1. Observation skills.
To be creative is a way of thinking. When you observe what’s around you, what are the things you pick up and store in your memory?
(Only look at this image for a few seconds and then scroll it out of the frame)
This was an image of the 2013 World photography awards.
I’ve just shown it to you for about 10 seconds. What do you still remember from it?
The pigeons that fly around? The fact that these pigeons were white? The notion of all the Blue in the image, so well in the building as in the clothing of the women. Or did you remember the two kids that seem to be the cause of the birds fleeing the scene?
Someone with an interest towards architecture probably lingered his eyes at the building and recognized it’s style culture and perhaps knows of its build method. While someone with an interest in birds would not have focused on the building for long and therefore not have it locked in his or her memory as a major part of the image. The architect would describe this image as: A Blue Middle-Eastern building, seen from outside with people walking about. The bird lover would say: A scene of white pigeons flying around in chaos, probably chased by some children, set in some exotic place.
Now when these two people create something in their field of interest they both get inspired by different things. Expecting the bird lover to design a great building out of the blue.. or have the architect draw some accurate looking birds.. will prove more challenging than the other way around. Not to say that someone might not have an interest towards both bird and buildings!
I am always very interested in people, humans, characters. When I am observant I look around and see what people are wearing, how they are standing or sitting.. what their faces or hair looks like. It has become a habit because I don’t always consciously do this, it just so happens. So often when I draw some characters, as is my job, a lot of elements from people I’ve seen will show up in my work. The one below was actually purposefully referenced by the likeness of Facebook friends who volunteered to be in this piece.
2. The creative genius.
So while you get older your interests towards things will build up knowledge. It’s a base knowledge you need to become good at something. To become genius at something.. you need a little more.
The old Greeks would praise someone’s genie if this person was exceptionally good at something, like singing, dancing ,making statues. Not crediting this specific person for their great skill but crediting the person for having drawn such a wonderful genie to themselves. A genie was like this invisible muse or god that would steer your body into those define dance moves or guide your voice into beautiful tones.
If this person did not dance or sing this well again the next day, it was perfectly alright because obviously their genie has gone back home and might be back later.
Failure therefore, was not such a heavy thing as you could easily blame it on your genie.
Now we have something similar. We call people “Talented”. But in our case, in people’s eyes you either are talented or you are not. What is talent? Are we born with a magical recipe to become a painter or writer? Do we get sprinkled with fairy dust at the age of 3. No. We can, however, be influenced but certain base things. Sometimes you need a certain physical strength to become one of the greatest. Basketball players for example. If you’re born with tall genes.. you probably stand a bigger chance to become this great basketball player. You also need to be stimulated by your environment to be caught into your personal interest at a young age. People who discover it later might not have grown up in their ideal setting.
Let’s take Mozart for example. The boy wonder in music from his era. His father Leopold was a well-educated man both in music as philosophy with a wealthy background. When Mozart at the age of 3 shown interest in his older sister’s Harp. His father guided him towards music. And he was not one of those kids that needed a firm hand saying: Stop playing hide and seek and go practice the violin in your room. Mozart was already playing the violin in his room, because he was more interested in music, than playing with kids. Having such a devoted interest set him apart from others. By the age of 27 Mozart’s hands were deformed by all the writing of music sheets and playing of instruments. He had devoted so much time into his work, that it was obviously a major part of his success. He once wrote to a friend:
‘People who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, my dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. there is no famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.’
So by fiercely studying all the amazing work that has been done before him taking that knowledge and improving it made him exceptional.
His story proves that to nurture your so called ‘talent’, or ‘genie’ you need:
- Proper guidance of your interest.
- Hard work and devotion.
- As much time as you possibly can have.
Another thing that you need would be: Solitude. Which brings me to:
3. The cluttered mind.
How many of you are on one or more of these social media, besides Artstation:
Now as good as they seem for inspiration, sharing your work, staying in touch with others. They can also become a major distraction!
Some time ago, whne I still worked at a studio and had to commute a lot. I forgot my mobile phone charger while traveling and I had to do without a phone for the entire week before getting a new charger… that I ordered online. The first days felt really weird, like an addict I sat in the train towards work, not knowing what to do… But I adjusted and found new, so much better things to entertain myself in those moments I would normally have spent playing Free-cell on my phone or scrolling through Facebook. I read an entire book and made some sketches instead!
This made me realize the extent of wasted time that I end up spending on distractions. Now I’m not saying to go ban all these things once and for all. But perhaps simulate it once in a while for a week or so. Imagine all the new things you can achieve after a whole week of abstinence.
Let’s say you got your mind set on making something. An artwork, a novel… a graphic novel? You need a balance of 3 things.
- Knowledge and know-how.
- Devoted and focused time without distractions.
The knowledge and know-how is something you get over time, because of your interests and studies. Inspiration you find by doing things and opening your mind. But devoted time in solitude often proves to be the hardest thing. When we are not able to make the drawing we want, we blame it on the lack of inspiration or blame it on the fact we might not be skillful enough. While it’s really just that devoted time that you are missing.. if you would’ve had that time.. Skill and inspiration would have followed. Now don’t get you brain to cluttered on things you don’t care about.
Somehow the news of Miley Cyrus’s mischief or Justin Biebers obnoxious behavior always reaches me, while I really really don’t care. I’m sorry if you’re a fan..
It’s like to commercials you get while watching an interesting documentary you got send on Youtube. You’re in the middle of Quantum Physics and the creation of the universe, when suddenly, swoooossshhh I’m your Vennusss,get this new amazing razor blade! And then suddenly I’m back into the theory behind the big bang… but what was this quantum physics thing again?...The Venus commercial interrupts my focus. This is what social media does to you while you’re in the midst of your inspiration flow or process of your painting.
I’ll get back to internet and online communities a bit later.
We all have our rituals. Old civilizations and Religions have rituals too. In order to win the battle or harvest good crops, came with the superstition that their gods needed to be tempted to favor them. If they did not bleed out their cow and offered it’s blood in a golden goblet, there was a big chance the gods would cause a giant fire destroying their fields out of anger. It doesn’t have to be religious or superstitious to have rituals. In fact, you might not even be aware of having one!
One of my main rituals was to have a shower in the middle of the day, when I was still working from home. It did not occur to me that it was a weird timing for a shower, it became an unnoticed habit as I usually come up with the best ideas while singing under the shower. And than super inconveniently when getting struck by this thunderbolt of inspiration I would have to rush out of the shower and get me some pen and paper to write it down or quickly sketch it out.
It’s good to know what your ritual is.. or perhaps if you really don’t seem to have one.. develop one. It always starts with doing something that feels good and then repeating that the next day. Reminding yourself why it’s good for you and the benefits you gain from it. That is how it will eventually turn from a scheduled event. into a habit. Having good creative supporting habits, is naturally a good thing if being creative is your passion and or profession.
Another ritual is the: getting out of bed one. Especially in the winter you snuggle further underneath you blanked wondering why you would even consider getting out of his warm and comfy save zone.
When I was still a freelancer and Titus would have to get up to go to the studio it became my thing to get up alongside him and prepare his lunch. As much as this sounds as a 1950’s housewife chore, for me this was my commitment of having to get out of bed. Also a ritual of starting up my own day as I was not always so disciplined to getting up early.
So when making: Titus’s lunch or having an afternoon shower still did not get me creating the artwork I wanted to. I would go for a walk. It’s always good to have a plan B up your sleeve because not every day is automatically a good day for being creative.
Now if being creative is part of your hobby, you can easily say: alright, today is not my day, maybe next time. But when your income depends on it, you will have to make it work, every day. Knowing your rituals and being able to protect yourself from distractions will help you with that.
Another one of these famous things is the Artblock!.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term: An Artblock is the feeling that your creativity is being blocked and you’re completely out of ideas and don’t even know where to begin. You end up terribly frustrated, bored and crushing your own self-esteem.
Now what people usually don’t know is that an Artblock, does not show you’re being stuck or blocked…. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. It actually shows that you are improving!
The red line shows how your ability to see your mistakes goes, by obtaining knowledge and studying.
The blue line is your actual current skill level.
The orange line is the level that you think you are at, at that moment in time
So when your ability to see mistakes is higher than your current technical skill you think that you suck and get super frustrated because nothing you did seems right. But the times that you feel good and actually think: Hey this artpiece I did, is amazing! Usually means that your skills have caught up with your knowledge and are on the same line. All and all, this just means while you are growing and getting better, you will have up’s and downs. So don’t be scared.. there is no such thing as going backwards.
Everyone battles fears when they start a project. I can be the cause of a lot of people giving up or not even trying at all. But you shouldn't let fear and doubt ruin your creative endeavors.
Some of my usual fears are:
- Has this been done before?
- Will people like it enough?
- Will I make a fool of myself?
- Am I good enough?
- Could I have done it any better?
I’m fairly sure and you all experience these, but you have to accept that you will make mistakes and fail oh so often. But we need all those failures to find out how to do it right. Don’t stick with your first design, don’t quit after your first try, don’t postpone your plans because you don’t dare to dive in. when you punish yourself for making mistakes you will stop taking risks and all the best and unique things come forth from risks. At the same time, these fear can also push you to do the best you can, because if you’re completely without fear or doubt you might not be challenging yourself enough.
6. Your audience.
We live in a time that the internet is possibly your main audience. Whether you’re a digital artist, a writer, make plushies, cosplay. Everyone has got their online communities and we all want to be seen. Now as much as we probably enjoy showing our work to an audience, there is a certain wall you need to build up to protect yourself. People on the internet can easily cast fear in you.
This image describes exactly how I often feel, right before I remind myself why I make the things I make. That one negative comment is the one that sticks.. and speaks to my doubts and fears. So when you get this one or more hurtful responses, you’d have to ask yourself a few things.
- Is this person downright a bully or a troll? If so.. just block and ignore.
- Or is this person being harsh, but offering feedback? Now, this person probably doesn't want to hurt you necessarily, but sometimes feedback can hurt. If you allow yourself to stand open to it, you could actually improve massively! Don’t be too proud to accept help, even If this person seems to be less skillful than you, this person might have a better eye than you to spot mistakes!
Another thing that could hurt is when nobody notices your work. But that is easily solved by being really active and perhaps even asking your peers to have a look. I‘ve experienced quite some drama online both in the art and game community and in my opinion everything always gets completely blown out of proportion. Involving yourself in such discussions is only another distraction and what I call a mood-hoover. A vacuum cleaner sucking out all of your happiness. Rather build up a group of friends and support each other! This does not have to be a big group, just a nice one.
Just know that nobody is save from internet trolls, or doubts and fears. Even the people you idolize. So always ignore them and don’t be one.
Be supportive of one another. Be able to say nice things and support people whether you think their art is great or not quite there yet. Everyone is always aiming to get better, and those who are now perhaps a little behind on experience and skill, may one day surpass you in great length. <3