Sunday, December 2, 2007

Loosening up

For a while, I taught drawing and painting classes at our excellent local art center. Some of my students were very skilled professional artists and designers, but they had lost touch with their own unique visions and were not having very much fun. They liked my class because I approached art practice from a completely different angle. I wrote a little pamphlet called "All at Once, a Guide to Practically Instant Creativity" to be sold in the center's gift shop.

It was a lot of work printing those things out and stapling them (an indication of their professional production values), so I decided to put the second edition online. You can find it (for free) at

It contains a series of simple lessons, each with a group of tested exercises to help artists get in touch with themselves.

Here is a sample:

Do it Rong
from All at Once: a practically instant guide to creativity

We live in a time of professionals. Professionals do things right. Singers hit every note. Writers make prose invisible. Dancers, skaters and gymnasts follow definite rules as they challenge the laws of physics.
There are right ways to do your taxes. There are right ways to discipline your child. There are right ways to drive.
There is no right way to be a creative artist.
Have you ever heard yourself say, “I’ll paint that picture someday--after I study the rules of color.”
Why study rules? Rules say this way is right. That way is wrong. People made them up. People break them--all the time. As a painter, you can look up the ones you need. Don’t worry about the rest.
Rules are ready-to-use, one-size-fits-all decisions. In daily life they are wonderful. In art they are not.
An artist makes his or her own decisions. The quality of decisiveness is recognizable instantly in a drawing or painting.
It is called style.


1. Make a mess.
Cover your carpet with a tarp. Close the door so nobody will hear you. Use lots and lots of inexpensive materials. Have you ever watched small children draw or paint? They are finished in five minutes, and you should be too. Do one piece, then another, then another. Two hours is a good stretch for a start. You may or may not create a masterpiece, but the time you waste will be more truly your own than any you have spent in years.

2. Break an art rule you have learned. For example, did someone tell you never to use black? Do a painting with black outlines or do a painting with black ink on rice paper.

3. Make a list of rules that drove you nuts when you were a kid. Share your list with friends over a good dinner. Do a painting about one of those rules or its enforcement.
to read the rest, or revisit this blog. I will repost the rest of the "book" here.