Articles on Creativity - Online Art Supplies

This page functions mostly as an index to my articles on creativity, with a short essay on creativity and creativity exercises right in the introduction. This section will use oil pastels because they're cheap and that's what my site is about, but you can try most of the exercises with any colorful mark-making instrument you have at hand -- ballpoint pens, colored pencils, children's crayons, paint or anything else.

It's not primarily about learning how to draw well with oil pastels. For that, check the nav bar buttons for Basic Drawing and Techniques. Many of these exercises are relevant to both though. You may find yourself improving without realizing it by doing creativity exercises and keeping a daily sketchbook.

The definition of creativity in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is: 1. The quality of being creative, and 2. The ability to create. Pretty self-referential there. What does this actually mean for an artist, whether that's with oil pastels or any other medium?

Well, in common practice it means being able to come up with good ideas and when faced with problems carrying out those ideas, come up with good new ideas on how to make your painting work. That's creativity in a nutshell, in my definition anyway.

Articles on creativity sell well to magazines because most people have trouble thinking of themselves as creative, let alone artistic. It's something they're trained out of early on in life because of a prevalent Catch-22 attitude so many people have about art.

You aren't entitled to draw unless you are so "talented" that you can do it perfectly the first time you try, at the skill level of a seasoned professional. You aren't even entitled to try until someone else defines you as "creative" and "an artistic prodigy" because for some reason when you were a kid, they liked your art or liked the idea of your becoming an artist.

Everyone else gets a lot of social disapproval. Beginners are treated as if they wanted to dump three tons of garbage into the nave of Windsor Cathedral for daring to open a sketchbook and put any marks on that first, pristine page. If this principle applied to driving cars, the only people on the road would be those insanely dedicated Indy 500 racers who couldn't be talked out of learning -- and I seriously doubt they'd pay attention to speed limits.

Creativity is an attitude. A willingness to experiment and to accept that if some of the experiments come out ugly, they still teach you something and will probably be useful sometime. There are no Untalented Beginners in my view of life. There are untaught, unpracticed, completely new beginners who haven't learned the correct way to draw stick figures from a kindergarten teacher, and that's about it.

Creativity can be learned. Articles on creativity are far from useless, because they help you learn to learn and may improve your creativity in other areas of life. Creative attitudes of brainstorming, trial and error and problem solving are good for sorting out that knotty business problem or personal argument as well as learning how to draw well. You may surprise yourself with how creativity can improve your life.

My articles on creativity will also include some observations on life. When I learned to draw people accurately, I learned to see people's faces better -- and I developed a strong trained visual memory that helps a lot when I try to recognize someone with a familiar face or describe someone to the person who's meeting them at an airport.

Learning to draw stimulates the right side, intuitive, artistic side of your brain. Articles on creativity stress this right-brain, visual-intuitive thinking as a way to relieve stress. When you look at all of your responsibilities in a linear way with a list, they may look overwhelming. If you start scribbling a brainstorm diagram, you may find the list shortening as doing some of those things makes it easier to do the others and see which ones are real obligations and real priorities.

Stress reduces creativity too, so any essays on organizing your workspace or your time or your life will come into this heading as articles on creativity. Creativity is the central concept, but it has far-reaching implications for quality of life. Creativity is inherent to being human, it's only repressed because of some social patterns that tend to stamp it out in Western culture by idealizing artists.

One stress these articles on creativity will relieve in themselves if you practice the exercises is just the frustration of an inability to express yourself. Most people need to maintain a social facade and find it hard to let their hair down even when at home in circumstances where it's appropriate. Letting yourself play with cheap art supplies is a good stress reliever in itself because sometimes I think people expect to stop playing as soon as they graduate school and get on with a life of nothing but dutifully fulfilling unpleasant obligations and worrying about money or other people's opinions.

Some of these articles on creativity will have exercises to help you find it easier to come up with new ideas and learn faster how to create the effects you want with oil pastels. The articles are general enough that if oil pastels aren't your favorite medium, you still may find them useful.

You may want to purchase a big cheap sketchpad or sketchbook with 100 or more pages and a cheap set of oil pastels anyway. One of the things that makes people hesitate to learn to draw is that they're "wasting" expensive materials. Student grade oil pastels are so cheap on the low end that you could kit up completely with a large range of colors for less than the cost of lunch at a fast-food burger joint.

Some of my articles on creativity focus on resisting social pressure and training you to believe in yourself. So much of creativity is based on confidence. The person with a "talented" label can separate the idea "that sketch is lousy' from the idea "I am a lousy artist."

In fact, many sketches by brilliant professional artists are lousy and just as ugly as yours even if you're a beginner. A few things improve about them, but ask a serious artist to pick up a pencil and do a one minute "gesture." It'll be a few swoopy lines and depending on the artist, you may not recognize the subject. You sure would if they had five or ten minutes to work on it some more.

