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Connect With Your Surroundings
The Everyday Artist
By Linda Dessau, The Self Care Coach
(more articles from this author)
2006-02-25
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Clutter is one of my favourite topics, and I've written before about the many different types of clutter and how each affects our creativity and our creative expression.

Clutter is just one part of our surroundings – our physical environment – that has an impact on our creativity. This article will look at some other factors, and how they impact not only our creative expression and emotional and mental well being, but also our physical health and safety.

THE INSPIRATION FACTOR

1. Nature. Getting out into nature can evoke an immediate relaxation response. Being relaxed helps us to bypass our creative roadblocks and have easier access to our creativity. I've found that simply looking out my window and seeing the wind blow the branches of a tree, or taking in all of the colours of nature can help me to reconnect to the present moment and get out of the worries in my head.

Try getting outside for a brief walk during the day or simply spending time in front of a window. Or bring nature to you with photographs, paintings, fresh flowers, pebbles, fountains or similar items.

Many of the artists I spoke to while writing my book, "The Creativity Interviews,” listed travel as one of their sources of inspiration that often had prolific results. I commented recently in my blog that I sketched out an entire article this week while driving to work. The ideas just came to me. I read somewhere once about how driving engages different parts of our left and right brain and causes a "jump start" of creative thinking and flow.

Another aspect of travel is that we're removed from our day-to-day routines and schedules and that frees us up to "newness" in all forms. I don't recommend that you write while driving, but do keep a digital voice recorder handy to capture all of your wonderful ideas.

If traveling isn't in your plans right now, a one-day trip to the country or just to somewhere you don't visit often can be enough to spark your creativity. In "The Aritst's Way,” Julia Cameron recommends a weekly artist's date with yourself. Make your journey as important as the destination.

3. Deliberate Decorating. Quotes, books, paintings, emails from clients and nametags from conferences – these are just a few of the items I keep in view at all times in my creative workspace. These are things I find beautiful, meaningful and inspiring, and things that remind me of who I am and what I'm capable of.

Take a pointed look around your creative workspace and make sure there are things there that inspire you. Start adding some, and be sure to move them around every week or two – otherwise you'll actually stop "seeing" them because you become used to them being there.

THE FRUSTRATION FACTOR

1. Cluttered Space. Physical clutter can impede your efficiency and productivity AND bog you down emotionally and mentally, as well. A cluttered environment can create chaos and makes it that much more difficult to get things done (“Where’s my pen?”). Clutter can be previous projects that were left unfinished (creative dreams unfulfilled), household chores or other distractions, or just simply a messy pile of things that don't have a home.

Just for today, practice putting things away when you're done with them. Also, take 15 minutes – that's it! – to work towards clearing the clutter from your space.

2. Lack of Space. Not having a space dedicated to your creativity can make you feel like a bit of a creative "nomad.” Similarly, having a creative space that is also used for other purposes or by other people can be challenging.

Take a look at how you're using the space in your home. Could you tighten things up to create a dedicated creative workspace for yourself? It might mean change (and not just for you, but also for the people you're sharing that space with). Isn't your creativity worth it? Aren't you worth it? And doesn't the world deserve the gift of your work and whatever small sacrifices are needed to make this space for you?

While you're working on that, you can create a special creative environment wherever you are by having a fun notebook, a digital voice recorder to capture ideas, a portable collection of art supplies, photography equipment or other creative tools that are easy to "grab and go.”

THE SAFETY FACTOR

1. Visual Artists. I spoke to Ted Rickard, MLS, M.Ed, CRSP, Manager of Health and Safety at the Ontario College of Art and Design about the health risks that might be present in the surroundings of visual artists.

[Linda Dessau] What do you think an artist would find MOST surprising to learn is harming them in their studio?

Ted Rickard The poor quality of their ventilation. Many art processes produce dusts, mists, organic vapours from solvents, heavy metal fumes or gases. Breathing this stuff in is the quickest way to absorb it into your blood stream. The body is a fairly robust organism, but we are all subject to multiple chemical insults every day. We need to minimize whenever possible the chemicals we take into the body.

[Linda Dessau] If you had a magic wand, what would you stop all artists from ever doing again?

Ted Rickard Being uninformed. Starting a project without reading their chemical labels and understanding what those chemicals can do to them, and how they should best be handled. Starting a project without doing a risk assessment to decide what can go wrong, and how they can avoid those problems.

Start now by finding out more about the materials that you're using. Contact your local artist association or college of art, or do some research on the Internet or at the library.

One very real danger to working musicians, "jammers" and audience members alike is the potential damage to our hearing from being exposed to loud sounds. One very interesting tip from Marshall Chavin, an audiologist with the Musicians Clinics of Canada, is that humming to yourself, before, during and shortly after being exposed to a loud sound can protect your hearing.

3. Singers. Singers might be confronted with all sorts of noxious substances when they're working, from second hand smoke to dry ice. The best way to protect your voice through all of this is to practice good vocal hygiene - warming up, drinking lots of water, keeping yourself healthy, and being sure not to abuse your voice at all.

In the meantime, right now, when you open your eyes, get grounded in the present moment and connect with your surroundings, what do YOU see?

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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