Creative Breakthrough: 8 Exercises to Power Your Creativity, Confidence & Career | Danielle Krysa | Skillshare

Creative Breakthrough: 8 Exercises to Power Your Creativity, Confidence & Career

Danielle Krysa, Artist & Author, The Jealous Curator

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
12 Lessons (1h)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:32
    • 2. The Power of Aha Moments

      3:14
    • 3. Bonus: "Never Paint Again"

      4:47
    • 4. Use It or Lose It

      5:47
    • 5. A Teacher's Words

      5:48
    • 6. Embrace Your Weirdness

      6:45
    • 7. Make Some Rules

      5:11
    • 8. Create a Visual Vocabulary

      5:38
    • 9. Share Your Work

      9:06
    • 10. Give Yourself a Break

      5:51
    • 11. Creativity is a Job

      4:44
    • 12. Final Thoughts

      2:19
156 students are watching this class

About This Class

Reclaim your creativity and unlock your next breakthrough in this inspiring class from creative superstar Danielle Krysa!

After a crushing critique in art school, it took Danielle twenty years to get back in the studio. For Danielle, the writer and artist behind The Jealous Curator blog, it was a simple realization that finally inspired a change: “I realized my professor didn’t put my paintbrush down all those years ago. I did, and it was my responsibility to pick it back up.” 

Drawing from her own life as well as experiences of some of her favorite artists, Danielle shares eight exercises and mindset shifts you can use to unlock your creativity and experience a breakthrough of your own.

From writing and collage to painting and productivity, use these fun and flexible exercises to spark your creativity in whatever form it takes. Together with Danielle, you’ll discover:

  • The creative “superpower” that makes you unique
  • Tangible tools to banish block and silence self-doubt
  • Playful prompts to find your visual style and voice
  • Simple strategies to carve out your own path as a creative

Plus, in each lesson Danielle opens up about an “aha” moment that changed the course of her career, pulling wisdom (and wisecracks) from successful artists she’s interviewed for her blog, books, and podcast. 

Whether you’re looking to kickstart a new hobby, find your niche, or turn your passion into a profession, by the end you'll have a blueprint for building your most creative life. The key to success? The determination to pick up your pencil, stylus, or brush and get started!

