Daily Rituals: Fire Up Your Imagination

“I have in the past seen in clouds and walls stains which have inspired me to beautiful inventions of many things. These stains, while wholly in themselves deprived of perfection in any part, did not lack perfection in regard to their movements or other actions.” -Leonardo da Vinci

  An old stone wall in the village of Assas in the South of France

An old stone wall in the village of Assas in the South of France

Get into the habit of using random shapes to get your imagination started. Abstract shapes are seeds to grow your creativity from.

The human mind naturally looks for meaning and it will either consider shapes it does not recognize as being unimportant “noise” or it will relate the perception to existing knowledge and create meaning where there are only shapes. The key is to keep an open mind and question the shape you discover.

There are many opportunities around us to find shapes to work with. Play with the shapes you can see in:

  • Clouds
  • Geometric patterns on carpets or wallpapers
  • Peeled bark on trees
  • Moss growing on trees
  • Stains on old walls
  • Negative shapes in foliage
  The roots of a sequoia tree

The roots of a sequoia tree

Creative Exercise:

Take a drawing pad and make an outline of a stain you found. Then look away from the subject and see what you can create with this abstract shape as a starting point.

Don’t hesitate to turn your pad on the side or upside down and see if the stain in this new position inspires different ideas.

Visual arts are based on patterns. Even if you don’t see them at play, they guide the eyes through the work: the diminishing lamp posts along the road or the interlocking shapes of buildings, for instance. On top of stimulating your imagination, this exercise will also develop your sense of working with patterns.

  A stone egg I brought back from Morocco. Can you see a bird?

A stone egg I brought back from Morocco. Can you see a bird?

A Painter's Guide For Getting Un-Stuck Creatively by French artist, Benoit Phillipe

How can you get your mind to react creatively:

1. Paint or draw something you never painted before.

2. Choose an unusual format to work with (a square canvas, a round surface, or a very long one for instance).

3. Paint with only three colors.

4. Remove your favorite color from your palette.

5. Try a new medium.

6. Listen to a piece of music and paint what it reminds you of.

7. Make a drawing or a painting of a childhood memory.

8. Paint a canvas with only one big brush.

9. Take a small canvas, set a timer to 60 minutes, and aim to complete the painting within that time.

10. To find new painting topics, take a piece of paper, write the numbers 1 to 10 vertically on the left side, followed by the words “I will paint…” and complete each sentence. Your mind craves for completion and this will force your brain to come-up with answers (this is the technique I used to draft this list of ten items).