Maintaining Creativity – Post Art School

When I first began art school two years ago, I had so many trepidations.  I didn’t know if, as an older learner, I would  have trouble learning something so totally different from what I had done before.  I didn’t know if I would measure up to my classmates, especially those who had done art their whole lives.  And I had no idea what to expect.

Now that it’s over, I am navigating post art-school life as a civilian. I feel that I’m in the intermediate stage as an artist.  I am no longer a beginner but I am not yet advanced.  My sketch-book work lately is a lot more focused on shoring up my weaknesses.  I’ve been focusing on portraits – various head angles, ears, noses, etc.  And I start a new job on Monday, an office (day) job to support my art, which was an important first step for my post-art-school-life.

So, life after art school is looking pretty much like I expected it to look.  I’m interning in a gallery, practicing and improving my art, and working a day job.  But I had been starting to feel as if I was going through the motions. I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by anything and I couldn’t figure out what I wanted my next body of work to focus on.  I was feeling blocked.  Then I remembered Julia Cameron.

Julia Cameron is the author of The Artist’s Way, and many other books on the subject of “recovering” as an artist, rediscovering one’s latent creativity.  This book was absolutely indispensable to me when I first started art school.  Julia helped me weather critiques and develop art that came from my soul, rather than art that was designed to please professors or impress classmates.  I consider her my first art teacher, and I will always read and re-read that book for the rest of my life.

Julia’s two main recommendations are to write “morning pages” and to take yourself out on “artist’s dates”.  Morning pages are 3 pages that are written in the morning, kind of like a journal, to download your thoughts and clear your mind.  You can write about anything and everything, whatever comes to mind.  You don’t worry about what it sounds like, grammar, etc. and it is unnecessary to even read them over.  The artist’s dates are solo trips designed to inspire.  These dates are important and should be scheduled once a week.  You can do anything you think might spark your sense of play, and stoke the creative fire within.  I have done things like go to the toy store, buy stickers and markers and scribble like a child, go to a museum, etc.

This afternoon my artist date was a trip to the craft store.  Fine artists sometimes turn their little noses up at “crafts”, but this is silly.  When we were children, everything was a potential art project – coloring books, walls, empty boxes; everything was a potential canvas.  Children are fearless, innovative, and bold.  They don’t get creative blocks.  If no one is around, they create tea parties with their stuffed animals, build towering forts out of newspapers, and slay dragons that only they can see.  These are the true artists.

As adults, we have to make an effort to maintain that spirit.  It is very possible, but it requires us to silence our inner critic and embrace our inner child.  Our creativity is like a secret hidden lake that only we know about.  If we don’t take care of this secret lake, it’ll get grown over and disappear.  But if we take care of it and use it regularly, we get to play in it for the rest of our lives.

So my advice to all artists is to never grow up.  Yes, pay your bills.  Yes, be responsible.  Yes, be an adult – but don’t ever grow up.  Don’t try to makes sense of everything that happens.  Don’t try to do everything perfectly.  Don’t plan so extensively that you never actually do anything.  And, most importantly…

Follow your bliss!  Always.

If you haven’t done so yet, please join me on Facebook.  Below is my latest work in progress – in the very beginning stages.  It will eventually be an abstract sculpture made out of random materials around the house.  I hope to finish it within a week or two…

3 thoughts on “Maintaining Creativity – Post Art School

  1. Well spoken, as usual. Julia Cameron’s book is useful for those who are taking their first creative steps or who may be suffering from creative blocks. I know people who find it of value and good for them if it works for them. I think writing in journals is useful, especially if one does not censor what comes to mind. A writer friend told me of a similar exercise-called “babble brain” — where one writes down every thought as it comes into being.

    However not all cultures write. And writing does not come easy to everyone. And it may be that some folks are better off singing, making music, telling stories or dancing. These activities also maintain the creative brain, don’t you think?

    That said, I am glad you have found her book useful. I do like one thing she said. I think it is “creative people are like sharks, if they don’t keep moving–they die” Not sure it that is the exact quote. But that is the gist of it.

    You are right about children. They don’t censor themselves. As children get older they begin to have doubts about expression…

    It is good that you keep a sketch book. And perhaps you can tell us what it is like to intern in a gallery. You don’t have to name the gallery 🙂

    About perfection–you are right about not trying to always achieve it. We never do anyway. Even Michaelangelo found fault with his work.

    You have a lot of courage to pursue art. Continue to create!

  2. Hi, thanks for responding! Yes, I found The Artist’s Way to be extremely helpful but we should all do whatever works for us. There is no one way to do anything. And every creative person finds a method that works best for them. Interning at an art gallery is a lot of fun. You learn a lot about what goes on behind the scenes and you get exposed to all the different personalities of the artists. So far I really enjoy it! Thanks for reading and have a great week! 🙂

  3. Sorry about this late reply, my computer was down for a while and I’m just now catching up.

    I love this piece you’ve written. It reminds me of a conversation we had about art addiction a bit ago, you know, the one that made me laugh for a week? I love the fact that as artists we can do childlike things and sometimes get paid for it. My faerie houses are a good example. The first ones I made were more an exercise in reclaiming some of my childhood than trying to make something to sell. Then when people saw them and I noticed that look on their faces, the same look a child gets in a toy store, I knew I had to keep going. They not only give my inner child a place to play, but also anyone else who sees them. I believe all adults are looking for a way to recapture their childhoods and artists that give them a way to do that will usually be successful. I also believe that all art, even the works of those very stern fine artists you mentioned, speak to something deep within us where the child resides. It all comes down to play. We artists are basically playing when we create and the viewer is drawn into our worlds and invited to play with us. Viewing or making art is one way adults can go to that place inside where imagination resides and do whatever they feel like doing without fear of someone making fun of them. In a way the viewer has it better than the artist, sometimes we do get made fun of (I love craft stores and I consider myself a fine artist). Yes children are the REAL artists and if we can get rid of all that stuffy adult stuff that we have picked up along the way then we begin to truly be set free to create the way we really want to.

    You may also want to read Julia Cameron’s other book, “The Vein of Gold” A Journey to Your creative Heart. I’m reading it right now. Some of it is a refresher course on her other book but then it gets into some very good exercises to free up an even deeper part of the creative force within.

    Now I have to go find my brown paper bag, and, where did I put those darned crayons?! :o)

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