________________________

All you need to follow along is a paper, something to write with, and your art supplies of choice. Download the class workbook to follow along with Danielle’s exercises, or jot your thoughts in a notebook.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: I know when an aha moment has hit when I feel a click in my chest or that gut reaction. It just strikes a nerve and that could possibly change everything. Hi, I'm Danielle Krysa, I am the writer behind, The Jealous Curator, and I'm also an author and an artist. Today's class is about the power of aha moments in your creative life. Those moments that just trigger something in your mind that will help you break through a block or get to the next level of your creative goals. The best part about Jealous Curator for me has been the aha moments that I've experienced. They have helped me actually start making art again after taking an almost 20-year hiatus. Today, I want to give those to you and give you some tips so that you can look for your own aha moments in your life. The way that I have structured this class is that there are eight aha moments. All of which have come from conversations I've had with different artists. In a lot of cases, there's an exercise that will also go with it, and in some cases, I'm just going to tell you another story. You can follow along anyway you like, all you really need is a notebook and a pen. You do not need to be a professional artist, whatever that means, to take this class. Everyone is creative that is my mantra. Everyone should be looking for these aha moments, and everyone can push themselves a little further than where they are right now. I'm so excited that you're here for these aha moments. Let's get started. 2. The Power of Aha Moments: Hi, and welcome to my class. I am so happy that you're here to hear about these aha moments and hopefully experience a whole bunch of your own. Aha moments are usually really simple ideas, but they just shake you out of your regular routine and make you look at something in a totally different way, in a way that maybe you hadn't even thought of for the last 10 or 20 years. Suddenly, it shakes things up a bit and sends you down a different path, opening up a whole new world of creative possibilities for you. I have been writing the Jealous Curator for 11 years now. I have got over 168 podcast episodes under my belt, a bunch of books, and so many aha moments. We're going to talk about eight of them today. I wish we could do a 100, 200 of them, but apparently we don't have that much time. So we're going to focus on eight big moments that I've had through talking with other artists, often on my podcast or through interviews that I've done with them in my books. I'm hoping that these moments are as impactful for you as they have been for me. I also want to give you these examples of these aha moments, so that you start looking for aha moments in your own life and your own conversations. Deciding to do this class might make you feel really vulnerable. Being a creative person might make you feel really vulnerable. Putting these things out there, putting your work out there is a scary thing. I was scared for years and therefore I didn't make anything at all, which is totally counterproductive. So let's not do that. We have to be vulnerable. That's the thing about being a creative person. So if you're feeling like that, it's okay, everyone feels like that. All of the artists who I admire so much, who are showing all over the world and living the dream, they feel like that too every single day. All it means is that we're all in the same club. We all get to wear the same badges to say that we're in this amazing creative club. So be vulnerable, be open to the idea of these aha moments, and let's see where this can take you. Today's class is going to be a combination of me telling you about these aha moments and some exercises that I'm going to do and you can do at home. Some of them you can take away and continue to do again and again and again, whenever you think that you need them when you need to push the roadblock, you're not going to need very much, so there's going to be maybe a notebook, some markers, we might cut up some books at some point, really, really simple, do not run out to the art store and spend a lot of money. You will have everything that you need in your house super, super easy. For me, I feel like this class honestly is for everybody. Who wouldn't want to take this class. This is for anybody who is a human being, who wants to be creative. Maybe you're already a professional, but you sort like you need to little bit of a boost because maybe you're in a bit of a slump. Maybe like me, you put your creativity away for a year, 10 years, 20 years, or maybe you've never really allowed yourself to be creative. Well, today is the day, let's turn that all around, let's grab a notebook and get going. 3. Bonus: "Never Paint Again": I was the art kid growing up, that was my thing. I was painting and drawing, and stealing my mom's art supplies from as young as I can remember. Obviously, I went to art school. However, the art kid did not fit in an art school, which was a really terrible, shocking thing. Critiques were my enemy. If you've experienced an art school critique, they are often not fun, especially for somebody that was wearing a matching Esprit sweater set. It did not go over very well in the '90s when everyone else had dark makeup and big boots. Anyway, I was a painting major. About six weeks, five weeks before I graduated, I hung my final show for my final critique with my class. I always got slammed. That was nothing new. I was used to it. In a way it was great because I actually learned how to defend myself, which is a skill that we should all have. So here I was, I hung these final five paintings and my professor, who did not like me at all, took a look at the work and said he loved it. This was the first time this had ever happened. He loved my work. He'd never seen anything like it. I'd found a new niche and I thought, "Oh, thank goodness. Six weeks before graduation and I have finally unlocked this monster." So the following week, there was a visiting artist coming from New York and there was time for three people to share their work. Well, nobody wanted to do, when everyone was terrified, but I had just found a new