Posts Tagged 'artist’s process'

Wanna Be More Creative? Start Creating.

I think most people would say the following statement is true:

People who are creative create.

But I think we’ve mostly got it backwards—I think it’s quite the opposite:

People who create are creative.

This may seem like a subtle difference, but I think it’s the key to being creative and sustaining a creative practice. Let me explain . . .

If I had to give you one ultimate truth about the creative process that I’ve learned through making art regularly, it would be: Art leads to more art, meaning: the more art you make, the more ideas you get for more art. This is true with any creative process. There’s just no way to stop it from happening: when you’re making something you inevitably get ideas to make other things because your mind naturally thinks up new ideas and solutions, especially when you’re in a creative state of mind.

Creative ideas are often talked about like these lightning bolts that come out of the blue. We’ve all heard some version of a story about the creative genius who got her/his career-defining idea in the shower, on the bus, while walking—in general while doing nothing. This might lead you to think that if you were really creative, then you too would get these lightning bolt ideas. And if you haven’t, that must mean you’re not really creative. The part that is being left out of the story is that said “genius” had been spending hours and days of his or her life creating and therefore mentally immersed in the creative process. They had basically been cultivating a little nest where creative ideas could incubate. The particular circumstances of when their lightning bolt idea arrived is less important than the fact that they were constantly opening themselves to ideas through the creative process.

This opening is THE KEY to being creative. All you need to do is sit down at your desk, stand at your easel, open you’re notebook, hold your guitar. Then, start playing. Some days you will just mess around and won’t find any real direction, other days you will start to find a lead and follow it, and then still other days you will catch on fire with a new idea and start jamming on it heartily. All of this is part of the creative process, whether you’re a practiced maker or completely new at your craft. There will be days when you feel like you are wandering around in the dark. But if you make time to be creative, and you show up, and you keep showing up over and over again, the ideas will ALWAYS come. It’s just a matter of time.

I regularly forget all of this, but I was reminded of it yesterday two times—first when I sat down to write, and second when I sat down to draw. I had no ideas before either of these actions, but when I just let myself put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard some surprising ideas came out that I never would have arrived at had I waited for an idea to come first {for example the drawings at the top of this post}. This is how most of my ideas have arrived—as happy accidents, or as “what ifs?” while I’m making something else. If you trust in this, and keep rededicating yourself to the process, you will have all you ever need for an entire life of creativity.

Here are some specific pointers to help you with this process—

When you sit down:

~Throw ideas of “good” and “bad” out the window
~Let it be play
~Be open to any idea that comes
~Just begin! A drawing starts with one line. A story starts with one word.

Happy Making!

Be Who You Are


{“July” drawing from my 2012 Dots and Lines mini calendar, available in my shop}

This morning I’ve been writing. I discovered a couple of months ago that one of my favorite ways to write is to just open up a computer document and type on about random things for however long I feel like it, what you might call free-writing. This is not really a new discovery, I’ve been writing every morning like this in an actual paper journal for about five years, and I’ve always found that just the act of sitting and writing soothes me. Many of my biggest mental challenges have been solved this way—it’s a form of meditation for me.

But a couple of months ago, I felt this want to make a new book—something more expansive than I had made before. And in considering how to start, and while re-reading one of my favorite books on writing (Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg), it occurred to me—why don’t I start free-writing more deliberately, and in the direction of some ideas I have been having for said book idea? I’ve also long loved the act of typing on the computer—it feels so fun and therapeutic to me to just start tapping away on the keys. And so a new writing practice was born for me.

Now I have generally finished that new book project (more on that soon—I’m waiting to receive my first copy from the printer!), and I am feeling another want to write something new. Yesterday, I started free-writing again to see where it takes me.

While I write, all of the demon thoughts come out again, things like: no one is going to care about or “get” the weird little books you make and you need to find a topic and write a “real” book this time. As my free-writing generally becomes a chorus of all the voices in my head, a different voice came back with more inspiring thoughts like: just make what sounds fun to you and what is a “real” book anyway?

Isn’t it funny how we’re always trying to fit ourselves and what we do into a defined box that already exists? I have dreams of myself in some alternate perfect universe writing neat books that would fit on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, or better yet, being a neat person who goes to work every morning and brings home the bacon and gets promotions and has neat finances and dresses nicely.

Instead, I am a messy person who is sitting at the computer in clothes that very closely resemble pajamas. A person who prefers to make crazy little flights of books that fit nowhere, and may be obscure to most people, and may take other people on wild adventures. A person who would much prefer sitting here in the quiet house typing about nothing and watch ridiculous TV shows during lunch and then work evenings as a baker (as I am now), really mostly for the fun of it and also to make extra money.

This is who I am. This is my messy life. It is mostly wonderful. And the most wonderful thing is letting myself be who I am. Sometimes that means letting myself freak out and again run through why I’m doing what I’m doing and not trying to live that alternate life. Other days that means just making my wild little books and not looking back.

