Children are synonymous with creativity. The older we get the harder it is to hold on, as if our intangible creative spirit seeps from our slowly emerging wrinkles. For those of us that create for a living it becomes a lifelong challenge to retain the spark of curiosity that children overflow with. Visual artists can reignite it by exploring artistic expression through music and other forms of art.
A good friend of mine is a professional drummer. He teaches several days a week and when he isn't teaching he's either practicing or taking master classes in the city. In the struggle to always improve his skill set one of his teachers (we call him "The Budda" because of his ability to unite drum lessons with life lessons) suggested that he take up another instrument in order to help him improve at drums.
We may ask ourselves, "How does playing another instrument help him get better at the drums?" But exploring a different perspective (guitar) on the same concept (music) enables him to apply new ideas to his old methods of thinking. Understanding harmonies allows him to create rhythms that better intertwine with the melodic instruments in a band.
In addition to giving him a new perspective it also allows him to explore a realm of art that he hasn't studied and isn't comfortable with. This can lead to interesting artistic interpretations - all from playing around - that can be brought back to the drums.
We can apply this technique to our own artistic expression.
Do What We Don't
Let's step away from the computer for a while. If you're a graphic designer like I am it's time to pick up a paint brush or maybe have a go at silkscreen printing. Already do that? Then find something you don't do and have a go. There's so much to choose from! We can try collaging, sculpture, illustration, and so on.
We can use the ideas we get from exploring unfamiliar mediums and apply them to graphic design.
Being a graphic designer shouldn't limit us to visual art. Instead of trying to get creative with the same tools and perspectives we always use let's do what we don't normally do and pick up a musical instrument. Since we have no intention of becoming world class musicians (or even getting paid) we will put less pressure on ourselves and just play.
For the last six months I've been playing with the guitar, and when I say "playing" I mean it in a childlike sense, not a musical one. I'm not playing the guitar or playing music, but playing for the sake of playing. Sure, I've gotten better, but my only goal is to have fun; there's no deadline looming over my head and no magical dream to work towards.
Resurface the Spark
When I play my guitar I try to express myself through it. Knowing little to nothing about music, it's a challenge to be at peace with not having an understanding of what I'm doing. I do my best to feel through the instrument. Most of the time it sounds dissonant, cacophonous, and just plain ugly, but every so often I fiddle together a few notes that sound great. That's the spark.
It's the spontaneous combustion of creativity. Beautiful things happen when we don't search for them. Children let their curiosity and enjoyment fuel their fun, regardless if they know what they're doing. We have to remember that it's okay to do things without goals. By playing an instrument we can remind ourselves of the feelings we get from playing for the sake of playing.
Take that feeling, that whimsical light-footedness, and bring it back to visual art. Use musical exploration as a reminder of the importance of playtime. Let the surprise we get from stumbling over ourselves in music inspire us to stumble over ourselves more often.
We may trip and fall - hopefully we will - and land in a beautiful puddle of creative newness.