niche, so I volunteered. Seven days later, I hung up the same five pieces that I had shown the week before and sat down ready for this critique. It was meant to be 10 minutes, it went 4:30. I got absolutely torn apart by everyone, including the prof who the week before had said that he'd loved it. I was totally blindsided. I couldn't find the words to defend myself, and I just sat there and took it. There was no way I was going to allow myself to cry in front of these people. So I just sat quietly while I got torn apart. With about a minute left in this critique, my painting prof who was the head of the painting department, said to me, a painting major about to graduate with a painting degree quote, "You should never paint again." I listened. I put my paintbrush down for almost 20 years because I believed him. I believed that I wasn't good enough to paint. So I went off and became a designer. I was terrified to try making any kind of art at all, and so I just didn't. When my son was born in 2006, I quit my design job to stay home with him. Watching him as he was growing up, he just played. He made things, he could be a dinosaur for the whole day. I just thought, "Well, I want to play. I want to remember what it felt like to just make things without worrying about it and just stick it on the fridge with a magnet. It doesn't have to go to MoMA." So I started Googling around for artist that I might like. Did I find them? I found thousands of them and was crashed. I basically just felt like everything had been done better than I could ever do it. So what was the point? Again, here we were back at never painting again. This was 2008 and blogs were all the rage. My husband suggested that I start a blog to document, not for anyone else to read, but just for myself to start documenting the work that I like to see if there was a pattern. He very wisely said, "When you keep jealousy inside, it becomes toxic. But if you can say it out loud in a positive way, you can turn it into admiration." I knew immediately this new blog would be called the Jealous Curator. When I started the Jealous Curator in 2009, my tagline was, "Damn, I wish I thought of that." If I saw a piece of work and I, "Ah, I wish I'd made that." I knew I had tomorrow's post. But within the first month or two of writing, I wasn't really jealous anymore. Suddenly, I was excited, and inspired, and I was admiring these people as opposed to being jealous. I realized that there were millions of people doing millions of things, which meant there was room for me too and room for you. I started to make art again and very shortly after, I decided to change my tagline to, "Turning jealousy into get-your-ass-back-in-the studio inspiration since 2009." 4. Use It or Lose It: The first aha moment I want to share came from Baltimore based artist Amy Sherald. Now, if you recognize that name, it might be because you've seen the portrait of Michelle Obama. Amy was selected as the artist by Michelle to paint her official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. Huge deal has changed Amy's life. I actually couldn't even believe that she agreed to come on my podcast and talk about it because everybody wanted to talk to her about it. So she came on and her story was so interesting. The big aha moment I got from it was the idea of use it or lose it. Now, what this means is that Amy's parents wanted her to be a doctor when she grew up, to the point that she was in pre-med at school. She'd always been the art kid growing up though and loved drawing and even though she was in university and major hopping because ultimately she wanted to be doing art, but wasn't supported in that endeavor, she had this use it or lose it moment. She was walking across the campus and there was a guy selling art. So she stopped and was chatting with him and he said, "Oh, so are you an artist? She said, "Well, I used to be and I dabble, but I'm studying to be a doctor." He said to her, "Well, you know what? You need to use it or you're going to lose it." She said she just had this moment. This is what I mean by an aha moment. This just sort of light bulb went off for her and she thought, "Oh my gosh, yes, what am I doing?" She switched into fine art and became a fine arts major. Now granted, her parents were probably not thrilled because choosing to become an artist over becoming a doctor is a little bit different. But Amy just knew that this was who she was and she was scared that if she let too much time go by, maybe she would lose it, maybe she would lose those skills, maybe life would get too busy and she wouldn't make time for art, which I'm sure a lot of people can identify with, that happens to so many of us. When he said that, she had this moment of, "Oh no, I can't let that happen." For this exercise, I'm channeling Amy's experience that she had growing up. Is there something that you always wanted to do? Think back to when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up? Was it a doctor or was it an artist? I've put together a little quiz that will hopefully get us back to where we were when we were little, the things that were important to us. So let's think about this. When I was little, I wanted to be a blank when I grow up. Was it a doctor? Was it a firefighter? Mine, I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be an artist, I'm going to do a list, a writer, and a backup dancer for Janet Jackson because who wouldn't want to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson? My favorite toy was? Well, there was a lot, but I'm going to go with light bright. I hope you people are old enough to remember what's a light bright because I loved drawing and that was just another way to draw. Let's see. When I was a kid, I spent hours in a bush in my front yard and I made a little fort under there and I wrote my first kid's book there when I was seven. So writing and drawing under a bush. Really write down what you did, really think about it. It might not come to mind right away. Give yourself a minute, you don't need to answer it right away, but really think about what that was because very often, the things you loved as a child are the things that you are naturally good at, the things that you're naturally drawn to, and maybe life is taking you down a different road. But if you stop and think back to what you would do, if you had all the time