I read once about a man who plays went down horribly, it almost ruined him, his whole career was in a standstill. He thought he had cursed his creativity and didn’t know what to do next. His young daughter had a bike and she asked for it to be painted, so he painted it black. Then he asked if she would like gold stars on the frame too, she happily agreed it was a great idea. So the play writer spent his time painting tiny gold stars all over the frame. Soon other kids in the area wanted the same and he painted more bikes with gold stars throughout his creative rut. It awakened him from it and he went back to his creative work.
The story starts with a simple idea.
I’ve had these idea moments lately, at a time I have least expected it.
The first was one day when I pulled out a bright blue with white embroidery large baggy top I wear when it’s too hot in the Summer to stand regular clothes. Now my clothes were getting tighter as my pregnancy belly bigger, it was useful again. I noticed it was essentially one piece of material folded over and sewn at the neckline and bottom. I mentioned this aloud to family, that I could get material and make my own. I really didn’t feel up to starting another project as I have some ongoing, both of them being seamstresses with extra material, they took up the project and made me two!
The second was an idea I can’t even believe came out of my mouth. Not because it was so shocking or impossible-seeming but that I was so tired, literally unable to do the most simple tasks and an idea came out of my mouth!
The idea – to paint mandalas onto an outside table we were decorating.
Through the process and completion, so many creative themes have come up that can easily when you’re making art of any kind. There’s a great diagram in Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon, from the outside in it looks like it was an easy route to finish but there are stages along the way.
First, there was doubt, in having the idea to do Mandalas meant I had an opportunity to paint three onto the table, I knew I wouldn’t see it through if I made it complicated, so I made it the easiest task I possibly could. I had positivity from the husband too which really helped.
To make the mandala I found three sheets of large almost A3 paper and something circular to draw round. I found a few images online as basic inspiration then drew patterns onto one circle. I colored in grey the parts I wanted to cut and put all three sheets together so I could make three of the same.
I used my cutting tool (thin sharp blade) to cut around the shapes. Already, without any distractions, I went wrong and so I embraced the mistakes. I noticed where I had gone wrong and moved onto another area that wasn’t affected by it and came back to it and made the same cut the opposite side.
I used the power of grit to continue (in a small way) as all the way through were these thoughts ‘I don’t even know if it’ll make it onto the table’ ‘I think this whole project can be completed soon but it may just go into another ongoing project and I’ve wasted time’. I continued to colour and cut, taking breaks as my hand hurt often.
There’s usually some stopping or destruction in the creative process, something that’s out of your control. It’s the part in reality TV shows where the most emphasis on drama occurs. For our table project, it came in the form of rain and then the wind knocked it and chunks of paint were chipped away. Then you question the entire thing ‘Is the table surface really any good at all?’ ‘What will happen if we put more paint then sealant?’
I honestly don’t know.
This could have been a post on minimalism, how we saved spending £40 on a new table and revamped an old one for less. However, with the cost of paints, it’s cost the same. Projects are about taking risks.
Projects open up problem-solving opportunities, even if it’s just asking yourself ‘How can we make this work?’
How did our little project do?
Well, we cut it short, when the paint chipped we got the hint that maybe the paint doesn’t suit well with the uneven plastic surface. Even so, we added another coat and I got to work on painting mandalas with a stencil. I was flexible with materials as only one shade, Fuscia pink was anywhere near a strong acrylic. We still kept the faith that it would work out with a final magic coat of varnish.
However the homemade stencils failed, paper after drying paint in between shapes cut out became stuck to the table and as it’s picked off, the bottom layer is revealed.
We shelved the project.
We did what we could and fortunately (or unfortunately) depending on how you look at it, the weather hasn’t been consistently bright or beautiful enough to sit outside in at a table anyway.
The project was a fail though the process was not and it’s something we go through as creative people.
In bold I highlighted the skills we learned along the way: continuing through doubt, embracing mistakes, continuing through challenges, questioning the entire idea and process, exploring other options, being flexible to work with what we had and eventually, the wisdom and surrender to carry on or let it go.
It’s all part of the creative process, whatever you make. A process I have greatly missed that visited me one tired day with an idea.
Have you had any creative projects win or fail that you could share? I’d love to read it!