How My Own Train of Thought Works: From Inspiration to Creative Practice to Research to Innovation
(This is cross-posted from my site Imaginary Living, where I offer tools and coaching to help every person reconnect with their own innate creativity!)
Before I finally committed to a daily creative practice, I'd read a lot about the creative processes of lots of different artist, from dancers like Twyla Tharp to prolific musicians like Prince. But as much as artists and those who observe them love to speak in platitudes ("Break barriers!"or "Be yourself!"), there often seems to be an unwillingness to honestly examine creative endeavors from the first spark of inspiration. Perhaps this is sometimes even deliberate, as it plays into the idea of a creative mystique, the outrageous concept that some of us are gifted with divine inspiration, while some of us are just not.
So, the other day when when I was working on a painting during my creative practice, I started to have a lot of ideas about how what I was doing could relate to my work in fiber. I thought it would be really fun to take a look at my own creative thought process, and show you how a creative practice, even one that seems unrelated to your primary mode of expression or line of work, can be a deep well for new ideas.
It all started with a post suggested for me on instagram by @nasahubble from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. I was a huge astronomy buff when I was younger, and took it as a science elective in college. (Good work, algorithm!) The post made me think about how the abstract paintings I create during my morning daily creative practice sometimes look nebula-like, or like the surface of gas giants. I decided to try the next day to make something intentionally galaxy-inspired during my creative practice.
I often liken creative practice to play, but that doesn't mean it isn't serious business. Just like play for children is vital as a rehearsal for social skills and roles they will take on as they get older, the creative practice is a way to try out ideas without the pressure of generating fully-realized projects. So while I came into my session with an inspiration, I didn't know what the outcome would be, and I wasn't particularly worried about it. Failure would just be an invitation to try a different technique next time. But I let my intuition guide me, and I think the end result was very galaxy-esque! Here's the video of me making it.
I found myself really interested by the "stars" I had created in my painting (using water scattered from the bristles of a toothbrush). I started thinking about how I could get a similar effect in my fiber work. I thought I could probably use a punch tool designed for leather to cut through the thick, handmade felt I make. I made a mental note to research those types of tools.
But the ideas didn't stop there! I also thought about how the outside contours of both my creative practice painting and the NASA post of a nebula kind of looked like the blobular (that's the technical term!) forms of ink blots. I suddenly realized that I had actually made work like this before, a large monoprint where I had hand-cut some freeform blobs out of acrylic and used them both as masks and as print surfaces. I started to think about how I would like to try to make forms like that in the much more spontaneous and liquid medium that I use in my creative practice. But THEN I also thought about how cool it would be to use those strong, blobular shapes in my fiber work. AND I also suddenly wondered if I would like adding embroidery and felted fiber to the paper surface of a galaxy-esque painting!
So now that I have several ideas, I have to choose where to focus first, and I have some research ahead of me. Research is different from the creative practice. At this point, there is some goal (however tenuous) of finding a particular way to express ourselves. We are exploring which tools and processes will help us best communicate the idea or vision in our minds. I don't know how long I'll be in the research phase for these ideas. Some of my ideas may not pan out. Others may completely change the direction of my work! Which leads me to...
As you can probably gather, this is not a linear process. Research often yields new inspirations based on what is discovered, which we may need to bring back to the playful curiosity of our creative practice to see how they make us feel. But if you allow yourself to be free and fearless in your creative practice, AND get in the habit of honoring your creative intuition, you can make important discoveries that dramatically change your way of working and/or living!