Back in November I started working through Marion Deuchar's book Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists, committing to doing every single exercise.
I called this project a creative experiment because I wasn't really sure what would happen. I hypothesized that working through every exercise in this book would yield creative returns, but I didn't know what those would look like. I hoped that it would help me to develop some creative discipline and that I would get better at creative play. You can read more about my expectations about the project here.
I'm halfway through the book now - I've (almost) completed 9 of the 18 artists - and I'm happy to report that it's going even better than I had hoped. This book has become a cornerstone of my creative practice, and it sets the tone for the work that I do later in the day. I've definitely become hooked on creative play, though the idea of discipline is kind of out the window since I look forward to each exercise so much and hate walking away when my time is up. I don't think I've ever been so happy to stick to an artistic commitment - I can't get enough!
Besides pure pleasure, here are some other things I've gotten from/learned from this experiment:
- This project has reinforced my commitment to doing what's most important first. And I deem creative play, experimentation, and learning as most important for me to grow as an artist and as a creativity crusader. I spend Monday - Wednesday at the office, and Thursday and Friday at home. On Thursdays and Friday I put working on the book as number one on my to do list. On the few days when I didn't go straight to my craft table (usually before breakfast), and told myself that I would work in the book after I finished my other tasks, it never happened. Not once. The only way that I made any progress was by putting it at the top of the list.
- I've been trying to incorporate a regular "play" practice into my routine for years without much success. Without a concrete goal in mind it was way too easy to put other things first. Once I finish this book I think I'll either start another book with similar exercises, or I'll set some kind of measurable, specific goal that I can work towards a bit each week. I've learned that I need assignments - whether they're given to me or whether I create them myself - to help me get things done.
- Starting the day off with play gets me in the right mindset for the rest of the day. Especially when I'm working toward a deadline, I often find myself taking my work way too seriously and letting it weigh me down. The pure joy that I get from printing with lids or cutting out colourful paper reminds me that I do this because it's fun. That usually takes the weight and pressure off and I enjoy the rest of the day so much more.
- Colouring in shapes and drawing repetitive patterns can feel like meditating. I find my mind often goes empty as I focus on the shapes and colours, and I feel rejuvenated afterwards.
- Doing the exercises that I don't like has value, even if I struggle all the way through them. It forces me to stay put, to avoid running away or hiding, to stay focused and to finish something. And I usually find something interesting in even the most unappealing assignments.
- Sharing on social media helps to keep me committed. Even though I don't have people expectantly asking when the next #drawpaintprint post will happen, it still makes me feel like I can't disappoint my audience (as imaginary as that audience may be) and I make sure I have something to post every week.
- Play time leads to good ideas. This was a hoped for outcome, and it proved to be true within the first couple of weeks. I did a few sketches of a "favourite object" - a cow's vertebrae that I've had since I was a kid - and decided that it would make a great linocut. I've also gotten ideas for teaching methods, and for specific workshops I could run.