Tag Archives: Creative Play

Creative Play Newsletter: Vol.2, Issue 1 – Happy Anniversary

This issue marks the one year anniversary of this newsletter. When I created my communication plan, I was going to use the issue to reflect on the past year and to try and pull together a summary. Instead, I find myself looking forward in this moment and not backward. I have decided recently to develop Creative Play™ into something more than this newsletter and I am excited to tell you about those plans.

I am developing Creative Play™ into a full program of creativity talks, courses, and workshops. I’m sending out proposals for Creative Play™ workshops at conferences, developing class plans for 6-8 week live classes and am about to test run a month-long online workshop. I believe that playing in a variety of art media is the best way to become fearlessly creative again and I’m going to be spending my time sharing that message.

One of the first things I am launching is a “30 Days of Creative Play™” online course. Each day for 30 days (plus one intro day), I will send an exercise for play. Each exercise is meant to be short – 15 to 30 minutes, and will involve a variety of different media. You’ll have an assignment so you won’t have to face a blank page but the only goal will be to play without the pressure to produce something useful. There’s no prep required; the prep work is built into the exercises so you can get started right away. Creative play is a great way to loosen up before you start your studio practice. It is a great way to kickstart your creativity if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut. Creative play is also a wonderful way to find a little joy if you’ve been feeling like something’s missing in your life, but you’re not quite sure what. Be a kid again for 15 minutes a day, every day for a month and reconnect with that joy and creativity you felt so effortlessly when you were young.

If you’re interested in participating in my free trial run of “30 Days of Creative Play™,” you’ll find an exercise each day on the Creative Play Date Facebook page starting tomorrow (July 14th). If you would like to receive each exercise in your email box, email me at julie(at)julieneu.com  and I will put you on the mailing list.

Let’s Play!

Creative Play Date Week – Day 5

We have reached the end of Creative Play Date Week. I’ve probably rambled on about it before, but you may wonder why I think play is so important. I think that as we get older (particularly appropriate that I am typing this on my birthday), the process of “growing up” causes us to take on a lot of baggage from society, parents, teachers, etc. and we get too far away from our innate state of curiosity, of questioning, of experimentation. To create art that really comes from our souls, from the core of who we are, we have to get back to curious, questioning, experimenting beings we were as kids and the way to do that is to play again like kids.

For me, I have to go pretty far back because I stopped playing before I was anywhere near the end of childhood. To make it happen, I have to schedule it and set aside the time, but once I am playing, I can rekindle that spirit of childhood and reconnect with my authentic self.  It is when I am playing that ideas for work flow out of me and I get excited about creating. It is when I am playing that I begin to create art that I know comes from deep within my soul, work that is truly and uniquely my own. It is through play that the serious work of being an artist begins.

Today, I made dots.  A friend and I have experimented with Creative Play exercises of painted dots. She made some great ones on fabric and turned them into journal covers. I loved what she did so I made some dots of my own on fabric today:

Creative Play Date Week – Day 4

I think that the Universe is contriving to make my Creative Play Date Week both as challenging as possible and as rewarding as possible.  It’s challenging because my life this week has been busy. By early afternoon Wednesday, I’d already worked as many consulting hours as I normally do in a week. Plus, I had more family obligations than normal, including an overnight trip to the other end of the state and back. Finding the time for Creative Play this week has been a real challenge and I think that I am supposed to have the experience of having to make the time when life is as busy as it gets.

Maybe because the rest of my life is so busy, I am finding the Creative Play time to be so rewarding. Today, I completely lost myself in painting. I wasn’t using any special materials, just my daughter’s nearly-dried poster paints and cheap brush, but I was getting such pleasure from the process of painting that I lost all track of time. And that does more for my blood pressure than 20 minutes of meditation.

Here’s today’s project. I took the page layout from the June 15, 2017 front page of The New York Times and painted blocks of color. Could be a quilt, don’t you think?

Creative Play Date Week – Day 3

Today’s Creative Play was quick, so quick that I decided to do some doodling after I finished my project for the day and doodled a design that would look nice on a quilt.

For my project today, I pulled out the deck of Creative Strength Training Prompt Cards I just bought from Jane Dunnewold and pulled a card. The action was to use an emotion as inspiration. I have paintings hanging on my studio wall for “love” and “grief” so I chose “anger,” which was why the painting came so fast. Anger was easy for me to tap into this week and the image I wanted to paint came pretty quickly to mind. As you can see, slashing paint onto paper didn’t take that long either. I am happy to report that it was therapeutic.

