Let's make art
We often stand on the sidelines, hoping to satisfy our creative yearnings by giving acclaim to others. Let's stop that and make something. Freely. Wildly. Fearlessly. Let's celebrate our own unique, idiosyncratic and irregular self.
Practice being fearless
We're going to make a drawing, and it's going to be fun. We'll get to those 7 steps soon.
But first, let's get you primed to be a fearless defender of your sensitive inner creator.
You need to practice that not because you must spend 10,000 hours toiling to become a great artist. But because most of us have been trained to not be brazen creative heroes.
Our early, tender sprouts of wild 'making' were most likely shamed and criticized. We took it very much to heart.
Who nipped your creativity in the bud?
One of my earliest creative antagonists was an angry Kindergarden music teacher. I should be grateful we even had music classes – but I’m not. Because one sunny day while leading us in song, she scared the music right out of me.
The song was a children's tune later made popular by Raffi about when you wake up in the morning. In the back of the classroom, my friend Claudia and I sang heartily. The song had a cheerful, repetitive refrain of "You brush your teeth!" Delighted by this line, we began to improvise, injecting ever sillier phrases into the chorus: "You put toothpaste on your toothbrush! You grab the soap! You wash your face! You go to the bathroom! You wipe with toilet paper!!"
I remember pure euphoria, like a puppy let loose to run through a meadow. The sun poured into the room and we felt no reason to stop, so pleased were we with our clever, free-flowing lyrics. Until the teacher snapped. Suddenly, her face loomed in front of mine, bitter with rage. Next thing I know, I'm alone in the hallway, expelled from Kindergarden music class.
The hall was dark and empty. My chest felt hollow, and walking down the bleak stairwell was like heading into a bottomless pit. My five-year-old legs shook as I neared the closed door to my homeroom where I'd been ordered to return to admit my crime. My homeroom teacher made little of it and told me to play until my classmates returned. When they finally trooped in, I stayed drooped in shame over the sandbox, stiffly sifting sand and hoping to disappear forever.
Give that poor child a hug
As a grown-up, I feel compassion for this music teacher. Clearly the role was not her true calling. She must have been unhappy. Nevertheless, we didn't deserve it. Claudia was an adorable, spirited brunette. I was a rambunctious, wacky blonde. We were neither of us chronic troublemakers, (though Claudia did grow up to be director of the Environmental Law Clinic at UC Berkeley).
I want to tell this music teacher to Shut Up.
Remember how cute and vulnerable you were too?
claim your creative freedom – in 7 easy steps!
Did you know that Bowie wrote some of his greatest songs not through obedient, arduous work, but with a free-form technique he learned from William Burroughs? “You write down a paragraph or two describing different subjects ...and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections, mix ‘em up and reconnect them.”
That sounds fun. However making music is too intimidating. My inner singer is still a bit weepy. Instead, let's draw.
1) Get pastels
They are creamy soft and smudge well. They don't need any set-up like paints. They're inexpensive and easy to buy.
You can also use crayons, colored pencils, paint of any kind that doesn't involve turpentine or drop-cloths, Sharpies pilfered from the office supply cabinet, or any combination of all of the above.
Just give yourself at least a dozen distinct colors to play with, and no ballpoint pens.
2) Make A Really "Bad" Drawing
You know – that same old doodle you've been doodling since grade school. Here's mine.
Make it BIG, so it takes up most of the page. Use regular 8.5" x 11" white printer paper.
Leave a lot of white space.
3) Use colors you DON'T Like
Start by using only colors you don't like. I didn't like any of these greens.
That way, when my mean inner critic starts telling me my drawing is no good, I can retort that it's not because I'm a bad artist: I meant it to look bad.
The doodle provides a simple bit of structure. Make ungainly shapes within, around and over the doodle lines.
4) Add More Color
Make a mess. Do not stick to the doodle form.
... I can still make out a face in here.
5) use only colors you like
Pick from the pile of colors you like.
Completely obscure all indications of the original form of the doodle.
Keep coloring in, wildly.
Use every color you like at least once.
6) leave no space uncolored
Don't try to do anything except fill up all the space on the paper with color.
And make sure you scribble over any remaining doodle lines.
7) decide which way up
Once you like it, you're done.
Congratulations! You are now a wildly creative artist.
To really piss off my Kindergarden music teacher, frame it and hang it on the wall.
And please email me a photo of your drawing.
And in the end
Many years later, I took my five-month-old baby to a Mommy and Me music class. We sang the Brush Your Teeth song. It all came back to me.
At the end of the class, I stayed behind and quietly sang my and Claudia's extended version to my infant son. He laughed and cooed, looked into my eyes, and smiled his delightful smile all the way through.
Then we went home and took a nap.
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