In writing this I’d like to ask you: what boxes are you trying to fit yourself in? What guilt are you creating for yourself around being someone you’re not? What would you do if you just let yourself be who you are as much of the time as possible?

Let’s break the cycle together and let ourselves be weird and wildly who we are, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else or fit neatly in a mold.

I hope you have a wonder-filled day!

A Peek at What I’ve Been Making : : A New Book!

I’ve been pretty quiet here on my blog lately, and that’s been largely because I’ve been pouring most of my creativity into a new big project. I’m really starting to see this project come together and am at the point of no return, so I thought I could now give you a peek without jinxing myself (I am a little superstitious about these things—sometimes when I share a project too soon, it can make it that much harder to keep going).

So, here it goes: I’m so excited to report that I have been working on a book! If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen me make many happy little books over the past couple of years, and this book is in the same creative-thinking, poetic, inspiration-making, life-appreciating tradition, but much bigger. It’s a combination of writing and visual art about many things I’ve been meditating on for some time, mainly: the experience of being alive and appreciating and understanding that experience.

For the visuals in the book, I’ve been making a series of collagraphs (see picture above), and yesterday I started to print them for the first time. I had been doubting what I was doing while making them, but once I started printing I was elated to find out that they were exactly what I wanted to create. This is perhaps one of the most gratifying experiences as an artist—to keep going in the process of making, pass through the doubt, and come out at the other side having brought the vision in your head into reality. I have been basking in the glow of this since yesterday afternoon, and I’m so excited to incorporate these prints into my book.

Another very excellent thing about being an artist has also been ever-present through the process of making this book: the experience of making something that is so directly a reflection of my life, my heart, and what I’m trying to understand and learn these days. I have had many flying realization moments while writing the words for this book, and nearly every day I have an experience where I’m out living my life and struggling with something or other, and I think about what I learned from writing.

This is a gift. An enormous, tremendous, gift: to do work that teaches you (through the process of doing the work) exactly what you want to learn deep in your core. In moments of doubt about the project (and there have been and will continue to be many) I try to remember that no matter what happens, I have already gotten so much from the process that the worth has already been given to me over and over.

I’m still banging away on the book, helping it find its best shape. I’m not sure when it will be finished or exactly how I will produce the final form, but I’m hoping to get it out in the world soon—perhaps by the end of the year or soon after.

I am wishing with all my heart that you too are finding things to create that make your heart sing! I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment if you’d like to share!

Let it be an Experiment

{A drawing from my 2012 Dots and Lines Mini Calendar available in my shop}

An old friend has been hanging around my desk recently as I work on a new writing project. He likes to whisper in my ear (OK, really he likes to shout in my ear) various abusive comments like: You Suck, This is Complete CRAP, and this work and you will never amount to ANYTHING. Or my personal favorite: How Dare you just sit down and think you can write this!

I’ve been noticing that he shows up a lot when I’m writing, especially when I’m trying to write something more “serious” (blog posts seem to be exempted). He does not however show up in the same way when I’m making visual art—I seem to be able to crank out the drawings and prints without too much of his hollering. This morning I started wondering why this is. After some contemplation, it occurred to me that the problem is not writing (I love writing), but the problem is the word “serious.” Any time I want to get “serious,” in walks Mr. You Suck.

To me, “serious” means: this must be good, and I want it to make an impact and save the world and be dynamic and wonderful and transcendent and a raving success. It means I must buckle down and really hit the mark . . . or else. Or else what? Or else I will be a complete failure and waste of a human being. Now doesn’t that sound like a wonderful place to be working from?! What fun! Sign me up!

When I’m working on visual art {or smaller bits of writing like a blog post} I have the opposite notion—I’m just playing around, and this is just one of a million different ideas I have and a million different executions (OK, maybe not a million, but you get the idea). Especially with drawing, I think of each one as an experiment—I get an idea, I execute it the best I can, and then I let it go (by either putting it out into the world, or letting it stay in my sketchbook). This is a beautiful process—it takes the pressure off and lets each work be what it is: one creative expression among many.

I’ve known for a while that this playful experimentation approach is THE KEY to sustaining a creative practice over time. It shifts the focus to process (which is really the whole point) and takes the pressure off any one piece of work as needing to be epic, which in turn frees you up to keep making. I think this is true about anything you do in life and life itself—no one day, experience, creation, piece of work is the be all and end all (even though sometimes it feels like it).

So I say to myself and to you, next time you sit down to work on your “serious” work, let it be an experiment. Do the best you can do right now and then let it go. This experiment will always lead you to another one if you let it. Have fun and let the whole thing be play.

My New Creative Process

This is my new M.O. for making art:

1. Get out my sketchbook and pencil and place it on my desk. An open sketchbook is always a hopeful thing—it’s there just waiting for something.

2. Lie down on the floor of my office, arms open wide, and do something I have done for a while now: say in my head, out to infinity, “I am here. What will I make today?” I’ve so often gotten new ideas after saying this that I’ve become a bit superstitious—I think it might actually work!