Ju

Creative Play Date Week – Day 2

You read about the day I had on Monday so it won’t surprise you that Tuesday morning I was a little tired sitting down for Creative Play. I didn’t create any masterpieces on Tuesday either, but that’s not really the point.

One of my experiments for this week is to see if 15 minutes of Creative Play at the beginning of studio time can replace Morning Pages as a way to get in the zone. I find my Morning Pages generally involve 3 pages of me whining and complaining and while I think that the premise that I am getting all of that out of my head makes logical sense, in practice, it means that I start my day off discouraged. During Tuesday’s Creative Play, I realized that there really wasn’t a lot going on in my head or if there was, I wasn’t paying any attention to it. So, I guess that’s a good thing. There’s no question that starting my day off with something creative, rather than checking my email or something like that, gets my day off right.

What I did on Tuesday was look through a magazine for a phrase or colors that spoke to me. I found this page that I had already torn out of an Architectural Digest article about Josef Frank. (Home magazines are such a great place for color inspiration.)

Architectural Digest, 2017

And, here’s what I did. This went right into the recycle bin after posting, but like Monday’s coloring book work, it gave me 15 minutes of peace and that’s what really matters.

 

Creative Play Date Week – Day 1

Day 1 of Creative Play Date Week was an exercise in finding the time and a good reminder of the benefits of just 15 minutes of play.

Monday was busy, really busy. We got our kid off to her first day of camp and then I commuted into Boston for a full day in the office. I raced home, picked my daughter up, did more work while boiling pasta for dinner, got my kid in the tub and ready for bed, then did two more hours of work before I finally crawled in bed myself.  Reading that, you may wonder when I did my Creative Play or if I decided that I was just too busy and bailed on it.  I seriously considered it. It’s always really easy for me to justify not allowing time for my creativity because I have work to do and the dangerous thing about that is that there is ALWAYS work to do.

But, you may remember me saying that if you have a kid like mine who takes a while to get ready for bed, you can squeeze in 15 minutes there. That’s exactly what I did. I got her in the tub (She is old enough to not drown so I can leave her alone in the bathroom, though I did come back to shut off the water before she started a flood.), then I went into my studio to find something to play with for 15 minutes. I didn’t create amazing art, but I did sit down for 20 minutes of coloring in a coloring book. I know, hardly stretching my creativity, but it calmed my mind for a few minutes, revived me a bit because I was making myself a priority and even 20 minutes of that was invaluable on a frustrating day of doing things for other people. I know that I will have many more days like that so I think that I will leave the coloring book out and keep the markers handy.

Here’s what I did in 20 minutes. It’s from “Big Blossoms Coloring Collection” by Angela Van Dam.

Creative Play Date Week

I’ve talked a lot about 15 minutes of play time each day. I even wrote about it in my last newsletter, which was when I realized that I am not practicing what I preach. I’ve been spending a few hours working in my studio each day, but playing? Nope, I’ve just been hard at work on my projects. I’ve decided that I need to do something about that  so I am designating the week of June 19th, Creative Play Date WEEK. I’m going to do my 15 minutes of play every day. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you join me, I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

Creative Play Newsletter (Vol.1: Issue 9) – Play Time

What is Creative Play and why do I keep talking about it?  Well, I keep talking about it because after many, many years of fighting it, I have finally realized how very important it is. I stopped playing at about oh, two years of age.  That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one. My mom has told me that I was the most mature five year-old she had ever met (and I think she really means “serious” when she says “mature”).  My sister can vouch for what a stick-in-the-mud I was as a kid. Needless to say, I carried that into adulthood too. I love reading, but I read mostly non-fiction or classic, serious fiction.  I took up quilting as a hobby initially because it resulted in something useful and was something that I could do while watching TV and thus otherwise “wasting” time. Honestly, it’s amazing people wanted to spend time with me!

I started playing in 2008, at the ripe old age of 33. That’s when I started my “Creative Play” blog and I went into the studio each week with the sole purpose of playing. During that time, I tried out many new techniques and I learned a lot. The most important thing that I learned from that experience, however, was how play feeds creativity. That period was one of the most creative times in my life, precisely because I was leaving room for creativity. I was just playing around to see what happened and what happened was some of my best work.

