After the holiday hustle of December I look forward to the quiet calm of January. January's short days and cold bluster keeps me from planning to much into my daily schedule. It also gives me space to pause and think about where I'm headed and what's missing from my creative life. January is the ideal time to try new creative endeavors and refresh skills that have been dormant but are now whispering for attention.
Every artist hits a wall sometimes, where our work feels a bit stale and in need of new inspiration. To quote Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way, our inner artistic well should "ideally be like a well-stocked trout pond. We've got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish - an abundance of artistic fish to fry... if we don't give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked."
Julia recommends doing two things to keep your creativity fresh: writing 3 pages of longhand journaling first thing each morning and taking weekly artist dates. The journalling is a way to talk to yourself, pouring out any discontent and finding those nuggets of truth that resonate with where you are now. An artist date is spending a couple hours a week alone with yourself doing something interesting, something your intuition nudges you towards in your journal.
Of these two tools the artist date tends to be the most difficult to commit to. We don't allow ourselves time for them because they look suspiciously like play (they are!) which we don't have time for. However giving yourself permission to play for an hour or two each week is often the best way to unblock creativity and be more productive when you return to your work.
Yesterday I took myself on an artist date with my camera. I wanted to find some color and winter fun in Boulder. Despite the cold temps and grey sky there was plenty to see and do. Here are a few highlights:
Sculpture of an upside down "David" and painted artworks on the Dushanbe Teahouse.
Artworks inspired by the landscape showing at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
After getting inspired by Rex Ray's collage art, I dived into Lisa Congdon's "Creativebug Bootcamp" series on Creativebug.com. This six week series focuses on color and shape, with Lisa discussing how she approaches her own artwork and offering us exercises to try. This week is week 3 in the series but since you go at your own pace you can jump into the class anytime.
Creativebug classes can be purchased individually or you can buy a monthly subscription that includes hundreds of classes by many contemporary artists for the same low price. I have a year's subscription so I dip into a variety of mediums when I want to try something new.
I love their 30 day creative challenge classes. I have followed various illustrators that lead you through 30 days of illustration prompts and another one where the talented staff at Creativebug tells you their favorite creative tips on everything from creating mail art, organizing your iPhone apps and going on a thrift store art material haul to creating color swatches from your favorite artworks. I find these classes much more fun to watch than TV.
These are a couple of art pieces I created last week. The collage is made with found papers and maps cut into flower shapes. The watercolors are a Windsor and Newton travel set. The pencils are a part of a set of up-cycled Derwent watercolor pencils I found at Art Parts Creative Reuse Center. You can find similar pencil sets at Dick Blick. Sometimes just trying a new art tool or paint color will spark a project idea for me.
Here are links to more ideas for those of you craving a new spark for your creative endeavor or artist date:
Classes around Boulder (try googling similar classes for your area)
Cooking classes at Sur La Table.
Dessert baking classes and tastings at Piece, Love and Chocolate
Modern sewing classes at Fabricate.
Paper crafting classes at Two Hands Paperie
Boulder's Lifelong Learning center
Online classes and tutorials
Classes in lots of different mediums via Creativebug classes (ditto for Skillshare, Ravelry and other creative websites)
YouTube has videos on everything imaginable like this one on how to film video on your iPhone.
Pinterest boards with links to DIY projects, like PaperNStitch's DIY board
Blogs with lots of DIY links like Poppytalk DIY
Whether you crave getting out and meeting people or staying cozy at home while learning new skills, there's a class out there that will open up new possibilities for you. I encourage you to make a list of artist dates you could do this month and go exploring!
Happy Martin Luther King day!