Tactics to Unleash Your Creativity
Written By Iliana Sergeev
Did you ever look at someone’s art or design work and thought – “no, that is not the way it should be”. Maybe stop yourself from thinking that for a moment next time, it might make our world a bit more interesting and inspiring.
We all have cultural definitions of realism and beauty instilled in us from our early age. Since I started drawing, I was criticized on my level of realism. But then again, growing up with two engineers in the house, this was expected. Occasionally, what I created was on the abstract side. In other words, I used my left hand to draw and then just made a story around it. This is how I would get away without scorning comments on what my work ought to be.
As I get older, it haunts me how little art I create, and it bothers me what a perfectionist I strive to be with this nagging voice of reason and logic always in my head.
There are many factors which add up to why we do not use art as a tool to develop. Here are a few reasons why we should reconsider that choice -
Why does the end result matter so much? Design by definition is applied art, therefore a designer is tasked with creating planned and precise artwork with a purpose. Often-times, the process of creating it can get rather frustrating for me, as I strive for perfection and adjust to the medium. Even when everything is done the way we imagine, the end result can feel stale - lacking excitement and energy. As a matter of fact, many happy mistakes end up adding to the artwork and giving it that edge. Art can be an adventure without an exact goal. That’s right, no need to narrow your goals down or set your expectations from the get go.
Just Go For It
Drawing often develops our artistic eye. A lot of thinking goes into a small sketch, as a lot of creative choices are made in the process. This is why it is important to do it often, if possible even daily. Developing this skill helps us visualize things easier and communicate them, it also helps our confidence. These daily sketches can be with anything readily available: marker, pencil, ink pen, chalk, you name it. Sometimes you need to go through hundreds of ok pieces to truly find your approach, style and start feeling confident - creating your masterpieces.
Relaxing in the Process
Often times, in my experience, once the idea is planned out and defined, a therapeutic part kicks off. My husband and I created burlap wine bags with our design screen-printed on them for our wedding. Once we had the designed silkscreen made, it was all about rolling it out, over and over, on massive burlap sheets. Half way through, we became efficient and finished the part in a somewhat mindless, in-the-moment manner. We felt so comfortable and confident that we even decided to experiment in ways we did not plan to. It is important to leave yourself time for execution and have fun with it.
It is true that criticism helps us grow, however there are many critics who are simply not qualified to provide valuable feedback. Firstly, I think it is important that the critic selected has some expertise in the areas they will be helping us grow in. Also, there is value in mood probing - people with bitter attitude upfront are not likely to be ideal candidates to help. Secondly, many critics are unable to be constructive in their feedback. The tone, attitude and wording of their feedback does make a big difference in the way it is taken. A bit of bad criticism might ruin one’s confidence and desire to improve. Artist often feel very connected to what they created – it is a vulnerable moment and, being mishandled, could create long-term fears. Which brings me to my last point, timing is essential. I have been burned with feedback at times where it did more harm than good. Timing is about your state of mind and also the completion state of the artwork. Don’t ask for feedback too early or it might easily turn into art direction. Executing someone’s ideas is not the best way to develop a talent. Asking for input too late into the project will make it twice as difficult to take the feedback in. Find that sweet timing spot and note that it might be different for each creation.
Not too happy with how your work turned out? No problem. A professor of mine taught me to use two white L shaped cardboard pieces, one in each hand to help create a frame. It is surprising how much beauty is hidden in a new crop, or in turning the artwork upside down. I recommend taking a few days off from the work before this step. Sometimes we spend too much time on our creation and are unable to stop fussing over small details with it. I even tend to hide the work from myself for a few days to re-gain that critical distance. This way, the next time you see it, you might be able to see its potential again.
Furthermore, never be afraid to start from scratch or even leave an idea altogether. In my husband’s business world, the saying “don’t throw good money after bad” is somewhat of a mantra. Failing fast, making the best of the situation and moving on is sometimes equally as important as having a great idea and flawless execution. This philosophy can be applied in the creative world all the same.
Above image and sketches created by me, Iliana Sergeev.
Written while working at mackaywong.