Last year was a really difficult year for me for a number of reasons (including my being diagnosed with MS) and, like so many of us, I needed to work hard to get through it all. My usual ‘half glass full just put on a brave face and power through’ stance wasn’t quite cutting it and I had to rethink my approach to coping.
In times of stress I often go to my sketchbook but last year I found, I couldn’t easily get through to that creative flow part of my brain that is my safe space - the part that makes my soul sing, that just makes sense of everything. Why couldn’t I just lean into it and produce some wonderfully fulfilling and inspirational work in my hour of need? That flow state is so precious and productive, I just wanted to tap into it all the time, but I couldn’t, its transient nature meant that it was hard to pin down and the desire to catch it became obsessive and futile. A sort of writer’s block, that just couldn’t and wouldn’t be shifted. So, for a while, I stopped trying and just let life happen.
At this point I should also mention that I started to read Julia Cameron’s phenomenal book ‘The Artist’s Way’ which I am happy to credit in some part for helping me to find my way back to my sketchbook and the Art Therapy that I desperately craved. I also implemented a combination of self-care techniques, some of which I’d never really understood or considered before and certainly never realised that I actually needed! Journaling, meditation, pilates, reading, talking – I had touched on a few of them before but never in a sustained fashion or parallel to one another and I found that doing exactly that really helped to clear my head.
Once I started sorting out the muddled filing system (that was my head) and putting things in order I found that I had more room for creativity and things started to flow more naturally.
I decided to try out a few new artist materials such as tinted charcoal pencils (who knew?!) and bought a few new colours for my paint set, creating some colour charts to warm up. I rediscovered my old watercolour pencil which sparked a significant memory of my younger self aged 20 (mid-way through my design degree), having a crisis in confidence about my creative abilities. I remember, back then, that I came through it helped by a new found drawing style with my watercolour pencil and never looked back. I loved the fact that you couldn’t erase this medium so you had to be confident in your approach. It took practice but I found my groove and filled a whole sketchbook inspired by a trip to the Science Museum (mainly focussing on elephants!) with a renewed confidence.
So here I am, in a much happier creative headspace starting to find myself again and raring to go. I haven’t filled a new sketchbook yet but I am brimming with ideas and excitement with my art materials at the ready and, most importantly, I have started again!
My top tips for (re)engaging with your creative side:
- Have a read of my blog ‘How to start a sketchbook’
- Do a series of quick repetitive sketches on scrap paper without looking at the page to warm up – really, don’t look at the page whilst doing it, you can afterwards!
- No erasers allowed, try using pen, charcoal, watercolour pencils – something you can’t rub out!
- Take inspiration from @michelleogundehin 100 days drawing challenge inspired by…
- ‘100 Days of Drawing’ book by Jennifer Orkin Lewis @augustwren
- Read ‘The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron