When you work in your studio journal, do you ever feel cramped by the page size or type of paper? Or hesitant to practice challenging subjects, where your first attempts might be ugly and awkward?
Are there times when you feel uninspired by painting inside your studio? Or by painting your usual type of work, with your usual methods and media?
Sometimes, you just need to get outside. Outside your sketchbook. Outside your studio. Outside your usual routines, styles, and media.
But you don’t have to change your whole process. Often, it’s enough to start, or finish, “outside”. Begin sketching on location, with no pressure to create a finished painting, and then continue in the studio, working from your sketches and reference photos. Begin with a splashy underpainting, and then continue on top of it as you normally would.
Or take an uninspiring work-in-progress and finish it in a different way than you usually would to see if you can transform it into something more exciting—or at least an illuminating experiment!
In today’s prompt, I invite you to think about the ways you create boundaries to help structure your creative work, and how to identify when to step outside them to keep your work, and your enthusiasm, fresh.
Are there certain exercises or activities that seem like “sketchbook” types of activities, but that you find yourself not using (or not as much as you’d like) because they don’t work well on the pages of your sketchbook? Maybe you need more space, a different kind of paper, or more freedom to make “bad” sketches while you’re brainstorming. How could you start, or finish, outside your studio notebook? How could you incorporate the results of outside activities in your notebook?
How do you know when it’s time to shake things up so you don’t get stuck in a rut? What are some ways you could start, or finish, outside your usual way of working?
Does all your creative work take place in your studio (i.e. the same setting all the time, even if your studio is a tote bag of supplies and not a particular space)? What are some ways you could start, or finish, an artwork outside your studio?
Working outside—your notebook, your usual methods, your studio—isn’t always as comfortable or convenient. What benefits have you discovered (or imagined) for different kinds of “working outside” that might make it worthwhile sometimes, even if it is a bit more hassle and might not immediately lead to a completed artwork? Do you want to create reminders or give yourself permission to get outside more often?
Today, identify one of the “boxes” you put your art (or yourself) in, and start by working outside it. Or take a painting or sketch where you feel stuck and see if you can finish it by taking it outside the box in some way.
If you tend to always work small, try working big (or vice versa!—going “outside” your usual way of working doesn’t have to mean, literally, going bigger). If you always start with a pencil underdrawing, try starting with ink, or with no underdrawing at all. If you always work indoors, try sketching outdoors (or indoors in a different location). If your work is always tidy and neat, try making a mess. If you always work inside a rectangle, try creating compositions inside circles instead.
Bonus points: Figure out a way to incorporate any useful results in your studio notebook. Can you have the benefits of working outside the box/notebook, and still record intriguing ideas in your notebook for later inspiration and development?
Don’t expect a fabulous product every time you try working “outside”. Exploration can lead to amazing new vistas, but it also often involves things like getting lost, being uncomfortable, and bumbling about in the brambles along the way. But hey, it might be worth knowing where the berries grow, right?