by Stephanie Lindquist
If you’re reading this after graduating you are probably familiar with this sad phenomenon, and I’m not talking about how much or little money artists make after school. I’m talking about how many of our peers stop making artwork altogether. Those with a MFA can relate to this. And those with BA or BFA can definitely relate to this. How many of your art friends still make art 1, 2, 5, 10 years out of school?
I got caught in this too. After graduating I stopped making work. It wasn’t until a year and a half later that I finally woke up, and realized what I was missing and why I stopped in the first place. If you yourself are in an art-making hiatus post-school or due to years of grueling work 9-5 or while raising children, and would like to return to your creative roots, read on! I’ll share 4 tips that helped me make art again, and arguably stronger artwork than ever before.
Keep It Simple
When I say, “keep it simple” I mean in all ways. Be gentle with yourself. It’s been a while since you’ve drawn something, written something, played your saxophone or cello, so keep things simple so as not to discourage your continued effort. For instance, use what’s familiar and accessible to you. When I started making art again I decided to use materials that were cheap, easy to find (since I wasn’t confident enough to buy fancy materials yet) and familiar to me. I knew how to use kraft paper, and that made me feel really comfortable to cut it, draw on it, crumple it up and play with it some more.
I also kept my ideas simple. My first project, which was a portrait series of Malcolm X may not have have been my strongest or best work, but I was excited enough about the idea of making the series that I actually followed through on making it. Don’t wait for your best idea to arrive. Choose something simple that makes you smile inside.
Remember What You Used to Love About Making Art
For me this was memories of my childhood sprawled out on my sunny bedroom floor surrounded by all my “materials.” Remember what you used to love about making art.
Looking back on your favorite memories of making music, poetry or what have you, may have you asking, “So what happened? Why did I stop?” And this leads me to my next point, which is to identify why you stopped. Who discouraged you? Who told you you didn’t have enough time? Who told you you weren’t talented enough?
It wasn’t until I started remembering how much joy I felt making art as a child that I could pinpoint the change between then and now. For me, it was finally realizing which classes and teachers in school made me feel worthless or limited in my ability to understand artwork let alone make it. Something that felt incredibly natural for me as a child became something forced (homework), intellectual (suffocating or just plain ‘ol incomprehensible) and sometimes elitist (layered with all this external stuff that had little to do with what I was looking at.) Now, please don’t misunderstand! This is not everyone’e experience. You, I am sure have your own individual baggage attached to why you stopped creating. Identify it for what it is–not helpful.
Think back for a moment. When did making, writing, singing, dancing become difficult, serious, boring, or just upsetting?
Now, imitate your favorite memory. For me, this was literally making my art on the floor with all my inks and paints around me. If it’s making up songs in the shower for you, do it. If it’s painting with your fingers, do it. If it’s making poems with only funny words, do it. Whatever it is, go do it! I promise it will make you feel good, and it’ll spark your interest in making more.
Set a Deadline and Tell Someone Close to You
For me this was January 1, 2011. I already had the idea for my Malcolm X project creeping around in my mind. I knew I could make it simply without the need for any resources not already in my little apartment. And I already developed enough fury about the fact that making art–something that came so naturally to me as child–became something so unfun in the last 5 years that I stopped. I was ready to redeem my lost years and get back to the child in me!
So, set a day, set a time, and tell someone who is already one of your biggest supporters about your plan. If they seem skeptical or put you or plan down, they’re not who I’m talking about. Who’s got your back and thinks all your dreams are fantastic? That’s the person you tell. They’ll say they’re so excited for you, and can’t wait to see or hear or read whatever you create. Be accountable to your friend, and follow through.
But don’t show them anything. At least not yet. Give yourself some time to play and become really excited before you let anyone into your creative space. If your friends are like (most of) mine, they’ll love whatever you make because they’ll be so impressed at the fact that you followed through on your dream and are making things happen! Congratulations!
Here’s a pic of my first project. I call it Malcolm Little.
Do you have any desires or plans to begin creating again lurking in you?