A Fun Creative Exercise That Works

When was the last time you wanted to make something, but inspiration was as scarce as clean underwear on laundry day? For me, it’s too often to admit. I want to work in my art journal, or practice lettering, but I just can’t. Get. Going. Lucky for you and me, the Jumpstart feature in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors is our creative salvation.

The article, “Find Your Mojo with Craft-Overs,” is a brilliant and really fun way to get the gears turning. Susana Magenheimer, who wrote the article, is just like us—sometimes her mojo says buh-bye, leading her to develop a go-to technique for firing up the engine: doodling images over random swipes of paint on an index card. Who knew? Apparently she did. Susana writes, “Going through the process of doodling images from paint smears opens my mind and helps me see images that are intriguing. I can then take inspiration from those images and recreate them in one of my art journaling or mixed-media projects.”

From leftover acrylic paint, great things can come!
From leftover acrylic paint, great things can come!

I waited to try this creative exercise until I had the trifecta of wanting to do something artistic, not knowing what to do or where to start, and lacking confidence to dive into a big project. At least I had done my homework—the last time I used acrylic paint and watercolor, I had some index cards nearby, and used them to wipe up the leftover paint on my surfaces.

While some acrylic paint was still wet on my nonstick craft mat, I dragged a few index cards through the swatches of color. Susana recommends trying not to use more than three colors to avoid making mud, and to be able to see shapes more clearly. As I swiped the cards through the paint, it dawned on me how efficient this was—I always think it’s wasteful to have leftover paint on my mat, and now I know what to do with it!

Don’t toss that extra paint left on your craft mat—turn it into a project for a creative exercise.
Don’t toss that extra paint left on your craft mat—turn it into a project for a creative exercise.

As the paint began to dry on the mat, I lightly wet areas with a mister to activate it again.

Reactivate leftover paint by misting it with water.
Reactivate leftover paint by misting it with water.

Here are a few of the cards that I liked and thought would be great for doodling:

Preparing cards in advance makes it easy to start your creative exercise whenever you need inspiration.
Preparing cards in advance makes it easy to start your creative exercise whenever you need inspiration.

And here are a few I was meh about:

Don’t toss less-than-perfect cards; think of ways to reuse them.
Don’t toss less-than-perfect cards; think of ways to reuse them.

While working with watercolor paint and spray inks, I had a bunch of color left over in my tray. Out came the cards, and this is what I got:

Leftover watercolor and spray ink makes great inspiration for doodles, too.
Leftover watercolor and spray ink makes great inspiration for doodles, too.

I also grabbed a sketchbook and pressed a couple of pages into the extra paint and ink:

Use this creative exercise with art journal pages, too.
Use this creative exercise with art journal pages, too.

In a couple of days the perfect storm arrived, and I got down to business. I pulled out one of the acrylic paint cards, a Sakura Pigma Micron 01 black pen, and started looking for basic shapes. The first thing I saw was a heart, so I outlined it, then drew some lines inside. I saw two more heart shapes, and outlined and doodled those as well. Before I knew it, I was engrossed in my little 3″ x 5″ artwork, searching for images as if this were a Rorschach test. I saw a wing, then a bird, then another bird. I doodled in areas that didn’t look like anything in particular, creating a variety of patterns. I used a white gel pen in some of the darker areas.

Creating these doodles loosened me up and revived my creativity.
Creating these doodles loosened me up and revived my creativity.

This creative exercise was lifting my fog! I chose another card, a watercolor/ink one this time. Turning the card to see if any designs leaped out, I saw a weird creature with a tail, and created a quirky face, hair, and some patterns. I outlined a few other amorphous shapes and doodled in those (borrowing a great pattern from Susana), then drew a light border around the card. What I loved about this warm-up was that there was no pressure to turn out anything fantastic—these were just index cards, after all. If I hated them, I could toss them with no guilt. More important, this was fun. I wasn’t doing a sketch in preparation for a drawing, or designing the cover of a book. It was just play, pure and simple.

What you see in the painted shapes will be unique to you—and that’s what makes this creative exercise so fun.
What you see in the painted shapes will be unique to you—and that’s what makes this creative exercise so fun.

I decided to give the so-so index cards, which didn’t inspire any doodles, some attention. I stenciled one or two layers over the color, and thought they’d work well as collage fodder or tip-ins, or pages in a book.

Turn your so-so paint swatch cards into something special with stamps and stencils, and use them in another project.
Turn your so-so paint swatch cards into something special with stamps and stencils, and use them in another project.

Feeling as if I had just done a great warm-up at the gym, I was now ready to tackle something meatier. Ideas were flowing, I suddenly had energy, and I started gathering supplies for a bigger project.

Try this creative exercise the next time your creativity needs a jumpstart, and see what happens. I bet it will be something fantastic.
Jeannine

See Susana’s complete article in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, where you’ll find lots more to kickstart your creativity. If you need extra inspiration, explore these products from the North Light Shop!

Discover how to make the ordinary extraordinary
Discover how to make the ordinary extraordinary in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
YearOfInspirationKit-
The Mixed Media Year of Inspiration Collection includes ideas, projects, techniques, and more to keep you inspired.
InspirationalJournals
Joanne Sharpe has ideas galore for creating journals you can use as artistic inspiration in her video, Joanne Sharpe’s Inspirational Art Journals.

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4 thoughts on “A Fun Creative Exercise That Works

  1. I always feel like I must be the only “crafty” person who sometimes just is at a loss for how to start. It’s usually because I am blessed to have too many choices of what to do or work with (i.e. Supplies, extras, hoards of craft things) combined with stress or anxiety (sometimes from that “hoard” of craft things!). It’s so frustrating, because generally speaking, those are the times I need to be able to “make” more than any other! Thank you for the articulate presentation of a simple idea (the ones I over-complicate the most, lol). And a *huge* bit of gratitude for sharing your “meh” ones especially; I like some of those just as much as your “good” ones! Great way to show how much we judge ourselves, and how we aren’t always correct! I hope I can get a copy of June/July!

    1. Thank you! I think we’re all in the same boat when it comes to occasionally feeling uninspired or overwhelmed by all the choices we have. Sometimes I challenge myself to use just three supplies, and that forces me to get creative and think of what else a material can do. ~ Jeannine

  2. I’m actually starting a series of doodled ATCs with backgrounds made very similarly…

    Try gel pen ink and gel hand sanitizer (like germ-x)!!!

    1.Scribble randomly with multiple color gel pens (3 colors is indeed best, and don’t discount black gel pens…these usually end up a deep purple!) on a non-porous surface (I use my desk)
    2.squirt hand sanitizer on top
    3.use an unfolded paperclip to stir just a tiny bit (randomizing the ink pattern even more without truly “mixing”)
    4.pull a print. And then a ghost print. And another until you run out of ink (add sanitizer as needed)
    5.set aside to dry

    The prints have veins! Like, arteries, or leaf veins. You’re going to LOVE this!!!!

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