Unleashing Your Creativity

Following patterns, templates and tutorials can fulfill a creative need while helping you to hone an artistic skill.  There's only so much you can take from it mentally, however.  Skill-wise it can be great practice, but when relying on another person's instruction you lose the innovation, spontaneity and scale of creativity that comes from improvisation or original construction.  Even if you've always been a paint by numbers kind of person, you can find a way to create something that was conceptualized and developed all on your own.  Here are some tips for "unleashing your creativity" that are related to my own experience.

1. Identify your skill

I've always been interested in art/craft, but have to admit that I'm not that great at drawing and painting. Knitting became my strongest creative skill in my 20's, but I had never done anything beyond knitting accessories and garments from patterns in books with step by step instructions.  It hadn't occurred to me until a few years ago that I could do more with my skill than just follow a pattern.  Even if you don't know how to use your skill for something larger creatively, just open your mind to the possibilities.  An idea may come.

2. Develop a concept that you are passionate about.

Once you identify your medium, you have to figure out what to do with it!  It's easy to mimic the trends out there (and there are a lot of them), but the best work comes from developing a concept that you're passionate about - something that means something to you.  Even if you want your piece to be simply aesthetic, go with an idea that you think is great... not one that you only chose because you thought others would like it.  If you're passionate about the subject/concept of your work, you will be more likely to finish and to produce something of high quality.

3. Open your eyes to inspiration.

Inspiration is all around us.  As I really like to communicate through my work, even the tiniest details in nature hold inspiration if we stop to contemplate them.  Stop to observe a leaf that was skeletonized by an insect, or the patterns of decay in a fallen limb.  Pay attention to your surroundings, things in the urban environment and the creativity around you.  There are inspirational muses all around us if we take the time to notice them.

4. Surpass your perceived limitations.

Creativity is a mind-expanding experience.  I used to make things because they were functional.  I also used to have wild ideas that would have been amazing to see created, but I would think "nah..." and let the slip away.  Now I embrace my ideas.  I keep a journal on hand just to write them down for later.  The good thing about indulging your imagination is that ideas keep coming!  You start to get inspired and pretty soon you have more ideas than you have time to execute.  Don't let your own personal reservations keep you from pursuing a great concept.  Try to think outside the box, and on a regular basis, do something "just because".  Let your reason be, "why not?"

5. Experiment!

Interested in trying a technique but you're not sure how it will turn out?  Try it!  You might be surprised, and if it doesn't turn out at least you know what doesn't work.  By removing your reservations toward not meeting your expectations, or better yet, removing your expectations altogether, you open yourself to compromise and flexibility.  If you're a Type A personality like me, this will be difficult but all the more rewarding.  This brings us to the next point... following your instincts mentally and creatively.

6. Go with your gut!  Not everything has to be planned.

When I was preparing for my Decomposition: Colony installations, I obviously knew what the pieces of my installation looked like, but I had NO idea how the overall installations would turn out.  I didn't know what the site would look like, what I would install the pieces into or if I would find something that would work at all.  Finally on that day as I climbed up the fern enclosed trail to what would become Colony I, a lot was left to chance.  I took a deep breath, took my time, and just went to work.  It was almost like a stream of consciousness as I put each little mushroom in place.  I didn't second guess myself, and just continued on it with purpose.  It wasn't planned.  I just did it.  I did what felt right.  In the end I couldn't have been happier with the result.

7. Do the work.

Sometimes it's unfortunate, but I know from time to time I will get into a funk and it's hard to find the motivation to start on anything.  As Steven Pressfield talks about in The War of Art, the best way to get inspired to keep working is to just start doing the work.  Even if you don't feel like it, make yourself get going.  Chances are that you will find inspiration along the way and that initial work (even if you're not crazy about the result) will lead to more work.

8. Not a trained artist?  Don't worry about it!

If you don't have a degree in art it's easy to waste energy worrying about whether you belong in the art world.  Maybe you haven't taken an art class in a very long time.  Maybe you don't have formal training or experience with art critique.  Perhaps the word "artist" makes you feel self conscious.  Rather than allow yourself to be constantly riddled with anxiety, just don't worry about it.  As far as labels go, just leave them alone.  Just be you, and just do what you do.  If you have a strong concept and produce high quality work, people may like.  You may be surprised by the response you get - I was.  Art is a very subjective thing.  Just worry about your work and whether or not you're satisfied with it, and let everyone else worry about their own opinions.

It's scary to get started in creative endeavors when you are out of practice, but I hope these lessons that I picked up can encourage you on your journey.  So remember...


  1. Identify the skill that can most effectively and naturally help you to communicate your creative vision.
  2. Develop and pursue a concept or idea that you're passionate about or that means something to you, in order to produce the most satisfying, high quality work.
  3. Open your eyes to the inspiration that is all around you.
  4. Surpass your limitations and don't restrict your creativity with perceptions about what you can do or how your skill should be done.  Pursue ideas, because "why not?".
  5. Experiment, and don't let expectations hinder a potentially surprising good outcome.
  6. Go with your gut and stop trying to plan everything.  Sometimes the best outcome results from just doing, and not over analyzing.
  7. Do the work, even if you feel uninspired.  With effort, inspiration will come.
  8. Don't fret over your lack of formal training or experience in the creative world.  Trust your skill and your intuition, and instead focus on producing high quality work that you are passionate about.