Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
— Miles Davis
Just like a human child, our inner artist self is nurtured and inspired by a loving, supportive environment. Most of us have already spent a lifetime having our creative selves being shamed, punished, and forced to sit in the corner. So rather than judging our performance, demanding to know where the money is from our experimentation, or cracking down with even more discipline, what our inner child really needs is to come out to play.
Playtime is ooey-gooey paint; seductive new charcoals or sparkling beads; a stack of sixty freshly sharpened pencils with our name personalized on them; swapping the computer for smooth-as-silk paper and pen or the friendly clatter of an old typewriter. It’s pulling out all the pots and pans; it’s being up to your elbows in clay; it’s cranking up the stereo and singing at the top of your lungs.
Rather than being pristine monastic cells of denial and mental focus, art rooms are often better outfitted with toys, twinkle lights, paper flowers, faerie altars, or a wall montage featuring favorite snapshots, silly cartoons, and discovery journal pictures. If Zen spaces are your thing, that’s okay. But from my own travels this past weekend and previous years on our local open studio tours, I have noticed that, more often than not, art seems to get created in rooms where silly trumps chic. Intensely personal, they are less about the rational, more about Romper Room.
One of my favorite artist dates is to treat my artist child to a wild shopping spree at the dollar store. Our discoveries might include pink sparkly socks, a tableau of plastic dinosaurs, as many colored pens as she can clutch in her greedy little hands, or a big stack of cheap-o drawing paper. Nothing too precious or expensive, nothing the grown-ups would consider Very Important. Just fun, playful, goofing around stuff.
My inner artist loves textures, fantasy, and exotic colors. She often heads straight for the books and school supplies — a two-dollar packet of multi-colored gel pens will keep her occupied for hours.
So what about you? What might entice your artist self out to play? What do you need, in order to lighten up a bit today? What treats, music, tools, toys, and silly little bits and baubles could make your artist’s creative space more fun? What love can you lavish today?