Art Reads: 10 inGenius Tips to Increase Your Creativity

Art Books

Photo credit: Courteney Ervin

Last week we shared strategies to pull you out of temporary creative blocks using quick, easy prompts. This week we’re examining the long, hard road to increased creativity by sharing ten basic fundamentals to increase imaginative thinking.

Tina Seelig has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and spends much of her time teaching creativity practices to students at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, affectionately known as the ‘’. She gathered up the basics of her lessons in her most recent book, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity.

Seelig focuses a lot on creative problem solving, but we see a big use for these principles in artistic practice, too. Making art is itself a singular problem — the problem of using tangible forms to express ephemeral impressions. Check out the ten tips from Seelig’s book below, with an artistic twist!

  1. Ask the right questions. There’s no scientific method to making art, but make sure that the kernel you are trying to capture or express is worth it. The first step to a worthwhile project is a subject that inspires you.

  1. Connect incongruous ideas and objects. Find the hidden connections between seemingly unrelated things. This creates surprise in your art pieces. (As a dabbler, this should be no sweat. You’re already a king of combining the non-obvious. Keep it up!)

  1. Ignore your first idea. Dig deeper. Your first idea mostly likely going to be the most hackneyed, easiest one. Don’t stop there. Instead put the first idea aside and keep coming up with more. There are several methods for this, but a couple simple ones are mindmapping and the “5 Whys” technique first used by Toyota.

  1. Pay close attention. Observe everything and observe it carefully. Keep pen and paper handy to sketch or write down what you notice.

Learning about art is much more than learning how to paint a picture, make a photograph, or create a sculpture; it is about how to observe the world with great attention to detail, to internalize those observations, and then to give expression to them in the chosen medium.

  1. Build a creative space. Enhance your imaginative power by using a space that aligns with your creative needs. Keep your materials at hand, motivational figures at the ready, and a clear space to let your mind fly free.

  1. Use constraints to push yourself. If you’re a songwriter, try writing a song in only 15 minutes. Painters, try to create a painting using only two colors. Limits help you find your creative edge.

  1. Reward yourself. Making art is hard work, and it takes habitual commitment. Give yourself rewards for building habits that move you closer to your goals, and celebrate small wins.

  1. Be amazing at teamwork. Art requires solitude, but your artwork doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Who are your collaborators? Do you have go-tos who review your art or keep you accountable? How can you work with them better?

  1. Embrace failure. When you accept that sometimes you will fail, you can allow yourself to experiment. Our greatest creativity comes from experimentation and play, and we can learn a tremendous amount from our failures.

Creativity is like scientific research in that it involves doing things that haven’t been done before. As such, creative endeavors are essentially experiments, and if they are really unique, you have no idea what will happen.

  1. Fix things that don’t work. Find solutions to new problems as they crop up. This goes without saying, but it can be easier said than done. Don’t be discouraged! Every problem has a solution.

In fact, believing that there is a solution to your problem is a critical step in finding one. … Essentially, if you believe something is impossible, then it is.

How about you?

Which of these principles do you already use in your creative work? Are there any you feel are overrated? Share your thoughts in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Art Reads: 10 inGenius Tips to Increase Your Creativity

  1. […] or use a digital randomness generator. Create a rule for each option, then create work of art. We’ve talked about the importance of constraints before, but here are two […]

  2. I have used some of these techniques for many years in creating my art. Engaging limitations is incredibly important to me. Each body of work I lay down the framework in which I will produce work. For example, in depth research on the topic of my artistic exploration so I am intellectually stimulated in creating narratives that are relevant both to me and to our culture. Working within a certain color palette or selection of media for the entire body of work intensifies finding creative solutions which yield surprises and unexpected nuances. I am very big on rewarding myself after I kill myself working on a show. But also I would add to the list that balancing non creative time with creative is important to give your brain a rest. For me it is playing golf, totally unrelated to the arts. It is also meditation, to quiet the mind, empty the mind so it can be refilled with fresh creative ideas and approaches.

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