Creativity: Stumbling Blocks + Play

Creatives get blocked.
Creatives need play time!

W14 6 1 Salmon with Garlic Greens 2
It has been a long time since I’ve been involved in a project —
I’m not talking about recipes or art challenges but real projects —
a couple of years of learning watercolors, and before that, a few years of hard work during this recession making sure our business stayed on track.
(I am a finish conservator in our business, working (mostly) on furniture.)

WEB BLANK PAGES 084Being driven toward making dollars is a very different mental state
than simply creating, and then selling what you created in that state.
Ask any artist commissioned to paint how different the two processes are:
In one, you have tight parameters within which you are creating, and in the other,
it does feel a bit more (at least to me) like pure play,
though you might have the parameters of materials, size, etc.

I’ve been struggling to get my project mojo back, and forgot that this, too, involves play.  For example, I’ve painted a couple of silly journal entries, memories for Mitchell and I, and in the process, inducted my playful side.  This playful side is necessary for one of the two projects I am moving forward, and always gives me more time in watercolors
(which is still necessary for me) and so, playing with Bunnies and Cake (below)
helps me in the bigger theme of telling the story I must tell!

There is a larger type of play creatives need to do,
with dedication.


W15 5 5 MAY SKETCHBOOK 001Mitchell does it on the guitar. 

He screws around with keys or chords or whatever he calls it, and I can tell when he is doing that versus playing a song.  We’ve talked about him noodling around on the guitar, and how it builds confidence, makes him at ease with the instrument, etc.

web arco axoAs an architect, besides sketching buildings during lectures and so forth,
I always started a project with the plot of land or skin of the building (if I was creating an interior layout) by playing in it — drawing walkways, entries, trees, structural layouts, windows, views, line-work, lot of line-work, and that aimless noodling was a kind of physical thinking that led, eventually, to an idea.  If I was truly blocked, however,
I went for a walk on Venice Beach or the boardwalk, read a short story of
Sherlock Holmes, or played with the cats, vegging out.  Especially if I was familiar with the project on the boards, this vegging out time was time when somewhere, the project was generating ideas because my Muse was working behind the scenes.

W16 6 30 LEMON CAKE 001In the same way, drawing or falling in love with a pigment and
playing with color or making marks going nowhere-in-particular lead to making me a better creative when I finally do get down to the business of a project.
(Lately it has been every shade of orange and coral….  and blue.)

I don’t think most businesses understand that play time that leads to good ideas and brilliant layouts.  They push for billable time.  I’ve been my own taskmaster, feeling the  pinch of time, the billable hours of my own mind imprisoning me.
Mitchell and I talked about it this morning and it all became clear to me, again.

And then there was cake…

Aquabee Super Deluxe Journal, Caran D’ache watercolor pencil, Platinum Carbon pen,
and Daniel Smith, Holbein, and QoR watercolors.


©D. Katie Powell.
My images/blog posts may be reposted; please link back  to dkatiepowellart.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in art journal, creativity, making a living, process, watercolor and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Creativity: Stumbling Blocks + Play

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Looking back over almost 40 years as a systems developer (or managing the process) I think it’s fair to say that I’ve learned more from side/background/fun projects than I have from the “important” projects we’ve worked on. The unimportant projects give you the freedom to explore, and that’s when you learn.


  2. Play is beyond important for any creative. it is the one thing that gives a brain the space to work things out. There is really interesting research which I studied while doing my masters looking into creativity theory and the need for play as it allows the creative brain to create connections and make leaps. Creative brains show greater lighting up across both hemispheres and also in the decision making area of the brain when they are playing creatively as opposed to working on actual tasks… it is fascinating stuff and supports the idea that when we are removing play from our lives we are actually compartmentalising our brains… never a good thing… so play away … and I looove your cake… blorange and strong pigments always makes me inordinately happy!


    • YESH! So here in the USA they’ve done away with “recess” for grade school kids — AAACK! No more breaks at ta times to play unfettered and unsupervised (or lightly so) on the playground. Take away art, shop, and the like and you’ve pretty well screwed the pooch — ooops, kids. XO


  3. I hear you Katie. Keep playing


  4. Gwenn says:

    I love your noodling! And I love your mention of your partner’s musical noodling. Mine does it too, and until you mentioned it I didn’t realize how much I love hearing him play like this. There’s an intensity to it that I think comes from the intimacy between artist and art when the art is play. The same is true in your playful pieces. I think that’s why I like them so much.


I love hearing from visitors!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.