Tuesday, October 20, 2009

5 Art Actions for Busy Artists to Ignite the Creative Spark and Keep it Burning Bright

"I'm so busy!"
"I have no time to make art!"
"If there were only __ more hours in the day, then I could make art!"
"I'm so tired after my long day, all I can do is watch TV..."
"My brain is fried... how am I supposed to be creative, NOW?"

I have heard them all before. I have SAID them many, many times. And with this semester's schedule, I really don't have much time to make art. I am so busy that all you will get in this post is words, not how to pictures. So what can we do to keep the creative fires burning or ignite the creative spark that has dwindled? ART ACTIONS to the Rescue!

My idea of Art Actions are a modified version of SARK's Micro-movements, laid out in her book Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day (and awesome book with a ridiculously long title!). Micro-movements are about making an movement toward your goal by doing actions that take no longer than 5 minutes. Each action gets you moving without the pressure of having to do it all. Brilliant! To learn more about how SARK helps artists and writers, Click here to visit Planet SARK.

Art Actions are my own way of tricking myself into making time for art. Even though I love to make art, it can be overwhelming to even get started on project - especially working in encaustic which takes me 45 minutes even to set up and heat my wax! While these Art Actions make take longer than 5 minutes, help push you towards bigger and more complex projects, while keeping the creative fires burning. They also can BECOME larger projects or a series if you love what you are doing. Or they just can be a way to keep your hands moving. I admit to doing all of these Art Actions while watching movies with my family. TV time gives me about 1 - 2 hours worth of uninterrupted creating time. Not bad!

The trick is NOT to put pressure on yourself to make art.
These are just exercises, like word association and free writing for writers or blind contour line drawings for figure artists. Onto the actions....

Top 5 Art Actions to Ignite the Creative Spark:

1. Organic shape cut outs
Materials: exacto knife, cutting mat, Bristol board or thicker colored paper

Action: Grab an exacto knife and some paper and start cutting. No straight lines; no rulers; no thought. Keep flowing like a smooth line of charcoal, and see what shapes come from your subconscious. Cut out a shape; put it aside. Cut another one out. Cut out a hole in that one. But no trying to make it look like anything! That can come later, if desired.

2. Abstract Oil Pastel coloring
Materials: Oil Pastels, smooth paper (such as Bristol board or poster board)

Action: Choose a pastel, and scribble on the paper. I call oil pastels "adult crayons" because they have all the excitement of being able to lay down color quickly and easily like crayons, but use artist grade materials instead. So color all over the paper and then when it is filled with color, blend them using your fingers covered in paper towel. Again, don't stress about what flows on the page. I lean towards abstract color blotches because the moment I try to do something with a figure or object, it becomes too analytical. Try coloring in the organic shapes that were cut from Bristol board.

3. Paper art re-purposing
Materials: Old art, drawing exercises, or "failed attempts" on paper, acrylic or mat medium, brush, substrate (board, canvas or paper)
Optional: Scissors

Action: Have lots of art that didn't turn out as expected? Rip it up and make it into something new. I choose to rip things up because it is freeing to separate it from its original intent of being art. Now it is just a scrap of paper - nothing intimidating about that! Glue down the ripped pieces onto a blank piece of paper, canvas or board. Or you can add it directly to another "failed attempt." It is wonderfully freeing. The pictures can become a background for something else, but don't stress about that now. Just rip and glue it down with the mat medium.

4. Stamp Carving
Materials: Blank soft rubber carving blocks, carving tools, pencil
Optional: Transfers or images, tracing paper

Action: Stamp carving is so much fun! It requires a little more attention to what you are doing so you don't cut yourself, so make sure that the TV show you are watching isn't too enthralling. I found this wonderful Stamp Carving Tutorial which will help you with the basics. Personally, I don't do transfers onto the block; I draw and then carve using one of two bits. These are addictive. I wait until I have more time to actually ink the stamp and use it.

5. Intuitive Knitting
Materials: Yarn and knitting tool of your choice (mine is the Knifty Knitter)

Action: Grab your favorite yarn and knitting tool and start knitting. Leave all your patterns and stitch counting for another time. Just explore what the shapes you can make with your tool and the rhythm of your stitch. I set limits for myself to work in; such as one type of yarn, and use a 8 inch rectangular Knifty Knitter loom. Just knit. Have curiosity about what is going on with the piece, but don't try to force it into any shape - especially into something functional! That is the easiest way to kill the creative spirit is to try to give it a function. They can become fiber art pieces later, or hidden inside something bigger...it is up to you!

Ready to ignite the creative spark? Try one of these Art Actions! Turn off your analytical mind, send your inner art critic out on an errand and intuitively make something. It is the act of creating, even for a few minutes that will keep you connected to your art even on your busiest days.

Your Turn: Try one of these Art Actions or one of your own design. What kind of Art Actions do you do to keep your creativity alive? Sketching? Collage? Sewing? Taking apart typewriters? Whatever it is, keep doing it! And share it here with us. I would love to hear your ways to keep the fires burning so that when you do have time, it flows out into beautifully crafted art.

Happy Creating! ~ Jaime Lyerly


  1. Hi Jaime,
    scrubbing seems to get me focused! I usually start with the stove and move on from there!
    Good blog!

  2. Hi Mary,

    My family would be happy if cleaning got me moving, but alas it does not. It just tires and stresses me out, which does not lead to making art! But thanks for sharing what gets you moving!



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