Artists are often people who live in a world of extremes. People in general assume that creative people are either starving bohemians seeking to stay true to a vision at any cost, or wealthy celebrities that sacrifice their principles for the sake of success. While these stereotypes can very visible and true, they certainly aren’t the norm. The majority of us live in a frustrating world of imaginative mediocrity that tends to be reserved for brightening moments of insufferable boredom, or venting the day’s frustrations. Thankfully, there are ways to balance the a normal life and a creatively fulfilling existence. Here are some tactics that I use to achieve my ultimate goal of leading the life of a fearless visual artist. Any person with a creative spark can apply these tactics to their life in order to rise above imaginative mediocrity every single day.
Say Toodles to the Tube
If you want to be really creative, ditch the cable television and drastically reduce your dependence on online services that simulate broadcast TV. While this kind of entertainment can be fun, it is absolutely destructive to the imagination. When we watch television, the human brain operates in a passive state similar to dreaming. Even worse, the constant bombardment of repetitive images and messages (usually in the form of advertising,) can really take a toll on our critical thinking skills. This toxic combination can really do a number on one’s imagination and dream life.
Taking a hike, doing crossword puzzles, chatting with a friend, reading a book and doodling, are some examples entertaining activities that engage the mind at a much deeper level. An active brain dealing with stimulating information or a fun challenge will be more open to inventiveness and intellectual curiosity, both of which ultimately lead to greater creativity. When you do watch broadcast media or movies, make it an event. For example, I usually don’t watch videos or films unless they are directly related to my research on topics that I consider vital to my creative development, if a book is not available. In the rare times I watch movies for fun, my husband and I will do it in the theater, as a special outing.
If you absolutely must keep up with the latest shows to feel socially connected, there are plenty of spoiler sites that will give you all of the information you need to feel up-to-date. Better yet, meet new social contacts that are eager to encourage your artistic spirit by getting involved in community groups and activities that deal in the arts. Since you won’t waste five hours a day filling your mind with junk, you’ll actually have time to get a life that fosters creativity.
Dig the Dear Diary
Journaling can be intimidating. People mistakenly assume that journaling means having to write a thoughtful essay on their deepest darkest secrets every single day. Although daily journaling helps develop the practice into a habit and in maintaining one’s mind sharp, it isn’t mandatory. As for depth, it’s not necessary either. While I like documenting my dreams and life events in rich detail, this isn’t the norm for me. My private diaries (digital and paper) are filled with fluffy entries consisting of things like sketchy unfinished doodles, pasted pictures from magazines, brochures from my travels, lists of things I ate, an archive of my tweets, letter from friends, quotes I like, funny one-sentence observations and other such silly things. These types of entries may seem banal and trivial, collectively they become powerful idea generators.
To enjoy the inspirational benefits of journaling to their fullest potential, it is best to read a diary after getting a few entries down. When I read old entries, I will start noticing recurring themes in my entries, as well as my preferences, habits and my most interesting observations. I use this valuable information to develop concepts for my art project, come up with ideas for comic scripts and find topics that I want to study more closely for development as an artist.
Research Like A Boss
A lot of people have the ability to magically whip up art solely using their emotional energy, be it negative or positive. If that describes you, lovely. Even though I’ve been drawing since before I could talk and my career is strictly oriented in the arts, I am not particularly creative. When left to my own mental devices, my art tends to be observational, dry and somewhat boring. As a creative professional leading an artistic lifestyle, that kind of artistic mediocrity will not satisfy me, even if other people like it. To jump over this mental block, I love researching topics and preferences that come up when I journal.
Research doesn’t mean that you have to live in the basement of a library reading boring books written by long-winded scholars who compose tomes full of confusing jargon. For me, research can be as simple as observing rust on farm tools. By carefully studying the patterns of oxidation in the rusted metal, I often come up with amazing ideas for the Daily Doodle paintings on my website. Just by paying attention to something so mundane, I’ve come up with an entire series of digital postcards focusing on the theme of rust that I sell online and in the bricks and mortar world. When I feel like studying something heavier, I love to find books on life in Russia during the breakdown of the Soviet Union — a topic that is absolutely fascinating to me. Again, by allowing myself to be inspired by my journal entries and mashing them up with my research, I am able to come up with a ton of material for my comics and graphic novels.
When you explore your interests in greater depth, your mental landscape becomes richer. This wealth of information is a sure-fire spark for the imagination and it will take your creativity to the next level. Your art will become more personally meaningful and fascinating to you. When your art matters to you, others will take note.
Finding A Happy Medium Without Feeling Mediocre
Creative people don’t need to be sellouts or superstars to rise above the creative mediocrity of everyday life. By making simple changes like turning off the television, keeping a journal and simply observing interesting things, a person’s creative practice can jump to a new level of existence that will ultimately more fulfilling and meaningful.
Reverend Vas Littlecrow Wojtanowicz is a multidisciplinary artist who currently focuses on abstract work and comics. In addition to being a highly prolific visual artist and the founder of the VAS Littlecrow creative group, Vas also enjoys blogging about food and current events. This creative Puerto Rican currently resides in Minnesota with four cats and a husband.