Here are seven ways to see like an artist and to incorporate moments of creative thinking into your life. Your creative life will expand exponentially the more you practice these tips.
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. – Roald Dahl
This quote came across my Instagram feed last week, and since I was brainstorming this post at the time, I had to smile. It was exactly the sentiment I was looking for. Today’s post is about how to see like an artist; in other words, how to experience the world with an artistic mindset.
Some of these ideas come more naturally to certain temperaments than others, but none of them are impossible to learn. Truthfully, the only ingredients that each of them require is an open mind and the willingness to take the time to do them.
I’ve mentioned it here before but creativity is truly something that influences your entire life. The books you read, the way you talk, how you clean your house, and what you like to do in your down time are all quietly influenced by how you see your world.
And as you slow down to observe like an artist, you will start noticing more and more opportunities to “see” your world differently. Your ability to truly see and observe will influence your art like nothing else. Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg!
How to See Like An Artist – Tips for Growing in Creativity
Many of these ideas require that you go on a walk. It doesn’t have to be more than 15 minutes, and you’ll have the added bonus of getting some exercise!
Many people have smart phones now so being able to take a picture while you’re on a walk doesn’t mean you have to lug along a big camera. Still, unless we consider even the little things as important, we’re unlikely to stop to take a picture here and there.
Your turn: To get started, you might want to think of a theme to be on the look out for. Several years ago, I took pictures of things in nature that looked like hearts. From knobby branches to heart-shaped leaves on the wet pavement, I found hearts were everywhere to be found. What could your theme be?
Many artists have the collecting gene in them. Now when I say, “collecting”, I don’t mean you need to have an extra room in your house for the masses of items you find when you’re out and about, but I am suggesting that you start a mini collection. (For the sake of this experiment, you don’t even have to keep it forever!)
Your turn: See if you can collect 15 different kinds of leaves. Tape them into a blank book and try to sketch them. Really look at the patterns on each leaf and the different shapes. If leaves are nowhere to be found this time of year, think about what else you could gather.
Closely related to collecting, documenting items is a great practice. By writing a little bit about what you’re seeing and collecting, you add your personality and story.
Your turn: Take five minutes to document some of the things you noticed on your walk. Are there correlations to your life situation? How do you feel right now? What colors would you use to paint this day?
Try New Things
Do you always order the same thing on the menu? Could you drive to work in your sleep because you know the route so well? Mixing things up is not only a great way to exercise your creative muscles, it’s great for your brain overall.
Your turn: Gently push yourself out of your comfort zone this week. Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before at the grocery store and learn how to prepare and eat it. Take a walk in a new-to-you neighborhood. Think about loosening your artistic muscles up, and try something new!
When we’re on vacation, we are usually in exploring mode. We look in the guide book, get advice from the locals, and set out on daily adventures. But when we come home, we often forget that our everyday world is full of adventure too. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or go very far to explore your world and enjoy it.
Your turn: What is your town or city known for? Are there national parks nearby? Is there a new walking path downtown you haven’t tried yet? This exercise could mean going to the art museum you’ve always meant to go to, riding the metro across the city, or simply taking time to step into a cute shop you noticed while you were out running errands. (Here are more tips for being a tourist in your own town.)
Enjoy (Live in the Moment)
This is a difficult one for many of us. We’re busy, and don’t have time to light a candle and close our eyes as we sip our coffee. We’re gulping our coffee, while herding the kids to the car, grabbing someone’s jacket, and trying to remember where we put the to-do list. I recommend finding micro moments throughout the day where you can push the pause button and take a deep breath.
Your turn: Moments in which you could savor and enjoy what you’re doing are scattered throughout the day. Consider before you eat a meal—stop and pray a blessing over it. But really stop as you do this, even if it is just for a couple of minutes. The key here is to mentally tell yourself to remember this moment. Look around the table, remember your family or friends’ faces, taste the food you’re eating, and enjoy. (This is what mini-creative retreats are all about.)
I’m sure any preschool teacher can attest to the high amount of wonder the students bring into the classroom every day. But asking, “Why?” or being amazed over the colors in a sunset does not have to be limited to little children. Artists constantly ask, “Why?”
They don’t allow themselves to be hardened by thinking they have to know it all. They gasp in surprise, laugh out loud, and cry real tears. I’m not saying you need to become an overly emotional person in order to access your inner artist, but letting your ‘adult sensibilities’ go a little bit can do wonders for you.
Your turn: Have you ever stopped to think of the miracle YOU are? The fact that you’re sitting here and reading this is astounding. You’re a walking miracle. What else do you take for granted that is amazing? Fresh water? Easy access to food? As you go about your days this week, keep your eyes open for wonder-full things—the twinkle in a child’s eye, a droplet of water on a leaf, a tiny ladybug on a tree trunk. Practice drawing them into a small notebook to record the beauty in your life.
As you grow your artistic muscles with these exercises, you will also be creating a catalog in your mind (and probably in a journal too) of ideas you could use in your creative projects. You might find yourself attracted to and recording patterns that creep into sketches and quilts. You might discover a fruit that becomes a new staple in your diet. You might find a neighborhood walk that morphs into your favorite place to go for inspiration.
You’ll truly begin to see like an artist, which is always a good thing!
P.S. If you’re feeling stuck in your creative life right now, you’ll love my course, SHINE. It’s packed with fun and actionable lessons that will take you from merely wishing you could get back into the creative groove to actually doing it. Sign up here, and start living your most creative life today.