3. I wait. I breathe. I continue repeating my little mantra to myself. I relax and try to be open.

4. I get up and sit at my desk. If some idea came, I start working on it in my sketchbook. If nothing came, I stare out the window at the trees and the birds. (I would just like to say it again: yes there are BIRDS and trees outside my office window now!). I think I have just fallen in love with this step—sitting at my desk, staring out the window, feeling the breeze on my face—this is really worth doing in its own right, never mind the art. If I’m patient and open long enough, something comes. Maybe it’s just a shred of a something, but I write it down in my sketchbook and work from there.

I feel honored and privileged to get to participate in this process on a regular basis. It’s hard for me to describe the goodness I feel when I’m doing the steps above. But when I’m doing this {opening myself up to the creative process} I know I’m in the right place doing the right thing.

The great thing is that the possibility for creating newness is always there, for me and everybody.

What I’ve learned over the past few years of making art regularly is that the main denominators for coming up with new ideas are time and open-ness (as are quite obvious from my description above).I think it can often seem like there are a short supply of new ideas, or that they only come to a select few. But I think really it’s about being open and giving yourself a little time and space to let ideas come. It need not even be a large amount of time and space (how about 10 minutes and an empty floor?).

I’m wishing you many wide open spaces of creative thought. And if you need a little help getting unstuck, give my little ritual a try. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Wing Songs

I was sitting at my new desk, in my new office, in my new home yesterday afternoon, and I was watching the birds swoop from tree to tree. I can see BIRDS from my new office—it’s on the second story, and so birds glide right past my window!

So, I was sitting at my desk waiting for a new drawing idea to fly in, and it’s no wonder that when it did there were wings in it. I was feeling quite happy and soaring myself, and I wanted to write about it. I wanted to write about how some days you are just going along doing your humble doings, and quite by surprise you find yourself feeling so contented and happy. It’s moments like these that make me realize that the real flying happens when you just keep doing your work, one little thing at a time.

“Wing Songs,” 8 x 10 inches, prints available here in my shop

Happy day to you!

How to Make Envelopes by Hand!

I love paper! You know those racks they have in art stores with giant sheets of decorative paper? Those make me go wild! So, whenever I have a good excuse to buy some such paper, I get very excited. One good reason I have found is envelope-making. My high school art teacher first introduced me to the idea of making your own envelopes, and while it does take a little bit of time and effort, you can create some really beautiful envelopes out of any paper you want.

Earlier this week, I had a project come up that would require some 3.5 x 5 inch envelopes. I wanted the envelopes to be unforgettable, so of course that meant I had to make my own. I started looking online for a good free 3.5 x 5 inch envelope template, but I just couldn’t find one. So I decided to draw one up on my computer, which then made me think, “maybe someone else is looking for this?” This lead me to the idea of creating a little set of instructions for you here. I wish I had taken some more pictures (it’s mighty hard to describe some steps in words), but hopefully my instructions combined with your practical smartness and imaginative abilities will get you there. When all else fails, I think looking at an already-made envelope can be helpful. Also, feel free to drop me a comment if you’re having troubles. So, here it goes:

HOW TO MAKE ENVELOPES BY HAND

1. Decide on the size envelope you need/want and find a template. I will put a link to my 3.5 x 5 inch template below, or else you can find an existing envelope you like and deconstruct it to use as a template.
2. Print your template, or trace your template envelope onto a piece of card stock. This will make the template easiest to trace. If you can’t find a piece of card stock big enough, a piece of newspaper will work fine, you’ll just have to use a ruler along each edge when you’re tracing to get a nice firm line. Cut your template out using scissors or an x-acto knife and ruler.
3. Find some gorgeous paper you would like to use for your envelopes. If you’ll be sending the envelopes through the mail, you might want to use a thick-ish paper (rice paper, or very thin decorative papers can rip easily). You can use wrapping paper, old maps, newspaper, anything you wish!

4. Trace your template onto the back of your paper with a pencil. Make as many traces as you want final envelopes.
5. Cut out your envelopes using an x-acto knife and a metal ruler, or scissors. I don’t have a tremendously steady hand, so I find that an x-acto and ruler works best for me to get straight lines. Make sure to use a metal ruler so that you can’t cut into the ruler with the x-acto.

6. Fold up your envelope, folding each flap in around the central rectangle. I use a thin plastic ruler held along each side of the rectangle and then fold each flap over it to get a straight fold. Make sure the decorative side of your paper is facing out.
7. Glue your envelopes together: apply glue to the inside edge of one of the horizontal flaps making sure that you apply glue only where the other flap will reach over it, glue horizontal flaps together. Then apply glue to the edges of the bottom flap, fold flap up and press firmly. Stack some books on top of the envelope and let it dry under the weight. Note: on my envelope template, the pointed flap is the top flap and will be left open for stuffing the envelope.
8. Repeat step 7 for each envelope
9. Stuff your envelope and seal it up as you like with a sticker, tape, or glue!

Here is that 3.5×5 inch envelope template I promised. It will fit on one standard 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper.

Have fun!


Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."
~Rumi

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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