Fast forward to today, when after a hiatus from playing and after having fallen back into my old pattern, I am again leaving some time for creativity. A few weeks ago, I decided on a Friday to not make a To Do list. I decided that I wouldn’t work on any of the projects on my work table (unless I really felt moved to) and that I would just see what the day brought. I had barely finished my first cup of tea when I started thinking about the BirdZeed challenge word for the month. It was the 27th of January, four days from the end of the month, and I had had no intention whatsoever of doing the challenge. The word was “line” and I had not been inspired.  But, on that day that I had left open, I decided to take up the challenge.  An idea came very quickly to me and I made a good start on the piece. After buying some supplies, I finished it up before the end of the month. I had no plan to create this work, but because I gave myself some play time, my creativity flourished and I created one of my most heartfelt pieces to date. Read more about what it means to me in my blog post.

Line in the Sand art quilt piece. Women's March protest

Line in the Sand, 2017. 8″ x 10″

Read last month’s newsletter article.

Creative Play Newsletter (Vol. 1: Issue 7) – Know When to Walk Away

I am stubborn. (I can hear the people who know me well chuckling at that. “Yeah, a little!” they are thinking sarcastically.) In a lot of ways, that stubbornness has served me well in life, but it doesn’t always serve me well in the studio. I like to get things done and I like to get them done on time, according to MY plan.  But, what I have had to learn over the last few years is that art doesn’t work that way. The Muses aren’t consulting a gigantic project plan and saying, “Ah yes, today Julie is scheduled to complete the quilting on her current piece.” My plan for the day and their plan for the day don’t always align and I hate that.

In my other life, I am a great project manager and am really good at getting things done. When things get hard, I roll up my sleeves and work harder. When a task is taking longer than expected, I make a cup of tea and I work longer.  That does not work in art. Yes, there are times when things are really working well and you do just need a little more time or a little more effort, but there are also a lot of times when more time and effort are just counterproductive. In those moments in the past, I stubbornly tried to work through it. I would just keep sewing even after my thread broke for the fourth time AFTER changing the needle, rethreading the machine, and giving it a good cleaning. I would press on and sew a seam again after having sewn it and taken it out six times already. I would just keep getting more and more frustrated and my language got worse and worse, but I would keep at it. I’d square my stubborn shoulders and just try to work through it. I failed and finally, dawn broke over Marblehead and I realized that unlike PowerPoint slides, art cannot be forced.  Thus, one of the greatest lessons I have learned recently is that sometimes when creating art, you just have to walk away.

I have just learned that there is a name for this action, for walking away when your art is screaming at you that it just is not going to get done today. Tom and David Kelley in their 2013 book called “Creative Confidence; Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All,” call this activity “Relaxed Attention.”  “Relaxed Attention” certainly has a more positive spin than spewing a string of expletives, throwing up your hands and stomping out of the studio while muttering “I GIVE UP!” (which is usually how it happens for me).  Instead, cultivate some relaxed attention by doing something else. Take a “thought walk,” as they call it. Go out for coffee. Sleep on it. Throw your project plan out the window.  In this month of goals and resolutions, know that sometimes you have to just give it time and take a break.

Read the December Creative Play Newsletter

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Creative Play Newsletter (Vol. 1, Issue 6) – Give a Gift

‘Tis the season of giving. You’re probably making your lists and checking them twice, planning gifts for your kids, your parents, your spouses and partners, friends and other loved ones. But, when was the last time you gave yourself a gift? Last month, I talked about the importance of solitude and quiet, which especially this time of year can really feel like a gift. Another gift you can give yourself is permission to go on a creative excursion.

julieneu_cp_2016_12_gift

In “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, she talks about two essential elements of creative practice: Morning Pages and Artist Dates. In an Artist Date, you get yourself out of the studio and out of your routine to experience something new and maybe see the world a little differently. You can go to an art museum, walk through a garden, visit a library, etc. One of my favorite things to do is to tuck a few dollars into my pocket and wander the aisles of an art supply store until I find something that speaks to me. Then, I come home with a new box of crayons or set of paints and I get the benefit of both the sensory stimulation of being in the store exploring new mediums and of trying something new at home. The point is just to experience something a little out of the ordinary that might spark something for your art.  Will your art ever be new if you never do anything new?