and the money in the world now, what would you want to be doing? Well, backup dancer obviously. You know what? I might audition for SNL. That's something I've always wanted to do. Honestly, I would write a kids book and I just did because I've had this on my list for the most of my life and I made it happened. So I want you to fill all of this out, maybe fill it out a few different times and really think about what you want because you can manifest this, maybe even this, maybe even a backup dancer. But this has actually happened. So I want you to really think about it and let's make it happen for you too. You can download this quiz in the class resources so that you can print it out a few times, and do it whenever you need to have that moment to really think about it. Things are going to come back to you when you least expect it. Once you've finished this quiz, if there's something on there that triggers you like light bright for example, they still have them. I find them at my local thrift shop all the time, maybe do a project on light bright, but the grown up version. If you've always wanted to write a kids book, make a little book, actually do it. You don't need the book deal, you don't need an agent, you don't need any of that, just be creative. When I was seven, I sat under that bush and wrote and illustrated my very first kid's book without a publisher in sight. So if there's something on this list in this quiz that really strikes a chord with you, go and make it. Just get down to it and make it happen. 5. A Teacher's Words: The next lesson comes to us from LA based artist, Wayne White. He is easily one of my favorite artists of all time, not only because of his work but because of his sense of humor. Wayne was one of the artists that worked on Pee-wee's Playhouse. Wayne designed a lot of the sets and the puppets. He even did voices for a lot of them. Well, now he is a painter and sculptor based in LA and his work is still hilarious and weird, which I absolutely love. But this story is about the power of a teacher and Wayne tells a beautiful story about his first grade teacher and how she planted the seed that he could in fact be an artist when he grew up. Wayne's first grade teacher was named Mrs. Stoddard. On the very first day of school, she had them all draw a picture of their lunch, probably to keep them busy while she got the classroom organized, but they all drew their lunch. Wayne had been drawing since he was born basically, so he took great pride in this drawing of his lunch. So the next day, his second day of school ever, all of the lunch pictures were hung up except his, which scared him a little bit. He thought, "She didn't like it. Maybe got thrown away. Where did his drawing go?" Mrs. Stoddard came out with Wayne's drawing, held it up in front of the class and said, "I think Wayne White is going to be an artist when he grows up." He said that was his aha moment. He said, "I will never forget that moment that Mrs. Stoddard said I could be a real artist." He planted that seed in his mind as the truth and let it bloom. That is such a powerful aha moment and teachers have that power. But those seeds aren't always positive seeds that you allow to bloom. In my situation, I allowed my professor from the last year of art school to convince me that I should "never paint again." I planted that seed in my mind as a truth and I believed it and I let it blossom. So that's why when I heard Wayne's moment, it was an aha moment for me too because I thought, "His seed was positive, mine was negative. I'm going to turn this all around, I'm going to weed my garden and I'm going to plant something else in there that's going to flourish and allow me to believe that I get to be an artist too." We are going to do an exercise and I want you to think back again. We're going back to childhood again. I want you to think back to statements that either a teacher or maybe someone in an authority position, things that they said to you that made you feel really good. Like for example, in the fourth grade when I was the first one allowed to go from pencil to pen. Yes, that was me. Mr. Barron, thank you for letting me go to pen. So if there was something like that that made you feel really empowered, we're just going to take a minute and figure out what those things are. All you need for this is a big piece of paper and a pen of some kind. So let's just divide our paper in half, we'll make a list of the good seeds and the bad seeds. I hope you don't have any bad seeds at all, but if you do, we've got a place for them. So my good seeds were that I got to use the pen first, bad seed, never paint again. So just take a moment and figure out what these things are. They might be things that are tucked away that you haven't thought about in years and years. They might be things that pop into your head immediately. I had a woman who had her drawing torn in half in the fourth grade because her teacher said that she drew the bear wrong because she drew it from the back, not the side. So that would go in the bad seed camp. So I want you to think about that, take your time, write out your list. One of the things I want to share with you of my good seeds, I clearly remember this. I was about four and I was doing a drawing of a bird and my dad saw it and said, "We need to frame that." Not just a little kid frame, he framed all of my mom's art, she was a painter. He said, "This needs real glass and a gold frame." I just so happen to have it here to show you today. A masterpiece titled, Big Bird Tiny Tree, 1977. My mother let me use oil pastels. Giving a 4-year-old oil pastels is very dangerous thing, but that made me feel very grown up. As I was drawing it and my dad looked over my shoulder and said, "We need to frame that," I was like, "wait, wait, wait," and I added this tiny cloud right here in pencil because I knew it wouldn't be final until that little cloud was there. I still have this hanging in my studio today because it reminds me of that moment when that seed was planted that I could be an artist too, just like my mom. I remind myself of that on days when the ideas won't come and my hand is not cooperating with my brain that I really am an artist and that things do get to be framed in gold frames. What I would like you to do with this list now is reclaim these projects. So in Wayne's case, draw your lunch again. If you were told in the second grade that your trees look like lollipops and that broke your little artist heart, do painting out of trees that look like lollipops. Just own it and let that be your own thing. Replant these seeds in your adult brain and let them grow and turn into something really positive today. 