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Creative Exercises for Artists

Written by Mary Nelson Zadrozny
© 2004-2011 Just Imagine Design & Publications
Many of us are creatures of habit, especially as we get older. We get into ruts that we don't even realize we are doing sometimes. So here are a few experiments to try that will challenge you to shake up your routine.

1. Paint with something other than a regular brush. It makes you think harder about painting by using a tool that you are not as comfortable holding. Look around your studio, home, or garage for things that would be interesting to try. I recently completed a large picture painted totally with edges of cut up credit cards. It gave a very different look and feel to my painting. Some other suggestions: sponge, fork, knife, hammer, nail, piece of fabric, etc.

2. If you normally name a piece after you complete it, try coming up with a title first, and then creating something to fit the title. Music titles, phrases you read in the paper or in books, are great places to start.

3. Take 2 jars, tins or other type of containers. First category is mediums: gouache, markers, crayons, pen & ink, charcoal, water color, oils, collage, printmaking/stamps, acrylics, colored pencils, etc. Fill out a slip of paper with a different medium listed on each (mediums that you have easy access to). Put all the slips in one jar. For the second category, list different subject matter: landscape, self-portrait, animal, flower, still life, fantasy, abstract, person, bird, thing, appliance or piece of furniture, fruit or vegetable, building, mode of transportation, etc. Use your imagination. Do the same with those slips and put them in the second jar. Then when you need a project pick a slip from each jar. This exercise forces you to expand to different mediums and subject matter that you most likely wouldn't have combined before.

4. Take your sketchbook and leave your studio. Go to another part of your home, outside, a friend's home or garden, a public place like a zoo or park, anywhere you can get a different view of the world.

5. Do a work in the style of a well known artist, especially one who's work is very different from your own. Picasso, Klandisky, Glee, etc.

6. Pick a problem in your life that you are struggling with, or a mood and try to portray it. Or pick a local, national, or world issue and do a piece that reflects how you feel about it.

7. Try putting on an inspiring CD or music station and create to the music. I enjoy checking out CDs at my local library to try out new music I've never heard before.

8. Pick a country or regional theme for a project. You can try to reflect something local or here are a few other suggestions: Russian, French Provencial, Urban, Fantasy, Rural, Asian, Irish, Tropical, Indian, Nautical, Space, Dutch, German, Spanish, etc. Pretend you are going on a trip somewhere and study the area and then create a piece that portrays that area.

9. Pick a different period of time like the 1920's, 1950's, 1776, etc. to give your work a different look. Or choose a particular artistic period, like Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Baroque, etc. Again pick something very far from your comfort zone that you are not used to doing to get the full benefit of this exercise.

10. Pick out 3 things from another part of your house, things that have special meaning and create a still life using them.

Check out our Links About Creativity and also our Books on Creativity.

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