificates for a week. Before I knew it, I felt ready to go into deeper issues. I finished all the pieces for my show and the tittle was ‘Impermanent’. It was all about the fact that nothing lasts forever. That idea was strongly in my mind at the time and it helped me deal with the transition. I decided to enjoy every given moment without worrying too much about the future. That mindset, plus creating art around that idea, helped me a lot during the process of adapting to my new life.
My show opening was scheduled for the night of Sept 11, 2001. That was the day when the terrorist attacks to the twin towers happened. Coincidentally, I visited the World Trade Center for the first time the morning before. I went there with a dear friend and I told him: We’re like little speckles in the universe, but look at those giant towers! They will be there for hundreds of years and you and I are going to die at some point and many new people will come over here to see those towers. Well, next day the twin towers collapsed and my friend and I were still around. Wasn’t that ironic? My opening never happened in the way that we had planned it, but life kept going. I spent 2 days walking around the city and reading some heart breaking signs about people looking for their relatives. The most moving signs were drawings by children. In the face of such a dark tragedy, those drawings helped me, and lots of other people, see a bit of sunshine. That’s the magic of art.
The bottom line of this e-mail is that you don’t need to push yourself to create something that looks like great art. I believe that the best thing is when you create something as a way to express what makes sense to you and your unique circumstances. That’s a simple but powerful little secret.
I hope that this helps.
Cheers for an amazing creative journey!