6. Embrace Your Weirdness: Can you guess who this aha moment is from? Yes, I am channeling my inner Ashley Longshore right now. I've got the bling and I'm embracing my weirdness. Ashley's whole gem is about using your weirdness as your superpower. So that's what we're going to talk about in this aha moment. So if the glasses didn't give it away and you don't know the work of Ashley Longshore, she is an amazing self-taught artist from New Orleans, and she is loud, and fun, and be-dazzled, and so is her work. However, galleries, and collectors, and all sorts of people told her that she wasn't marketable, that that thing wasn't going to sell, that it wasn't real art. Well, she will admit there was a lot of tears and frustration, but she also didn't give up. Ashley said to me, and this was the aha moment that really struck me. She said, "Embrace your weirdness because that is your superpower." She didn't let anyone tell her that that's not how she should do it. She just embraced her weirdness and kept going. So if you're really quiet and poetic, embrace that. That's your superpower. If you're hilarious like me, embrace that, let that be your superpower and feed it into whatever you're making. If you don't allow who you are to come through in your artwork, what is the point? Instead of doing an exercise, I want to share a story, a very, very important personal aha moment for me that hopefully somewhere in there you'll find an aha moment for yourself. This was a game changer for me and my artwork. It begins at art school and ends with Wayne White from previous chapter. So let's just quickly talk about that. Not only was I told you should never paint again when I was in art school, I was also told not to bring humor into my work. Taking humor out of my work was really weird because that's a huge part of who I am. They wanted dark and angsty, so I didn't know what to do. I just bought a lot of black paint and hoped for the best. I was told, "Look, it's bad enough that you're a woman, but if you try and bring humor into your work too you will really never be taken seriously as an artist". Again, I let that seed get planted in my brain and I believed it as a truth. I wanted to be a serious artist. I was like "Right. Okay, get rid of the humor". In that same conversation when I was talking to Wayne White on my podcast, his work is hilarious. One of my favorite examples of Wayne's work, for obvious reasons, is a piece titled, "Just a picture shunned by scholars, now it costs $10,000". I believe there should be a mic drop every time someone reads that title. When he first showed up in LA with his funny, hilarious, often, curse word, filled paintings, the LA art scene wasn't into it because real art isn't supposed to be funny. So I asked Wayne, "How do you deal with that?" You need to know that Wayne, every second word out of his mouth is usually a swear word, and so when I said, "How do you feel about this?" He said, "Well, I just say [inaudible] it." I thought, "Yeah, [inaudible] it. Why can't I embrace my inner hilariousness? Just because someone 20 years ago told me I wouldn't be taken seriously, I'm going to let that inform the work that I do now? No way". So starting that day, my aha light bulb went off and I thought, that's it. I'm bringing humor back into my work and I'm starting tomorrow. After having this aha moment, the first thing I did was give myself a 30-day challenge. I highly recommend those by the way because the get you moving and making. I decided I was going to make one collage a day and I was going to completely embrace my hilariousness. I also decided to incorporate paint because it was finally time for "You should never paint again," to get tossed out the window. The first day of this challenge, I ended up being in my studio for eight hours. Here I was 20 years later covered in paint, laughing hysterically completely by myself like a crazy person, and having fun making art for the first time since I was a teenager. Here are a few pieces that I did on that very first day. This was literally the first piece that I did. It's titled, "No matter how long he sat there, he couldn't wrap its head around this whole minimalism thing." I want to talk a little bit about how I started doing this and it feeds into the idea of not being precious, and when you do sit down to do some of these projects we've talked about, don't work on a really expensive canvas, don't get yourself worried that everything needs to be perfect. What I did was I worked on small pieces of paper that I didn't care about. I laid them all out, I probably had 20 on my desk, and I just squeezed out paint that I like, and I just started making different strokes in different colors and in different ways. Once I had done that, then I started going through my little cutouts that I have and I started placing little people, and if the person didn't fit with the blob, then it wasn't a final peace. The minute I put something down and a title popped into my head, a hilarious title, I knew that I had a piece and that's when I started gluing. Because I did that, of those 20 that I did, I probably kept five of them and 15 got flipped over or recycled. So give yourself that permission not to be precious, work on scrap paper first, and even though these are technically on scrap paper, I would still hang that in the gallery. Another piece from that very first day was a stroke of blue paint. This one is titled, "Frank had always been a thrill seeker." All it is is one stroke of blue and a little sailboat. But suddenly a narrative that made me laugh out loud by myself in a studio came to life. This was just the biggest aha moment, allowing myself to be funny, to have fun, to not worry what the galleries were going to think to just make art. So now I challenge you to go and find your super power, whether it's hilarious, or crazy, or quiet, whatever it is, go find it, harness it, and make it your own. 7. Make Some Rules: When you start a project and the possibilities are endless and you just don't know where to start, that