A Day In the Life 2: Creativity

This is going to be one of those posts that's primarily for other artists and aspiring artists. Being a creative and staying creative are two vastly different things. In this part I kind of mention some of the stuff I address on a daily basis that play to an artist's creativity.

Part 2: Creativity

An artist of my type, (Illustration/Comics/Concept), typically has to wear a few different hats and each hat has an impact on creativity - positive and negative. For myself I find keeping an artistic mantra or an artist statement of a sorts in mind at all times, is critical to staying creative. I find whenever I have deviated from this, I see periods of lapsed creativity.

Some influences on creativity:

Stagnation - In my opinion, the number one killer of creativity. No one likes doing the same thing over and over - especially when it comes to art. We are just not copy machines, and replicating something like a copier is akin to pouring a bucket of water on the creative spark. If you find yourself drawing the same thing over and over, stop. Make a change. I have quit jobs and changed careers because of this. 

Overcommitting - With an almost 3yr old son, I've learned I just can't commit to the number of things I used to be able to (though it's getting better as he gets older). Still, this is one I run into from time to time. I do my very best to say no to projects when I think the work may suffer due to previous commitments, and to know my limitations.

Environment  - This can play a big role. I find stagnation of environment to be kind of stifling and I try to change up my environment when I feel like I'm trying too hard to be creative. I play a sort of ping pong between crowded places (like coffee shops), with bustling people moving around me, and my solitary studio with little to no noise. For some folks the state of the environment is an issue - cluttered vs orderly. I've found this really depends on the artist though, as I've seen some amazing stuff come from the most cluttered, messy places of work.

Deadlines - Deadlines and juggling projects tend to impact the time one can spend on anything, and as an artist, keeping clients apprised of your schedule helps immensely. Some timelines and project types warrant that creativity is sacrificed to a certain degree for speed. In other situations personal schedules, children, travel, and other items can both hurt and aid in creativity, and a lot of this is due to mindset. Staying creative in any situation can be tough.

Stress - How an artist handles stress is kind of unique to each person. I've seen some artists do their very best work under incredible pressure, and others fall apart completely. How each artist handles stress is key in how creative they can be during these times. This can be both mental and physical. I know I push myself physically to meet deadlines

Collaborators - In many (most) projects artists work with others in various capacities. Sometimes they are co-artists with others (authors, colorists, inkers, etc), and other times there are collaborators who oversee their work (editors, publishers, ADs, CDs, etc.) Over the years I've seen good and bad relationships in regard to creativity, and probably the best take away I can offer, is to find and nurture good people to work with - those that want to bring out your best work. In many ways artists must put their trust in the collaborators to steer the work to being as fantastic as it can be, just as collaborators trust artists to take their feedback and bring their A-game.

Muses - These don't necessarily have to be people. They can be pets, other artists (though I caution against this), places, emotions - so many different things. I've had them all at one time or another, and I find they come and go quite often. Ride them while you can, but it's risky for professional artists to depend on these. We can't wait for inspiration, and have to be able to draw on ideas and concepts without a lot of notice. For myself, life experience beats a muse.

Social Media - We all need this in this ultra-connected world, but it can be both a blessing and a curse if an artist doesn't understand how to manage the use of the various networks. I could write a whole book about this section alone and it's impact on creativity, but the short and skinny - a best practice is to limit one's time on these. Some pitfalls: Internet rabbit holes when searching for reference material, getting lost in another artist's work, and it's easy to have one's ego get the better of them with works receiving thousands of likes. I've seen many an artist stagnate at a taste of web-fame. On the blessing side: I've found and discovered many of my favorite and most inspiring items randomly through social media; Perspectives and techniques I'd never thought of that I could apply to my own work. Again though - moderation. It's easy to loose an art day online.

Routines - Some artists have specific routines to help combat creativity breakdown. For others, a routine becomes part of the problem. For me, I have a couple of general rules I go by each day, and in some cases each month to ensure my creativity doesn't falter. Some of mine include:

  • travel (I do this at least once a month)
  • draw something for me every day. (this sometimes gets put aside to draw something for my son)
  • if I ever get the "I've drawn this before" vibe, redo it.
  • take a break and go outside every couple hours. (good for fitness sake as well)
  • make time for family, even if it means staying up late to art later.
  • share what you do to aid creativity with other artists

What sort of challenges do you all have to your creative sides? What are some of the positive influences to your creativity on a day-to-day basis? Nurture those pluses and keep moving forward :)