“I don’t have the creative skills it takes to make that”
“I suck at (insert art form or creative skill)”
If you’re an artist, I’m sure you’ve heard similar statements before. Heck, you might have said something similar yourself.
You see someone else’s work and you think to yourself: I don’t have the creative skills it takes to make that.
But what many people fail to realize is that creativity is a journey; not a destination.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, art is:
[Art is] something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.Merriam-Webster Dictionary
See what I’m trying to get at?
Art is the result of creative exploration. It’s a form of expression; a method of communication. It’s an hour’s worth of inspiration from a lifetime of observance.
Therefore, to make art, you need to tap into your creative side.
If You Want to Make Art, Get Creative
I’m stating the obvious now, aren’t I? But no, it’s not as simple as that. That’s why “non-creatives” have a hard time being creative. They believe that creativity is something you’re either born with or not.
Contrary to popular belief, though, creativity is not something you’re born with. It’s something you practice and build over time.
As humans, we are influenced by cultural, societal, and psychological ideas since birth. These ideas shape our opinions and our views on life.
How your parents interact with others; how you were taught to analyze problems by your teachers; the experiences you went through in life, good or bad; the media you’ve consumed; language; society — all of these things affect how you perceive the world around you.
Art is how you react to all of these experiences. Your perspective and views are reflected in the art you create.
How to Foster Creativity
As an artist, absorbing as much of this world as possible is essential for artistic growth. If you want to get better at being creative, you need to take in everything without prejudice.
As you uncover more about life, you’ll notice that your views on some things begin to change. And that’s okay. You’re constantly learning new things.
When that happens you’ll also begin to notice that your reaction, creative output, or expression begins to change and mature as well.
Suddenly, making a masterpiece begins to feel like a matter of time and resources; not a lack of creativity.
Immersing Yourself in Projects Helps You Grow as an Artist
Now, I can’t tell you where Christopher Nolan or Roger Waters got their inspiration from. Because just like art itself, the creative process is also very subjective and differs from one person to another. You have to find your footing and what works for you.
Nevertheless, I will recommend a personal creative process that helped me grow my skills and made it easier to pick up new creative skills.
For illustration purposes, I will describe the application of this process in video projects. But the same principles can be applied to any creative practice.
1. Start in Your Head
Every piece of art has a meaning or a message behind it. Sometimes the message is clear, obvious, and meant for the masses to understand (like stories with definite endings, love songs, satire, etc.), sometimes the message is ambiguous and masked with duplicity (think abstract art and experimental films); only the artist knows the actual meaning; the audience is meant to decipher it each according to his or her own interpretation.
Before you start working on any creative project think of what message or idea you’re trying to convey.
Fully detach from materializing anything, isolate yourself from people and other distractions, close your eyes and visualize the idea in your head. What would it look like?
2. Engage Your Body
Sketch, draw, write, paint, pick up an instrument. Whatever your creative project is, try to involve yourself in it physically.
For instance, if you’re working on a video, start jotting down ideas for the script on a piece of paper instead of a digital document on your phone or computer.
If you’re making an animation, draw the illustrations and storyboards on paper.
Or if you’re restricted to typing on a keyboard, as we often are nowadays, you could tap your foot and bob your head to the tempo of your typing.
Sounds silly, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel the gush of energy flowing through your fingertips as you type.
Another silly-but-useful one is drum-tapping on your keyboard. Turn your workstation into a drumset; make a beat with them tiny plastic letter blocks!
If you’re a digital artist, especially, involving your body could inspire and uncover many ideas within you.
Because digital art is mainly created on computer software, many digital artists find it counterproductive and time-consuming to start with sketching on paper, so they go straight to the technical devices (computers) to create.
But when you involve your body in the creative process magic begins to happen. Your art, however intangible it may be, will find a new form; a new life, and more meaning.
3. Involve Your Senses
When you’re working on a video or any kind of artwork, listen to music.
You’re probably thinking “no shit, Sherlock”.
But no, what I mean is curate a playlist specifically for the project at hand. Let the songs’ lyrics, tunes, and mood flow through you and into your project.
The playlist doesn’t necessarily have to fit the mood of the project you’re working on. As long as the music adds depth, connection, and inspiration to your project, that is what you should aim for.
Listen to music; don’t play it as white noise. Listen to every instrument and how it’s shaping the bigger picture, AKA the song. Listen to the sounds around you and construct meaning out of them.
4. Calibrate Your Eyes
The ego is a creativity killer.
It’s arrogant to think that you could come up with an artwork entirely out of thin air. Everything is influenced or inspired by external elements.
And yet many artists walk through life completely neglecting the world around them.
Look at art. Any art. All art. All the time.
Study other artists’ artworks; the brushstrokes in their paintings; the art styles and art forms. The meaning behind their art; the backstory.
Observe and study the world around you; not just commercialized art or beautiful sceneries.
There’s no story in a perfectly polished crystal glass. The fingerprints, red lipstick, and leftover wine are where the story’s at.
Look at demolished buildings; study the way the rubble settled. See the shadows created by the cracks in the wall, notice the uneven door in an old cafe.
The world is full of inspiration. Calibrate your eyes to see art in every line, light, shape, smell, and sound.
5. Analyze with Your Emotions
The modern world forces us to run at full speed at all times.
If you think about it, social media, WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps and push notifications on our smartphones are shoving us into conversation after conversation in a matter of minutes, sometimes even seconds.
It’s no wonder that video creators nowadays are pressured to create and publish fast.
While the goal is supposedly to beat competitors in getting people’s attention first, if the video or artwork doesn’t connect with the audience and deliver the intended message, then what’s the point of being first?
Although you could never predict how the audience would react to any film, video, or artwork, you could assess your film or artwork’s effectiveness by taking off your creator’s hat and sitting in the audience seat.
Detach yourself from the project entirely, and watch your film, video, or artwork as the audience.
Pay attention to the experience and how it makes you feel.
Without being biased (or unnecessarily critical), does the artwork make you feel the emotions the artist is trying to describe through his/her artwork? Do you feel like you’re present in that moment with the characters on screen, fighting a battle?
Get emotionally involved in your projects by empathizing with your audience.
Anyone can be an artist and make art. But to make art; to get inspired to create art; to form creative thoughts you need to absorb and observe.
Think of it this way: the more input (life, ideas, cultures, people, inspiration, etc.) you digest, the more output (creative ideas and perspectives) you release.
Khalid writes scripts and visualizes ideas as a Creative Director at Bent Road Films. He contributes to two blogs (Alleviated Media & Bent Road Films).
A dedicated fan of music, movies, guitars, books, hiking, and the outdoors. His belief in collaboration, creative education, and social sciences often inspire his stories.