Creative practice is not just about seeing improvement in your art, it is about creating habits that support your mental health.
It's no coincidence that I started taking creative practice more seriously during the pandemic. Art therapy is not a new concept, but trying to be creative can also cause a lot of stress. In an effort to get the most stress relief out of art without causing more stress in the process, I've adopted a project based approach.
What is project based creative practice?
The point of these guidelines is to limit the laborious decision making process. Perhaps the subject is the same every time. You could work through a sequence or a set of subjects. You could choose just one medium or approach one subject from every medium. Fewer decisions is key. You make the rules. You can break the rules.
Habits are amazing! If you want to do a little of something every day, try to pick a time of day that you can work it into your routine. Maybe once a week is all you've got in you. Put it in your calendar or keep your sketchbook in your purse. There are times when you just don't have the time. Don't beat yourself up, just pick it up again when you do have the time.
What excites one person just doesn't do it for another. Make sure you pick something that YOU think sounds fun. You'll be the one doing it and remember you can change your mind. A sketchbook that you intended to fill with one thing can always be finished off with something else.
A project can be on-going, but is nice for it to end with something you can hold in your hands. When a project ends it gives you a chance to reevaluate and do something different. Maybe it has a timeline and you will do something through the summer. A winter project can be a nice way to pass those never-ending dark months. You could do many of a subject until you get a dozen you like and put them all up on your wall. Finishing a sketchbook always brings a certain amount of satisfaction.
I drew and painted bunnies every day starting in October 2020 and that fizzled off around Valentine's Day. I loved that I knew what I'd work on: bunnies and describing their character. It was a great way to play with paint, page layout, and get better at drawing one thing. I filled a half a sketchbook and now I'm filling the rest with other odds and ends.
The Advent Example
Advent is a time of traditions for our family and unwrapping a new ink was a blast. I then incorporated the ink and our devotions into a drawing. Trying to come up with something that tied it all together was a challenge, but it got me back at the art desk every night and jumpstarted some great habits for me. In the end I filled a sketchbook in less than a month! What a great Christmas gift to myself!
Urban sketching can be done solo, but it has also gotten pretty organized. We even have a local group that meets up regularly in the non-raining season. I keep a sketchbook devoted to this, but it doesn't get many entries November-March. Such a great way to meet other local artists, interact with your community, and make new friends!
I keep this mighty little sketchbook in my purse. I'd like to practice sketching people more and the tiny (3.5" tall) pages aren't too intimidating. If I'm waiting somewhere with the kids, they are pretty entertained with being my models. Adding the watercolor later when I'm home seems to be the easiest option.
This is another one the kids have loved to join in on. I write little poems in this little journal devoted to only them. The leather cover really makes my silly poems feel extra special. I thought I'd be just practicing my rhymes, but unexpectedly they have a way of collecting moments that were otherwise slipping away.
The Some Lines A Day Example
A limited amount of space to fill means it takes just a little amount of time every day. I really just write the first things that come into my head about the day and it's already been interesting looking back at last year. Leuchtturm1917 has some wonderful paper in this journal, but there are a bunch of options on the market.
If someone told me that I had to create a blog post every day for three months, I would not be impressed. However, because I am writing/drawing/painting a response to something I wrote 15 years ago it feels manageable. The experience of reflecting is pushing me in so many wonderful and unplanned ways.