I watch my son sitting across the table from me in the golden afternoon light, drawing. He draws effortlessly, without thinking of it as a creative act. It is simply a means, a process, a discovery. Every morning before school he draws; every afternoon, he produces copiously, without caution, without expectation. He makes pictures because they are adventure: the representations of the story track running in his head. He draws in a way that is utterly his own. Complex lines: cogs, wheels, wires, motors. He draws pitched roofs and internal stairways, porch lights and door bells, cars with drive-shafts, oceanscapes with pirate ships, secret potion machines, fantastical creatures, and night skies filled with five pointed stars. These, he’s just mastered, and he draws them in everything now, along with words and letters, filling up secretive corners on every page where he practices invented spelling; summoning the magic of phonemes and consonants to make word sounds.
And he draws all of it, without even realizing the work, the effort, the certain shortcomings of his ability; he draws all of it joyfully, filling page after page with deep, wholehearted practice.
I’m in awe of this. Of him, now, at six and a half, before self doubt has any leverage at all; before there are any inklings of “perfect,” in his bright mind. Before this effortless creating slips away and the unwanted cacophony of standards, criticisms, expectations, and reviews fill its place.
Now there is simply the joy of drawing lines for the sake of it: Drawing without any critique at all, without any consideration for audience or perception. His art is the work of wholly self-absorbed wonder, and I am taking notes.
This week I have been asking: What do I need to do to allow myself to create as recklessly and easily?
What creative constraints do I need to put in place to quiet the analytical chatter at the back of my mind, ever full of commentary, critique, and doubt?
When I was finishing the illustrations for my book I discovered the immense power of creative constraints: Of having certain parameters that defined the scope of the work. I have found that for me, incredible creative force emerges under such circumstances, and in the context of daily practice, I’ve been experimenting with constraints as a way to short circuit my inner critic, and find my way back to the simple joyful state of art as play; of making as wonder; of creating as joy.
This week, I’ve been inviting myself to show up for 15 minutes to make a piece of art—and to be joyfully, gently, gratefully satisfied with whatever emerges from that process. As V-Grrrl commented in my last post, "I’m first and foremost a writer"... and I know this resonates with many of you as well. But there is something so profound about working with images. It’s good cross training, at the very least: to slip out of your comfort zone, and create with the pure raw material of image.
I’m going to keep doing this for the entire month of November, sharing my pieces every week in this set, and I am wondering:
I’ve created DAILY ART flickr pool here
...if you’d like to join me on this adventure... I'll be posting more observations and discoveries about ways to get started this week...if this is something that you'd like me to share... I would SO LOVE to have you join me.
I'm also curious: When was the last time you remember being creative without worrying about meeting a deadline, or if you were "doing it right" or being "good enough"? When do you find yourself slipping into an un-judging creative groove?