On page 28 of Cat Bennett’s The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind, she begins to give activities for artists to use to ‘free’ the hand and the mind. I’ve listed them below, and then I’ve made some comments to perhaps push you a bit further with your creativity.
1) Draw to music
2) Draw by touch
3) Draw with different materials
4) Draw with eyes closed
5) Draw slow/Draw fast
I’ve posted before on using music. I like to listen to music where I don’t know the lyrics, otherwise I find myself singing along, and dancing, if I’m at home. There is nothing wrong with that, but it detracts from the time I use to write. Cat suggests that we play fast music and slow music, all different kinds of music that bring forth emotions, and then use those emotions to draw. It is the emotion of joy and connectedness that artists experience when the muse is called, and it answers. What brings us to the muse can be myriad emotions and feelings and experiences that we want to ‘get down’, whether that is on paper with words or paint or charcoal, or improvisation on an instrument, tossing in seldom used spices, or grabbing the camera and taking shots of objects that depict the emotion driving you to create in that moment. Try it out. See what music moves you to laughter, tears, anger, or to dance, and write it, draw it, sculpt it. Your choice as to what to do with it when you’re done.
Drawing by touch requires some interpretation. What words come to mind when a smooth rock is rolled in the hand, when the a silk scarf is twined loosely around the fingers then pulled away, or when the skin of an avocado is stroked? Can you put it into words? Draw it? Paint it, without it turning into the object? Cat suggests it’s a way of building our expressive tools. If the muse gives us the means by which to describe the sensation of touching that object, can we use colors or words or musical notes to express that? Maybe it will take a combination of notes and color, or words and a picture. How many different tactile (touch) sensations can you express?
Draw with different materials, Cat suggests, as a way to break out of ruts and experience where the play will take you. I think that is an important idea to remember. This is play, experimentation, messing around. The inner critic should be on hiatus. She gives examples of using different pens and chalks and charcoals, but I’ve suggested before to take it one step further. Use the branch of a tree, your shoelace, a cotton swab. Carve soap or a wine cork or a piece of foam. Photograph the inside of a pepper, an orange rind, a pile of dog food, the grooves of a key. Playing different instruments or using a variety of mediums not only to draw or paint or write with, but also to draw or paint or write on can create a very different experience. Check it out. Play with it. See where it takes you. It might open up doors for various expressions. Your muse might smile a little more.
Drawing with eyes closed is an unusual experience if you’ve never done it. I have my students write on big newsprint with their eyes closed. I give them hints on using their non-dominant hand on the edge of the paper so they know where they just wrote and can drop down a little before beginning the next line. It is freeing to close your eyes and write or draw or paint or dance or grab whatever your touch in your refrigerator to incorporate into a meal. In yoga, the first thing we do, or ask our students to do, is to close their eyes. By eliminating this sense, it helps to calm the mind, to settle the thoughts. It gets rid of so many distractions and allows the breath to flow evenly, slowly, bringing you to the present, which is the only place where we can create. The critic can’t often live without vision, so it has to sit in the corner, and that is the perfect time for the muse to step onto center stage.
Draw slow, draw fast. Write slow and watch the pen curve to make each letter. Begin to notice if the thoughts slow as well, if they wander, or if there is frustration. Then write fast. Can the ideas keep up? Do you run out of words? Or is it that your hand doesn’t move quickly enough to keep up with the thoughts? Can you write for a long time, always moving your hand, or do you need to stop frequently? How do you feel if you play your instrument slowly, holding each note as long as possible? Bored? Energetic? Sad? What happens if you play as fast as your fingers and breath can make the notes come out of the instrument? If you press the shutter button on your camera quickly as if taking action shots, or slowly, as someone walks down the sidewalk, what’s the difference? Does the camera miss the action? How quickly does the facial expression change on your subject?
Doodle. People who draw probably do this all the time. Those of us who write, might make lists or notes or jot ideas in a journal. Maybe we carry a sketch pad with us and begin to draw randomly while waiting in line at the bank or before a movie starts in a theater. Perhaps we pull out five ingredients and see what we can make with them. Judging shouldn’t enter the picture here. We’re just playing around, seeing where it takes us, observing how the images or words or movements make us feel. Maybe it turns into something more, maybe it just frees our hand and our eye and our thoughts. Cat Bennett suggests that by ‘making marks, we begin to see what matters to us’. All of these exercises are just that. Making marks, messing around, seeing if anything comes from it, noticing if something begins to talk to us, to push its way into our field of creativity where the muse is the coach and we’re just a player.
On my website www.myjoyenterprises.com I’ve given lots of examples of how I’ve played around, what I’ve created when I’ve just ‘made marks’. You may like some of it, you may not. That’s okay. I’ll invite you to look just the same. Poems and short stories and novels and even tips for writing are all there. Leave a comment if you’ve tried one of the above activities and share what you’ve discovered about your creative process.