Creativity is a gift that we are given and express instinctively as children. Without self-doubt or fear of rejection the inner spirit soars, embracing new experiences wholeheartedly. Eager to learn and always willing to try, children approach everything like it was for the first time. Sensually aware and stimulated by even the most inconsequential things, the untempered mind explores the world in a way that is awe-inspiring to witness.
Oftentimes, as we move into adulthood, the inner realm gets overshadowed by the constant pressures, demands and distractions of the external world and the pathway of exploration and experimentation narrows. We are ultimately trained to conform, meeting predetermined standards that often deny our own individual approaches to learning, problem solving and creative expression. In a world dominated by concerns of commerce and efficiency, it seems that play is no longer seen as a worthy, viable or even relevant part of the creative process. Allegiance to conformity keeps us from taking any risks, making artists stagnant and oftentimes creatively blocked over time. As visual communicators, we need to be open and willing to learn new things at any stage in the game. Learning is lifelong. Stepping outside what is familiar and taking creative chances allow us to see with different eyes. I believe that the act of play holds a vital and necessary part in the artistic growth process. When we begin to play, we open the door for discovery to enter.
As an artist, author, teacher and lecturer, I am always actively encouraging others to experiment and explore, employing alternative approaches in conceptualizing and creating works of art. In the classroom, I get my undergraduate and graduate students to try new things by, first and foremost, tackling their fears of working outside their comfort zones. I use an analogy in which their fears play the role of being this big, overstuffed and crazy heavy backpack that they carry on their shoulders every day. It’s clunky, incredibly back-breaking and overly burdensome but yet they hold onto it for dear life! Fears can be very powerful that way. I usually give a speech at the beginning of every class that goes something like this, “If you want to enter into this classroom, leave your backpacks (fears) outside the door. I promise you that nobody wants or will take your backpack (fears) from you. When class is done, you can pick up your backpack (fears) outside the door if you still want it. But you will not be needing it here.” As a teacher, I want to transform their insecurities and fears, using them to ignite their superpower: that unique voice and vision that resides within. As an extension to my classroom teaching, my books and articles also assist artists in venturing out on their own creative path, but with a much more diverse and expansive global audience. Topics range from nurturing the creative spirit within, developing personal content through journalism, embracing a multidisciplinary mindset and creating message-driven art to creative self-promotion, branding, new business development, target marketing, integrated cross-media strategies, public relations, collaborative endeavors, social media and viral initiatives as well as entrepreneurial approaches.
To expand my own visual and verbal vernacular, I experiment, explore and play almost every day, on some level. Sometimes my practice may be for only a duration of minutes, but I do it anyway. It’s a ritual. Whether I am writing in my journals, drawing and painting in my mixed-media sketchbooks or working on an alternative surface, there are happy accidents that begin to happen. Things that I could not have predicted occur. I find that when I push myself creatively, I discover alternative ways in which to conceptualize and create art. This process and practice is important to me. As a result of my creative exploration, the working grounds and formats that I employ have changed, becoming layered, custom in design and often utilizing alternative materials. Over time, my work has also become larger in scale and the tools that I use have evolved, assisting me in that transition. Alternative, custom-made tools have allowed me creative distinction in mark-making. By altering the traditional painting instruments, repurposing tools from myriad disciplines and inventing completely new devices for custom, signature treatments onto the painted surface, I am able to expand the boundaries of my artmaking, infusing alternative ways of working into the practice. If you look at art history, you will see that the biggest movements were forged as a result of breaking out of the ideologies and methodologies that came before. New ways of thinking are brought into the culture when artists step into their inner playground.
To persevere, we must give ourselves the freedom to play, transcending to a time where the creative spirit reigned in a vast and seemingly limitless field of dreams. We need to remind ourselves what it feels like to be inquisitive, bursting with imaginative faculties. A pilgrimage back to a child-like, playful state of mind reunites us with the soul of our work: a bright, flickering flame that has always been present within. Without fear of mistakes or pressure to perform, we begin again, challenging ourselves to reach for new heights in our work. As illustrators, the more we cultivate creative exploration and experimentation, the more we are able to see and reach our full potential as creative beings. Without a set intention, create and let the work guide you along the journey of experimentation.
To get your creative juices flowing, I’d like to share with you some fun and playful techniques that I have discovered. I have included a step-by-step demonstration on how to create a custom painting and or debossing tool for you to download: https://www.muddycolors.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/CYR-Lisa-Bonus-Technique.pdf
I look forward to hearing what you do to push your creative boundaries!
© 2020 Lisa L. Cyr, Cyr Studio LLC