Many of the creativity exercises, like gesture drawing, will also strengthen your skill at rendering objects or people accurately. This is self reinforcing. The more you do them, the more they will look like what you wanted to draw until the process of sketching itself is a reminder "I can draw well."

When you reach "I can draw well" consistently, some other happy things come into your life. It also means never having to say "Would you like fries with that?" unless you actually enjoy working in fast food. Or even "I'm unemployed." You can go self employed with a pencil and a sketchpad. For more on this topic, watch for another section on Art Careers.

To get from "raw beginner" to "art career" or even "happy hobbyist" you need to believe in your own creativity. Every article in this list of articles on creativity is written to help you achieve that -- hopefully in as pleasant and painless a way as we can manage.

Some articles on creativity may look like jokes, or expect you to do silly things. You may get embarrassed at trying some of the creativity exercises in public -- until you have a reputation as an artist. One of the great things articles on creativity will give you is an Artistic License. I should do one up and put that in one of them too, I'll drop down to the list and add it.

Enjoy. Set some goofing-off time and play with your oil pastels -- that is your first creativity exercise right there. Check out the article on Making Marks in the Techniques section of this site (or click the link, which will open it in a new window) and open your brand new sketchbook.

Then fill at least the first page with the Making Marks exercise, maybe keep going for two or three more until you've tried all the colors and all the ways of combining them. Make a color chart of your set and label the colors.

This breaks its virgin holiness and your sketchbook is safe to draw badly in. Follow that with the worst sketch you could possibly do. Pick a dumb subject and do it in the wrong colors. This is where to draw a malformed purple chicken or a lot of upside down mushrooms growing out of a distorted foot. Get silly, cartoon a bit, have fun and give yourself a laugh.

Draw something else the very best you can. Date it carefully and sign it.

From there, every drawing you do in your new sketchbook is going to look good by comparison. Every painting you look at, every book or article you read, everything you think of and all the times you fantasize about drawing at work or doodle while you're on hold will make you a better and more skillful artist.

The first dated entry is the most important because it's a baseline.

If you can draw better than you did last time and be emotionally comfortable with not drawing as well as you will in the future, then you've got the outlook of a real artist. Your creativity will open up and nothing can stop you from becoming a modern master.

I could write a hundred of these. Half the rants that come up on my blog are articles on creativity. So if you like my writing and want to become more creative, check out the list. More will appear very, very soon.


Robert Sloan's LJ blog with rants that are articles on creativity and many other topics, including Semi-Daily Art.

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Index of my Articles on Creativity

Gesture Drawing

By limiting yourself to one to three minutes to draw something, you have to try to capture the essentials. Useful for warming up and learning to draw moving targets, like my cat who starts washing his butt every time I try to sketch him.

Accepting Critique and Rejecting Criticism

This article is vital to develop confidence in your artistic skills and stop throttling your creativity. Learn the difference between useful critique and personal criticism. Most people don't. That makes them offer personal criticism and think of it as helpful critique. They may even try to discourage you because they think it's for your own good if they don't believe you can learn to draw (or write or play music or act, anything creative falls in this category).

Daily Exercises

Good habits that stimulate creativity in everything you do, while expanding your artistic potential and art skills. When you draw or look at art every day, it helps strengthen your intuition, right-brained creative thinking and observation. This can have far-reaching benefits in stress reduction and effective problem solving. It'll also help you become a good artist so fast you wouldn't believe it was yours in only a few weeks or months.

Claim your Artistic License

Draw up, create and print out your own Artistic License. Make a version small enough to put in your wallet and flash it at anyone who thinks you dress weird, act strange or otherwise flout convention. You'd be amazed at the social freedom artists get, so why not create your own credential and show it off like a badge? It'll do a lot to explain that poet shirt, those purple tights or that weird hat you always wanted to wear all the time.


Remember when you were disciplined in grade school for just staring out the window doing nothing? In art and creative work, those daydreams are valuable and necessary. Read on to find out why rumination is an essential part of any creative work.

Drawing from Memory

Drawing from memory is one of the toughest things an artist can do for practice -- and one of the most rewarding. It will train your memory to bring back images of things you saw years ago and draw them as if they still existed unchanged, it will improve your creativity and imagination, most of all it will also help you learn to change what you see in a photo or in life to create a more beautiful painting. If you ever wanted a photographic memory, drawing from memory long enough and well enough may give you that enviable trait!

Artistic Risks

Artistic risks come when you try serious works beyond your current level of skill -- here are some ways to face them and get past that freezing terror of ruining a lucky, amazingly perfect sketch.

Some links to my artist friends

Not all of them work in oil pastels, but all of my friends are artists and their blogs or webpages feature their art. So if you're looking for inspiration or for someone to create a commission for you, check out these artists:

Susan Smith Art

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