Can you remember the last time you did something creative just for fun? Can you remember the last time you learned something new? I couldn’t think of the last time I’d picked up a paint brush or done anything artistic a few years ago, but I started to see how important it was when I read Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and started following her work.
Once upon a time she also couldn’t think of the last time she’d done anything “arty" and thought people who took the time to do something creative were simply being self indulgent.
When friends would ask her to scrapbook or go to a pottery class she’d say, “Oh, that’s cute, but I don’t have time for that! You go do your A-R-T, I’ve got a J-O-B.”
But after interviewing thousands of people and digging into her research on creativity, she realized it's the opposite of self-indulgent and is actually one of the keys to living a full and happy life. If you feel resistant to the idea of doing something creative take a minute to think about these two truths Brené mentions in the book:
1. “I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.
2. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing—it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.
I mean, how many times have you heard someone say "I'm just not that creative." How many times have you heard yourself say it?
What really opened my eyes was what Brené said about creativity as an energy force we all have inside us. And that if we don't express it in some way it doesn't just go way, it manifests itself in our bodies in other ways.
I can speak from experience now when I tell you that embracing creativity in your life will change you (for the better!) and is a great way to get outside your comfort zone. Also, you also don't need to show your work to anyone if you don't want to. It's ok to do this just for you. And if you're a little scared at the thought of it I want you to know you're not alone.
Brené also talks about the fact that countless numbers of adults have what she calls "art scars."
In her research on shame, she found that 85% of the men and women she interviewed remembered an event in school that was so shaming, it changed how they thought of themselves for the rest of their lives. And 50% of those people had shame wounds around creativity, or art scars.
Think about this for yourself. Did a teacher or family member or friend ever make fun of or discount something you'd made when you were younger? Did you feel judged, rejected, stupid? If you're apprehensive about doing something creative, that one tiny event might be why.
And once you know where your fear of creativity comes from you can start to heal it.
I decided to give it a try for the first time five years ago. At first it felt kind of weird, like I didn't really know what I was doing or like I was "doing it wrong," but I kept going. In the beginning, I got really into doing mixed media art on canvases and art journaling, which are must dos for you perfectionists out there. They're both messy and layered and the only rule is to just go with the flow. It almost forces you to let go of wanting/needing it to be "perfect" because there's no such thing.
Basically, you can’t make a mistake and if you "mess it up" you just have to keep going and figure out a new way to make it into something you love in the end.
Not to be corny, but isn't that just like trudging through the rough times in life even when you can't yet see the beauty waiting for you on the other side?
Lately, I've been doing more scrapbooking projects and I'm on day 35 of #the100dayproject where you do a little something creative everyday. I've done everything from gratitude lists, to documenting my favorite quotes to scrapbooking selfies and writing little notes to myself. And the best part is that it's only purpose is to be F-U-N. You can check out my projects so far on Instagram and a few of my favorites below.
For you, it might not be art that feels right to you and that's totally fine, that's just the direction I chose. It might be cooking or dancing or taking photographs that lights you up. If you're a little stumped about what you'd want to do, try and think back to what you liked to do when you were a kid. I first heard this tip from Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project where she talks about finding hobbies as an adult by looking through the lens of your younger self.
Ask yourself what you liked to do when you were 10 and try that.
If you want to get your artsy creative juices flowing it's super easy to get started. And don’t worry, you don’t need to buy a bunch of fancy art materials to get going. All you really need is a notebook or mixed media/watercolor/scrapbook paper, brushes, paint, photos (if you want to use them) and some stuff you can likely find around the house. I've included a list of things you probably have and some links to my favorite supplies at the end of this post if you're not sure what to get, but first, check out some of my favorite sources for inspiration below.
If you need a little inspiration there are plenty of free resources out there to get you going. Here are three of my favorite people:
WILNA FURSTENBERG is a great resource for learning beautiful artful scrapbooking and art journaling techniques and she has a ton of videos on her YouTube channel. Her style is very whimsical and pretty and she tends to favor pastel colors with pops of black and brights. Just watching her videos makes me feel creative. She also offers a bunch of different classes, starting at $15, that I’d wholeheartedly recommend if you want some more guidance. You can see what she's all about by visiting her blog here.
SUSE FISH is one of my absolute favorites and does something I adore that she calls “scrap therapy.” She uses scraps of paper, paint, photos and different bits and bobs to create the most beautiful pages, and there’s a thread of spirituality and simplicity in all she does. Her creations have a feminine and soft vibe that I love—plus, her British accent is soothing and delightful to listen to in her videos. Her style and the colors she uses just make me happy, and she never fails to inspire. Check out her blog here.
ALI EDWARDS has more of a clean minimalistic style and combines artistic expression with self-reflection in her work. Her brand is all about crafting your story using photos and words and getting you to think about your life, while you create something to document it. She has awesome online classes too. My favorite is her One Little Word class (she launches it every January) where you pick a word for the year and she helps you keep it top of mind during the year with little artful projects every month. She also does her Week In The Life and Day In The Life projects a few times a year, which are a cool way to capture a snapshot of your life right now. You check out her site here.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO GET STARTED
If you want to start making your own crafty creations you really only need to buy a few things. Besides those basics you can probably find a lot of stuff around your house to use. Whether you want to try collage, art journaling, vision boarding, scrapbooking or anything else try using “found” items so you aren’t spending a bunch of money before finding out what you like. And it'll be super easy to get started if you have kids, just raid their art supplies!
SUPPLIES YOU MIGHT HAVE LYING AROUND:
- Gift wrap (try cutting out shapes and flowers or use as "patterned paper")
- Notebook paper, tissue paper, pages from old books (I like to go to thrift stores and buy cheap books to tear into for this)
- Ribbon, thread, or twine
- Cut out images and words from magazines and catalogues
- Paperclips, binder clips, buttons
- Scissors, a hole-punch, stapler
- Old credit cards or hotel room keys to spread thin layers of paint
If you don’t have any stamps to make markings you can do things like:
- Dip the end of a pencil eraser, wine cork or the raised side of bubble wrap in paint or ink to make dots
- Collect lids from different size bottles or jars you’re done with and dip the bottoms of them in paint to make circles (an empty toilet paper roll works great too!).
- Repurpose old kitchen utensils or tools you don’t use like forks, pastry brushes, scrapers, etc. to make lines or create texture in paint.
SUPPLIES YOU MIGHT NEED TO BUY:
You can find everything you need online (although taking a trip to my local art store or Michaels is part of the fun for me). Here are some of my faves you can buy on Amazon if you want to shop from your couch!
- Watercolor palette and brush set
- Acrylic paint and brush set
- A mixed media or watercolor paper journal or notebook (you can get loose sheets too). I like the two below, but any paper that is 90 lb. weight or heavier will work. Note: if you use a thinner weight paper the paint will seep through and you will not be happy.
- White gesso. Gesso is basically a primer that you use before putting acrylic paint on a page. Just paint the paper with a coat of gesso first to strengthen it and prevent bleed through if you're art journaling or doing mixed media. Note: If you want to keep it simple you can just use an old room key/credit card to scrape it on the page.
- Scrapbook paper, patterned and white. I put a 6x6 paper pad below that is under $6 if you want to dip your toe in with that. This is my favorite white cardstock.
- Adhesive. If you don't want to use glue a double sided tape runner is what you need.
- Mod Podge to use as glue and for collage
- They also make these cool paint brushes where you fill the end with water, which are great for watercoloring
FYI: These are affiliate links and I've used and love every one of these products!
So, what do you think? Are you going to give it a try?
If you feel like sharing anything you make I'd love to see it! Tag me on Instagram at @susie_draper or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.