It struck me that as I build my relationship with my studio practice once more, the tools, tips, tricks and self-talk I use to get me back into the studio are the same ones that I used at the very beginning of my practice and may well be of use to you.
If you are someone like me who is inspired but somehow finds the day passing without taking some action towards the expression of that inspiration then these top 10 tips for getting you back in the studio are for you:
Take stock of where you are and take a moment to appreciate what you have achieved in your learning and creativity so far. Acknowledge whatever feelings are there whether it's excitement, regret, anticipation, disappointment or even pressure it is valid to feel all of these. However, recognise that you don't need to honour, nurture or indulge any of these feelings. What's important to remember is that you are a new creative being in each moment and in this moment you are choosing yourself exactly as your are. This is the most empowering place to come from.
2. Gather Art Making Materials that Inspire You
Get hold of some materials that inspire you to create that you can't wait to work with. Ask yourself while in an art store what the materials are that inspire you? Is it colourful luscious paints or chunky sticks of charcoal; is it the textured grain of 600gsm watercolour paper or the inky promise of bottles of pure colour? Whatever it is, treat yourself to one or reconnect with existing materials you have - these are all signposts to your inner creative source.
Make a commitment to yourself to draw every day, even if just for 10 minutes - this could be taking a few minutes on your morning walk to capture something or maybe sketching your lunch before you eat it, perhaps even dashing off a few sketches of people passing on the street as you sip your morning coffee.
The act of sketching or drawing reconnects you to what you like to draw, what you are good at drawing and what inspires you. It is good to remember that just drawing alone can be the pathway to the inspiration for a whole body of work - stick to an exploration of something for long enough and something will come up. Try a 7 or 30 day challenge to draw every day and see what emerges. Even sketching ideas first thing in the morning upon waking or last thing at night can be very revealing.
If drawing is not your thing perhaps it's about taking a photograph each day that inspires you or even spending some time collecting images to collage.
Whatever your space may be, whether it's a little desk in the corner of a room or a large purpose-built studio space make sure everything is where you need it so you don't spend time rummaging and searching for things.
If you don't have a creative space, it helps to claim one and make it a dedicated creative place. This adds value to what you are doing and stakes a claim for your creative energy to manifest. It also means you can walk into that creative space at any time without being put off by having to set something up and then pack it all away which interferes with creative flow.
Books, photographs, images of other artist's work, your own sketches, magazine images and even inspiration from books about mixed media techniques and painting or sketching can all be rich sources of inspiration. Whenever I am stuck I go to my bookshelf and pull out some books that appeal to me in that moment. I flick through them and suddenly get an idea for what I want to play with or how I want to progress a canvas.
Pay attention to what you are gathering too as these are signposts to inner creative voice and will be steering you toward manifesting it.
Other magazines like Artist Profile, Frankie or even nature inspired magazines like National Geographic can be useful too in terms of what others are doing and can trigger ideas that form a launchpad for your own to catapult from.
Having a goal and something to aim for in your work is really helpful. When I was first starting out, my goal was to discover who I was creatively and whether I really wanted to paint full-time. This took the pressure off needing to produce something and shifted the focus onto a curious engagement with painting and drawing itself.
It can help to also set smaller practical goals like finishing a canvas or to discover one new technique each week for a month. You may want to to fill a diary with drawings and see what happens, what emerges or create an abstract painting or small study each day. For a while I just painted a swatch of colour and doodled and out of those experiments, I had enough inspiration to keep me going for a couple of years!
Whether it's working through a book on colour theory or just being gentle with yourself when creating - make sure it INSPIRES you.
It was Oscar Wilde who said, 'Be yourself; everyone else is already taken' and realising this about our creativity is probably the most powerful thing we can ever do for ourselves. Recognise that you have a unique contribution for the world and that you are on a journey to uncover it and share it.
My favorite video on creative genius is Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk see below - it's about 20 minutes but really worth watching and very entertaining.
Taking time to be with ourselves in our creative space is as precious and nurturing to our creativity as date night with a partner. Value yourself enough to block out some time in your diary regularly to focus on your creativity. One of your goals may be to just show up in your creative space for 30 minutes a day or an hour 3 times a week. It doesn't matter what the time is or how long, when you are starting from scratch it's getting in there that counts.
Make a commitment to yourself to honour this and connect it back to what's important to you in relation to making your art. What does it give you? For me I get a sense of peace, it's like a meditation, I feel a sense of joy when I start painting with colour and a sense of being home, I just have to think about luscious thick oil paint in dusty pinks and greens to make me feel like I just want to get in there and start playing!
Once you have made it to your creative space, just play. I often begin my studio session with some non-dominant hand drawing to music with no pressure on outcome. If I am nurturing some new work, I just play. Each surface layer is built up of layers of playful engagement that are spontaneous and easy. It may help to remind yourself that if you don't like something you can always paint over it later. By allowing this side of ourselves to be engaged we create space for wonder and joy and for new ideas to emerge.
Gentleness in self talk is imperative at this playful stage. Self-talk that is gentle, compassionate, kind and supportive will only nurture your creative practice. Remember you are giving your inner creative child to play, they will not be able to come out and serve you if they feel like they are in trouble for something.
Really notice if and when you are being self-critical. Often we are more self-critical when we are stressed about something and give ourselves a hard time. Drop the resistance, notice where it is in your body and breathe into it, see if in that moment you can bring something positive or gentle in.
Removing any judgementalism from your creations is especially important in the early stages of creating work as we have a tendency to self-censor ourselves and shut down our playful, creative exploration when we do this.
By allowing ourselves to get into our creative space armed with all the things that inspire us and gently encourage ourselves to create, we allow possibility to enter and creativity to flourish.