I teach Creative Expression sessions at a destination health and wellness resort in Tucson. These are individual sessions, focused on the unique needs of each guest. We discuss their creative life, and hopes and goals for the same. We consider their personal life demands, creative interests, and past creative activities as we explore options for a visual arts practice or experience. These guests come from all kinds of professions and backgrounds, and are generally very successful in many aspects of life.
One interesting facet of this job is seeing the drive humans have toward creativity. These are people actively seeking ways to enhance creativity in their everyday lives. They describe a longing to explore imagination, to connect more closely with their internal and external world, and to express themselves in fresh ways. Most lack formal art training, and often see that as a barrier to using the visual arts. With support they begin to explore the many, varied ways an art practice can occur.
Occasionally I work with trained artists who have lost their way over the years. They often describe a deep sense of loss about their disconnection with a creative life.
Personal considerations vary from those who have just retired or lost a spouse and want to use their days in a personally fulfilling way, to those in the middle years of raising children, working full time, and running a household-with or without help. The amount of available time varies, and often drives the type of creative activity that is reasonable to attempt.
Remember to set yourself up for success. If time is limited, space is tight, and days are full it is best to pay attention and choose accordingly. A short, portable, quick practice may best support your creative drive and not lead to further frustration.
Years ago, while working full time as an attorney, raising two pre-teens, and running a household I still had a personal need to engage in an art practice. There simply was almost no time. My solution was to carve out 10 minutes a day, with a sketchbook and a pencil. Every day I stopped at a park on my way to the office and drew a tree, a different tree each day. Eventually my daily tree drawings filled an entire sketchbook. Many days I simply drew what I could see from the parking lot. It was not a glamorous art practice, and was not shared with anyone.
However, that simple art practice provided several important things. First, I had private time for myself and my art life. I was an artist, each day, for a specific amount of time. It provided a quiet transition space between family and the office. Drawing provided an opportunity to focus intently on something outside of my head, turned off the list of things to do, and allowed a few minutes of what is called “flow”. Ultimately I got really good at SEEING and drawing many different kinds of trees! I had time to experiment with drawing styles, and when I looked at art I felt engaged with other artists.
I interviewed a woman, Norma Hendrix, who was running a busy non-profit arts organization and was also a part-time musician. She described a similar practice. Every morning, before getting out of bed, she opens her sketchbook and does one blind contour drawing. She gets out of bed having connected with her personal art life at least once each day.
There is tremendous value in even the most limited kind of regular creative practice. I believe those tree drawings were a vital part of my mental health, and my development as an artist. I encourage anyone longing for a creative practice with limited time and resources to create a practice that is sustainable in even the smallest ways.
(All drawings by the author)