by Leah Eyles January 14, 2022 1 Comment
When I think back to my childhood (that's a sleepy looking Leah finger painting) I remember colouring with no fear, painting with no plan, sketching whatever was around me, collaging my dreams, and writing nonsensical stories. Somewhere along the way, between carefree creating as a child and becoming a grown up, that playful side was pushed to the side and slowly forgotten about. You would think regaining that confidence in getting to know the artist in you again would be as easy as picking up a paintbrush or a pen, but I’ve found it a lot more challenging than that, and from speaking with others, I know I’m not alone in this.
There are anxieties about doing it “wrong”, there are fears around looking stupid, there is the thought of waste, and then there is just the overwhelming feeling of where do I begin. There are a lot of mental blocks to get past before you can welcome that inner playful child back in again, and though I am no art therapist, as I have slowly started to explore again, I wanted to share some tips with you from my personal journey to hopefully inspire getting your toes wet and re-finding that joy you may remember as a creative child.
The hardest part is starting! I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many creative people but it can also feel intimidating. I was at a cottage over the fall and everyone had brought a craft project with them but I had my own anxiety around it. I not only had fears about what to make, but also making something in front of creative people. I decided I was going to attempt making friendship bracelets again, something that felt safe even though I hadn’t made any in almost 3 decades. A friend I was with still remembered the basics so all I had to do was pick out some colours (I also very much recognize the blocks around “choosing the wrong colours”) and I was on my way to reliving a favourite craft from my childhood.
Write a list
My first step to starting my creative journey was actually writing a list of creative things I loved to do as a child. It could be anything from making friendship bracelets, to writing letters to your friends. Being creative and artistic has many meanings, and isn’t reserved for painting masterpieces; it can be simple and still be joyful.
Be Patient - Notice Your Blocks and Gently Move Past Them
Notice what is blocking you from the doing. Other than the anxieties of imposter syndrome, I also personally struggle with waste when creating; what do I do with all these imperfect embroidery hoops I’ve stitched? It can be easy to talk yourself out of something with this mindset. If you want to explore, it's good to notice what is stopping you and gently move through it or you will never make anything! I also encourage cheaper supplies or hand me downs as a good way to start as you’ll feel less worry around messing up your expensive art paper. Painting and drawing and using mediums that feel more permanent can be scary, so start somewhere that feels comfortable, maybe a pencil and eraser. Notice what is stopping you, take some deep breaths, and find some ways to move past that.
Now comes the scary part, the doing! Pick something on your list that piques your curiosity. I have always felt quite intimidated going into art supply stores as it can be overwhelming, if you have those same feelings, Michael's or even the Dollar Store can be a good starting point; less to choose from and as I mentioned above it being less of a financial commitment makes it a little easier to dabble and learn what medium works for you.
Watercolour Workbook picture by Sarah Simon
If you don’t have creative friends to guide you, or maybe you need to practice alone and not worry about how you look in front of others, there are so many resources out there for those just starting out. From beginner DIY books, to virtual classes and videos. There is even a large world of art therapy classes out there, for those that want to try something but have so much fear holding them back. Here is a list of some resources to get you started:
Search for : ”beginner <enter medium here> ” and you will find videos. A lot of them are pretty basic, but it can be a good starting point. Once you find a YouTuber who’s style or way of teaching resonates, go down the rabbit hole and see what other videos they offer, they may also offer classes on Patreon (see next resource) for a more in-depth lesson.
I love that these platforms exists. Once you are feeling ready to dive in a little deeper (virtually), these are both amazing resources. From writing, watercolours, painting and podcasting, this is a way for artists to share their knowledge and skills helping them build a creative career and in exchange you get exclusive content, a sense of community and guidance. It's like masterclass for indie makers + artists. I even found a specific class called "Self-Care through Creativity: Turn Your Anxiety Into Art"
If you’re not getting sucked into the vortex of celebrity gossip and trending memes, Instagram can be a really good place to get inspired. There are so many artists on there you can watch and learn from. Some may offer little tutorials right on their pages like @themintgardener and some may offer digital tutorials you can purchase to teach yourself like @RovingTextiles. After learning about Sarah Simon (@themintgardener) from some of her workbooks we carry in the shop, I started watching her videos on instagram and felt really drawn to her style. Eventually, I gained the courage to purchase some watercolours myself and I'm now enrolled in one of her online workshops! My artwork looks nowhere near as beautiful as hers, but I am enjoying the process of play.
DIY Books + Kits
Elle Cree Deer Huckleberries Paint by Number Kit
I can honestly say I ordered creative books for the shop long before I was comfortable actually digging into any of them. I was manifesting the courage to try. For me the Watercolour Is For Everyone and Botanicals Line Drawing were two that got me started on an exploration of painting and sketching. We have plenty of other kits and books that are targeted at beginners. Paint by Number kits are another favourite of mine that felt like a safe starting point. The colours are all chosen, the design is laid out, you just have to follow the directions - and yes you can still make mistakes, and that is ok!
There are of course plenty of in person workshops in Toronto, but considering we are all mostly staying at home these days, I thought this was a nice comfy starting point. When we are ready to venture out again a few suggestions are: The Shop, The Workroom, The Knit Cafe, and The Make Den.
Create a Habit
I think setting time aside and creating a habit is so important. The workshop I am enrolled in is just 6 days, it felt like a comfortable place to begin. Everyday they send me a new lesson and it helps me to keep the momentum going. Setting aside 10 minutes in a day is enough to start a habit. Committing to any longer can feel less attainable, especially in our busy lives. Start small and you may find you don’t want to put your craft down after 10 minutes.
Invite Others To Inspire
Set up a time with friends where you each bring something you are working on to a virtual hangout or in person when it’s safe to do so again. Make a weekly or bi-weekly night that keeps you accountable to honing your crafts, and maybe you will learn something from each other.
An image from a creative child playing with a cross stitch kit from Diana Watters
This is a hard one, I know. I think it’s important to remember the age old wisdom about it not being about the destination but about the journey. Creating doesn’t have to be for anybody else. You don’t have to show your work to anyone. It really is so much about having fun with it no matter the end result. It is the moments in between that make creating so worthwhile, consider the result a bonus. You may try something and not love it, do you not love it because it’s not “good” or do you not love it because it may not be the creative outlet for you? It’s ok to try different things and explore but if you are giving up too soon you may be missing out. Make messes and mistakes, laugh at yourself and try again. Keep the “screw ups” though - you may surprise yourself down the road, and having those first attempts to look back on can really show how far you’ve come.
I hope this has inspired you to try something creative. Browse our crafts section to see if there is something there to get you started. It’s a vulnerable, brave thing to try something new and I completely recognize that from my own journey. Though we can’t set our brains back to be in that same state of freedom as a child’s brain, we can certainly try, and hopefully find some mindfulness and joy along the way.
Share with us! What are you experimenting with? What has inspired you to get creative? Leave a comment below.
Leah (she/her) is a lover of all things handmade, especially that perfectly imperfect ceramic mug for her daily cup of tea. Scout gives her a place to house the objects and cards she loves and wants to share with others. She does her best keeping her work life balance in check with regular yoga and at least two trips a year, she is a Libra after all!
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