Have you heard the story of the first (and only) time my husband took me flying?
In the early days of our relationship, Nick sought to impress me with his ability to fly small planes. I, in turn, wanted to show that I was impressed and prove that I trusted him. So I accompanied him to a small local airport. (How small? There was a stop sign at the end of the runway.)
So we climb into the Cessna two-seater and while I'm buckling up he opens the glove compartment and takes out a laminated card with directions on it. Directions like, "Step 1: Turn on engine."
All I could think was, "Oh my gosh. He needs to read the directions to fly this plane!"
Despite my apprehension, I stayed seated and we had a lovely hour in the sky. I learned how much Nick loved flying, how proud he was of getting his pilot's license, and how much I loved being with him, no matter what.
It was several years later that I learned that the laminated card was The Checklist, something that every pilot, no matter how experienced, follows every single time he flies.
Now, what does this have to do with art? Simply that it can be a good idea to have a reference list, be it of trusted techniques, brainstormed ideas, design rules, or samples of experiments you've tried, that you can refer to when creating. You don't want to forget a good idea!
Sure, you could just wing it. And at some point in the creative process, you should. But The List provides you with touchstones to the nuts and bolts of creating that, combined with the inspiration of the moment, allow you to soar.
This occurred to me when I was reading Debbie Bates' interactive article in the In Stitches 2 eMag. She created a "passport" to creativity that references stitching and embellishment methods she wanted to explore. One of her passport book pages has a denim pocket on it embroidered with the words Love + Flying and a peace sign with wings. When that image jumped into my view (literally, as they eMag is a kinetic, interactive experience), I immediately thought of both the beauty and practical aspects of flying.
This passport-style reference book could be made for any kind of application, not just stitching and embellishment. Here are some of Debbie's tips for making a passport to creative exploration for yourself.
Start simply. Limit yourself to one or two patterns or materials per page. This gives you permission to explore without feeling guilty about using up a lot materials or achieving less-than-perfect results.
Choose a theme. The theme could be a color, a substrate (e.g. fabric , watercolor paper), or a motif. For example, you might choose a fleur-de-lis and then explore how that would look stamped, hand embroidered, screen-printed, reverse-appliquéd, graffiti-painted, stenciled, or as a paper mosaic.
Set a tone. Play with a lot of materials until you get a mix that fits the mood you're after (such as playful or vintage). Don't be afraid to tinker with it as you go along. If suddenly you want to experiment with metal, go for it! It's your journey.
Add pages at will. As your skills and interests change, add more pages or start another passport. The assembly of this book makes it easy.
Debbie's passport is part sampler, part sketchbook, part creative adventure. With this "checklist" of basic techniques, she can take her artwork to new heights.
If you want directions on how to make and assemble the book, along with Debbie's tips for designing pages, be sure to download your own copy of Quilting Arts In Stitches Vol. 2.
P.S. Do you have a checklist? What's on it? What's it like? Or, do you prefer to create art by the seat of your pants? Reveal your flight plan in the comments section below.