|Photo ©Holly DeWolf|
Remember drawing for hours as a kid? Remember what it felt like to make things your own way? There wasn't a time limit. There wasn’t a client waiting. There were no contracts or a heaping pile of paper work to go with making an illustration. Once you were done, you cleaned up your crayons (sometimes), stuck your art work on the fridge before going out to ride your bike.
All of this sounds like freedom.
Self-directed work is the freedom to make things on your time, your own way however you choose. It’s an exercise we should consider making time to do. Having creative spare time is probably what got you into art in the first place: the chance to make something!
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.” -Paulo Coelho
Self-directed work is a promise to yourself to keep making work everyday. It’s your own creative downtime in your already busy schedule. Think of it as practice. Think of it a break away from routine.
Getting into the right frame of mind has to have the right setting. Good music, lots of paper, freshly sharpened pencils, glue, scissors, inspiring books, a thesaurus plus a hot beverage is a good start! It can be scheduled or completely unplanned. This is also the time to relinquish control. As hard as it is, put your harsh critic in the corner for a while and make something anyway.
“Instead of interrupting the creative flow with your own personal judgments, allow yourself to be fully engaged in the process. Create when you are inspired and save the technicalities for later.” - Marie Wilson.
Reasons to make random art:
1. A good time to make a mess.
No plan? No problem. Letting go of control can be one of the most freeing things you can do. As Tobias van Schneider says, let yourself be stupid.
"The only way a side project will work is if people give themselves permission to think simple, to change their minds, to fail--basically, to not take them too seriously," says van Schneider. "When you treat something like it’s stupid, you have fun with it, you don’t put too much structure around it. You can enjoy different types of success."
2. A good time to make more mistakes.
Mistakes are what we all have in common. Its part of the human experience of growing up and moving forward. I often think making mistakes is how we really get in touch with ourselves. Neil Gaiman says it best:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
3. A good time to work things out!
This creative downtime is the perfect time to practice and hone drawing skills. Not good with representing hands? Do your backgrounds in your illustrations need a new approach? Always working in the same colour schemes? I always call it the time to get weird. It’s unstructured, it’s random but you are making time to learn and create something that will be useful later on. There’s a definite method to the madness.
Another way to work things out is by breaking through bad days, burnout, illness or other disruptions. As they say, crap happens. These things can sideline your productivity or stop it completely. Treat it as a Plan B approach to work it out creatively.
4. A good time to enjoy the process again.
The biggest part of illustration that I love is the process. I love grabbing that idea and doodling. I love the words and narratives that come out of certain themes. I love setting up my desk to get the ball rolling. Client work can often feel rushed with too many revisions. If it's a tight deadline, we could lose the energy for the project along the way. With self-directed work, you get to take the time to get to know your process, your habits and your natural way of creating. The more you know about how you work, your process, your peak times and your creative habits, this will all help with future client work.
5. A good time to get off the computer to be old school.
As I always say, “Sorry, out to live. Be back soon.” Being online needs to be part time for some of us. Just because we need to social network and make computer art doesn’t mean we should stop buying and playing with old school materials. Load up on oil paint, gouache, watercolour, pencils, tape, glue, pastels, sticky notes, pens, rulers and whatever else you find. Throw some crayons into the mix, make a mess and cut loose.
5. A good time to make something new.
This creative mess making can be a good time to begin a series, a theme, a promotion, a book idea, a gallery show, handmade work to sell in a gallery, add collage bits to your work, textures, or experiment with hand drawn lettering. All of this will benefit your work and your online portfolio too.
6. A good time to develop a new way of working.
We are always told to focus on the importance of style. We need to develop one and maintain it. However, as we go along, our style will change and grow and then one day we could discover we want our work to look differently. This is the prefect time to experiment.
Lastly, remember to look for the magic in your daily routine. Happy creating!