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.
There is a thread that runs through the book I mentioned last month (Jane Dunnewold’s Creative Strength Training) and another book that was a lifeline to me as I climbed out of my pit of creative despair. That book was The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and the thread was the importance of writing as a creative tool. Cameron recommends two major creative tools, a writing exercise that she calls “Morning Pages” and creative excursions called “Artist Dates.” Now, I was skeptical about Morning Pages. I have been keeping a journal since I was 11 so I thought, “Okay, yeah, I’m doing that.” But, I decided to give them a full test before I rejected them and so I wrote the required three pages of stream of consciousness thoughts every day for six months. Most of it is complete drivel and that’s the point. One goal of Morning Pages is to get the crap that goes ping ponging around your head all day OUT before you start your creative work. I could see the benefit of that and I do feel like the Morning Pages I did met that goal. My brain felt calmer each day and more welcoming of my creativity. I’ve fallen out of the habit of the pages as life has gotten a little busier, but when I find my mind in desperate need of some calm, I engage in a little Morning Pages writing meditation and find that it helps.
Never underestimate the power of the Universe. Starting in 2007, I explored “creative play,” trying a new quilting technique or creating a weekly journal quilt. In 2012, I took a maternity leave from that and by 2014, I was so far out of touch with my creative self that I wasn’t even sure she was still in there. The Universe knew better however, and started giving me the bread crumbs I needed to find my way back.
One of those first bread crumbs led me to Jane Dunnewold. I was watching an episode of “The Quilt Show” (and I was a few months behind on them). In it, she talked about an online class that she had started offering called “Artist Strength Training.” At the time, I wouldn’t have called myself an artist, but hearing about the class set off a little hum in my brain, like a tuning fork being tapped. I went to bed that night talking myself out of it. “I’m sure it’s really expensive.” “I don’t have time.” “It’s probably not being offered any time soon.” The next morning, that hum in my brain was still there so I decided to just look into it. Well, it was being offered and it was starting in a few days. There were spots still available. And, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it might be. So, I signed up. That one bread crumb from the Universe that I picked up became a lifeline that started pulling me out of the deep of the woods where I had been wandering in circles looking for the road.
Jane’s class is now a book renamed “Creative Strength Training; Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius” and I fully endorse it. The book contains the same content in ten chapters as the ten weeks of the course, encouraging (and sometimes very direct) words about discovering who you are as an artist and what makes you and your work distinctive; learning how to dismantle the critical voices in your mind that stymie your creativity; and how to work the creative process. Included in the book are responses from students in prior classes, both their written responses to her lessons as well as the art that the course prompted, giving you access to a set of peers, which was such a valuable part of the class. If you are in need of a bread crumb too, explore this one and see if it feels right for you.