#tbt: An Origin Story

Almost none of my highschool or pre-highschool artwork has survived the decades. Unless my mom has something stashed away somewhere, which is highly likely.

Yet, somehow this image of a pencil crayon sketch (my medium of choice 22 years ago) of Pimple of Battletoads fame has survived by way of my hard drive.

Back in Time Just a Little Bit More...

If I could somehow track down my original sketchbook from Grade Three I would be smiling for many a day. My Grade Three teacher tired of me continually doodling on every piece of paper on my desk. She called me up to her desk one day and presented me with a home-made book of blank drawing pages. Hoping to prevent me from filling every inch of my class work with doodles, she told me that whenever I was finished my classwork ahead of time I could ask to draw in this book. Instant love!

I had no idea that such a thing existed! A book full of blank pages for me to draw in? Unbelievable!

And just like that art went from being the itching in my bored fingers to a skill that I could picture myself working on for the rest of my life.

So that is a portion of my origin story. I'm sure that in the future more will be illuminated from the perspective of alternate universes and the such.

How to Start Drawing

preppingthepalette

There are two reasons we all read an article on how to begin being creative each morning:

  1. Group counselling
  2. Tips and Tricks

So first, let’s deal with our shared experience.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

How do you start? I’m not writing here about starting for the first time, but the fiftieth, fifty-first, fifty-second and fifty-third time.

I would prefer if someone else wrote this so that I could just spend my time reading it and thus avoid the agony of wondering why it is so hard to move my pen the last half inch downward until it actually touches my pad of paper.

We all know what I’m talking about and every creative individual thinks that their struggle to start means they are disqualified from being seriously considered as a creative individual. Nobody Instagrams their empty sketch book with the caption, “Just couldn’t start today… #failure #notreallyanartist,” but we all feel it! We show off the filled pages, wiping from our memory the agony we felt that morning, when a new day gave us another fresh paper full of insecurity, panic, despair and guilt. Yes, anyone who has decided that their daily life includes some form of regular creativity has felt this.

ASS IN CHAIR

Cheat code number one: there is no shortcut to mushrooms! The only way you get to make a happy accident is by pausing the Bob Ross video, putting the paints on your palette, and slapping your brush onto the canvas. Seriously. Just stop reading right now and make lines on your paper.

So once we all can admit that we won't get there until we sit down and make something, here are some tips for finding your way toward creating something rewarding every day.

1. Change the background or medium

I LOVE my drawing tablet for this. If I feel stuck and the fear starts to creep in that I will never draw a meaningful line ever again, I can crank up the brush size and slap down a nice shade of blue to cover up the white. Sometimes that is all it takes to unstick my brain.

Maybe this means moving to a different medium entirely. If I can’t draw, maybe I can write. But stay in creative mode. Don’t get up and fold laundry, don’t make a list of to-dos. Stay in the mode of making something. Stand up and throw something if you have space to get messy.

2. 30 minutes

If you are stuck and can’t find your way in the first few moments it is so tempting to get up from the paper in frustration. But try making yourself stick with it, not for hours, but for perhaps 30 minutes. If nothing rewarding emerges after that amount of time you likely won’t feel like the day has been wasted away, and there is great chance that you will have nudged yourself past that initial block and found at least some little thing that has been created that you will feel good about.

For writers the concept of the "morning pages" or 750 words has long been a recognized path toward energizing a day of creativity.

3. Draw what you see

A big blunder I often fall into is asking the inside of my mind to conjure for me the images that will be placed onto the paper. I sit and stare at that blank page forgetting that I am surrounded by a rich and vibrant world of people, artifacts and colours. If you are sitting in a public place, draw the faces around you. If you are sitting at the kitchen table create a quick impression of that bowl of apples. Remember that the more you utilize the world around you the more your mind will have to draw from in the future.

4. Move toward impression or abstract

Just as drawing what you see around you can move your pencil and coax out a frightened imagination, moving your thoughts toward the abstract can have the same effect. Simplify your thinking to the point where you are grabbing not much more than an impression. Think of Monet and those water lilies. If you look closely all that is there is colour splotches. Rather than intricate drawings of each individual floating leaf the artist has reduced the image to the colours of light that are caught in the briefest of glances.

Squinting is a powerful tool.

Make yourself answer a question like, “What colour is jealousy?” Get that colour down on the paper in a manner that brings out the emotions that you attach to that word.

FINDING OUR WAY TOGETHER

Some days I wake up and can’t move three feet through the house before I’m flooded with creative energy and images that can’t flow from my pen fast enough. Other days I hate myself for my lack of creativity. I want to put all my art supplies in a big box and put it down at the curb for garbage collection.

I hope that using one or two of these tips will help you to find yourself making something beautiful today that will remind you of those days filled with magic.

And please add to this list! Leave a comment with your own tips for getting “unstuck.”

The Colours of 2015 (so far)

A few days ago I asked my friends on those social media sites to list the colours which for them have defined the first couple months of 2015.

References to certain blue/black : white/gold controversies have been omitted from the final tally...

References to certain blue/black : white/gold controversies have been omitted from the final tally...

Here in Southern Ontario and in many places around the continent we have experienced record setting cold and plenty of the white stuff. It seems to me that we are equal parts affected and hopeful. What do you see in my quick interpretation of this collective seasonal colour palette?