If you're locked out from your own creativity, here’s 7 keys to help open the door..

                   'The Door' : © Leith O'Malley 2018

                  'The Door' : © Leith O'Malley 2018

Nothing is ever really simple. Just getting started can be a real challenge.

So how do creative people begin to create? Do their ideas just arrive?

And how do they arrive? Is there a recipe, a process?

Can we fast track creativity?

How do we open that door?

The Door is a metaphor in this case of course.

Coming up with an original idea or intuitive start to a painting, drawing or design can be a frustrating, daunting task for many, and everyone wants to know the best way to unlock the mind and explore within.

Most of the time I can find a key, an entry point.. but there are also times when I have to try and prise the door open with the help of other means.

Then there are the times I have found the door wide open and I simply need to pick up the pencil, paint brush or stylus and walk right in.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area but what I can say is that over the many years of creating ideas that evolve into art for exhibition, print or screen, I have stumbled upon a few personal truisms that I can gladly share with you here.

I guess you might call them key traits, habits or behavioural learnings but they have and still do.. open the door for me.

Hopefully these observations will help many of you looking for a way out.

As the way out is really the way in..


1.  Be overly observant

Looking is key. I mean really, really looking.

It’s not easy, but I think with the advent of mobile photography, more and more people are beginning to recognise composition, colour and balance in their everyday life.

Whether you are looking at the world via the lens of your camera or with your own eyes, start considering the viewpoint of your life and surroundings as art or opportunities for art.

Try to pay attention to the smallest of details right through to something as vast as an expanse of open sky. Be appreciative and welcoming of the shade, the night and the darkness.. just as you are of light.

It sounds simple but I want to encourage you to look and observe more. You won’t know it at the time, but much of what you see will unconsciously find its way into what you later create.

So that’s the first key. Take the window seat every time and gaze.

Watch the world whiz by, but absorb everything and anything.


2.  Boredom is underated

It really is. As much as you (and I) don’t want to hear it, we need to embrace the silence of being alone with ourselves more.

Yes, the dreaded ‘no phone time’ for many of us.

Pretty scary right?

In short, less phone traps and distractions lead to more considered thought. So when you find yourself in a situation that you consider boring, use that time to advantage.. it’s free time to not waste on negativity or dead thinking. Turn to productive thoughts. Turn boredom into considered, creative thought.. start turning that key!

Remember, it’s similar to coming home late from a party with friends.. it’s going to be hard to get that key in the door but you need to try.

So don’t be afraid to experience boredom and use some of that staring into space time for some serious concentration and reflection. It's not the hours in the day, it's the days in the hours.. use your time productively!


3.  The Muse is Dead, Long live the Muse

I stopped blaming a mythical inspirational figure for a lack of ideas a long time ago.
Don’t wait for inspiration my friend, seek it out!
Sure it can take time and a lot of work to arrive at that next ‘thing’ you want to get started on but remember, if you are collecting your thoughts and ideas along the way you will always have momentum via a library of inspiration.

Become like a bower bird. Collect movies, music, docos, photos, text, tutorials, poetry.. all things that excite and stimulate your creative side.
Collect unique words and phrases. An archive of creative thought or departure points that may generate images, concepts or further ideas for making original art images born from creative thought.

At the same time, always reduce and simplify. Keep your own personal collection of images that interest you.. whether it’s from online images that inspire or even photos from your own camera roll.

Kill your darlings as they say. Don’t become too attached to the images, artists and techniques of the past. The best art is still happening right now.. be alive and awake enough to seek out and enjoy the present as much as the past. Find mentors or like minded souls and learn from them.

As for the dreamers.. your muse will eventually turn up - but only if he or she finds you working :)


4.  Procrastination

Hey I'll tell you the weirdest thing about what happens with me in regard to procrastination, creative block or how ever you want to describe those times when you can't find the right art ignition key.

I take a bath.

Huh? you say?
It's true. For some reason either a hot bath or shower always seems to be the best thing for me in solving an idea, creating one or generating many others. It also helps me stay clean :)
No joke. I had to look it up on the net but apparently it's a thing. There are others out there who share this strange phenomenon. Something about hot water being a catalyst.   

So why not end up in hot water at the beginning of a project rather than the end lol!

Seriously though, that pesky procrastination happens to all of us at various times and for a variety of reasons. I think staying fit and focussed helps. Getting plenty of rest, having a break from art making, drinking lots of wine.. I mean water.. and starting or returning to your art with fresh eyes is always a good art starter.

I should say at this point that art making is meant to also be fun so don't forget that. Trying to stay as positive as one can in this ever changing world and looking after yourself will go a long way in rejuvenating that right brain of yours.

Failing that, go take a bath ;)


5. The Death of Ego

You need to get out of your own way. You are not somehow more special than anyone else because you create art. Thinking about your own self importance is a waste of time. Don’t try and make art that you think you should be doing, or that people expect of you.

Be the best 'You' that you can. Trust your gut. Focus on what you really care about and follow those thoughts.
As mentioned earlier, start to record thoughts, ideas and anecdotes. Allow happenstance and coincidence to creep into some of those collected thoughts and join the dots at a later stage to see where some of it may lead.

Be relentlessly curious and start to trust in your instincts when it comes to your own creations and decision making. However, also be constructively critical of your own work and learn how to take similar criticism from others.

Ultimately, don’t become too comfortable in your own skin. Remain humble and seek a path of constant renewal and learning with regard to your journey in art and life.


6. Kill your Idols

Study traditional and contemporary artists, their art styles and different mediums.
Return to them often, but always be on the look out for new inspirational heroes and techniques to be enthused about.
Keep an open mind and soak up everything and anything.

Find what it is that ‘works’ or is successful to you in an image. If you want to be successful in what you are doing, study those that are doing it. Be prepared to put the hours in but at your own life’s pace. Just like your heroes you can produce art that takes very little time and also work which takes years.

Remember, the great artists give us something to aim at and miss. Remain inspired by works from the past but start to recognise the difference between being inspired by someone elses art as opposed to the imitation of it. This is important if you want to work towards a style of your own.


7.  The liberation of letting go

You don't have to hold on to the same ways of thinking and practices in art.
The freedom to choose new mediums and techniques is yours. You decide on what direction you want to go, and whether to develop a cohesive or less cohesive body of work.

Mix things up. Experiment.

Allow yourself to make a few mistakes along the way and don't be too precious about every thing you begin. The key thing is that there are no real rules in art. You get to choose your own way to express yourself with any tool or method you want. That could be a scalpel, a brush, a roller, a piece of charcoal, a stylus, a camera, a mobile phone, some sculpting clay, paper collage, a digital tablet, a spray can, a stencil, your body.. you name it. 

Abandon conformity if you have to. Sticking strictly to one technique or medium might prevent you from growing and exploring new questions and journeys in your art making.

My final key (and one I continually remind myself about) is to do that. Simply let go.
The liberation in staying calm or less worried about what you want to create is the thing which will free up your imagination. Of course that is easier said than done, but you have got to try and get close to that point.

The real key lies in preparation. At least that's what I have experienced.
As I have allured to in the previous paragraphs, if you come to the canvas (or whatever art medium you choose) in not only the right intuitive mind set but with some sense of what it is you want to create.. you strengthen your odds and confidence of a much better result.  

Ok, I think I have rambled on enough here. I hope some of what I have mentioned in the post helps open a few new or current doors for you.

I would love to hear from any of you working on either side of that door, so please comment below or hit me up via any of the social media links at the end of this post.

Miles of creative smiles,


                                 'connect' illustration : © Leith O'Malley 2018

                                'connect' illustration : © Leith O'Malley 2018