kind of problem stopped me for years. Because once you're out of school and the assignments are gone or whatever it is, it's just you and an empty page, and you and an empty Canvas, and you could really start anywhere and sometimes that's insanely intimidating. So this next aha moment was delivered to me from Kate Bingaman-Burt. She is an artist, illustrator, and a professor at Portland State University, and she is amazing. She has been making rules for herself since forever, and that is what she was telling me. Gave me this advice, make rules and play within them. Think of it like a sandbox and bring the toys into the sandbox that you want to use, and then you don't have to worry about all of the other possibilities because you've only got the toys that you've got in the sandbox with you at that moment. The minute Kate threw out this whole idea of making rules and playing within them, I just felt a huge sense of relief. "Yes, I don't have to stare at that Canvas with endless possibilities. I can make some rules and then work within them, and I'm the one that's making those rules, so it gets really fun, really fast." What I find really useful to do is to give myself a color. I always start with a color, collect everything you have in that particular color, and then give yourself some assignment. Kate suggestion was to go to your medicine cabinet in your bathroom, pull everything out, and then document it either dried photograph or whatever you like. The first thing I'm going to need is a color, so I'm going to go with pink and you're going to find out in our upcoming lesson why pink is so important to me. But I've gathered a whole bunch of pink things, brought them here. We will just put this giant pile of pink stuff here. I've got found images, scrap paper, paper I painted on. It didn't work out, that happens to be pink, so they fit into my Sandbox. I also brought a bunch of my supplies to work with that are pink too, so I've got these as my starting place. Look at this you guys, I even have pink scissors. I've got pink tape and a pink pen. I could have paint, I could use whatever I like, but we'll keep it simple for now. Again, you don't need to run to the art store and buy five zillion things. I bet you will have everything you need in your house. Now I need something to make with this, because again, I really could make anything with this which is a little bit overwhelming. So instead of a bathroom cabinet, I'm going to dump out the contents of my purse, recreate them using pink supplies. I wish this purse was pink, close enough. Here we go. Gum, hair elastic, a Band-Aid. Because I'm a good mom, you always eat a band-aid and your bag. Let's see, keys, lip gloss, and a pencil. Now suddenly, I have a starting place. I would have had a blank canvas and a million supplies and no idea where to start. Now I have everything that's pink, the contents of my purse, and because I'm not a great drawer, you don't have to be a great drawer to be a great artist. I am going to collage these things by cutting out bits and pieces and gluing them altogether. Before you know it, those little things in there, maybe the way that I document this, lip gloss is going to give me an aha moment for a bigger, more substantial project. These little gems that you started out with, it seemed like throw away ideas, are often what leads you to the next big project. Anytime I'm doing an unblocking project where it's quick and fun and I'm not being precious, I also like to set a timer usually for 30 minutes to an hour max. Because if you have all day, you can get really precious and hung up on what you're doing. If you set a 30-minute timer, you have to be done in 30 minutes, and it just helps you keep on moving so that you don't get too hung up on what you're doing. This is what I made. Here's a Band-Aid, here's a Band-Aid. The idea here is not to make something perfect and amazing, that's bound for fancy gallery show. The idea is just to play. Honestly, I'm quite proud of this Band-Aid, and that could actually turn into something else that I would use somewhere along the way that had I not brought out all the pink stuff and dumped out my purse, this would not exist in the world. So give yourself one of these challenges, make your own sandbox, play within it, and see where it takes you. 8. Create a Visual Vocabulary: I have always loved charts and being very organized. But for some reason I never applied this to my artwork, until I talked to Kirstin Lamb, an artist from Rhode Island. She is very organized, and when I had her on my podcast, she just threw out the term visual vocabulary. Again, on went my light bulb, she had broken down everything that she puts into her work into a document, a list, and she had it all figured out. She'd created her own visual vocabulary. It had made me stop and think, "Well, what's mine?" I had never actually thought about, why I choose the colors I choose, why I use the same imagery repeatedly. I use Queen Elizabeth all the time. Why? I don't know. I use pink all the time. I had no idea why. But when Kirstin started talking about her work, she does a lot of style life like the Dutch vanitas with skulls and things, but they have a modern twist, so there'll be a cake, or a pinup girl. She actually has a documented list of what each of those things mean to her in her own personal history. Whether the viewer of the work knows what those things mean, it doesn't matter. It's about Kirstin telling her story the way she wants to tell it. So we are going to actually stop and think about this. I want you to get a notebook. We're going to paint in it, we might glue in it, but we're actually going to make a visual list of everything that goes into the work that you make. I have a black notebook here. It's not super expensive. It does have thicker paper so that it could take paint. But grab whatever you want. I have some [inaudible] , brushes, a little bit of water because I do work with paints a lot. So grab the materials that you use, go through your memory banks and think about everything that you tend to incorporate over and over again. Have a look at all your work, maybe put everything out in front of you, and look for patterns that are starting to emerge. Then put those down in your handbook. So it could be the colors, it could be shapes that reappear, images that reappear over and over, text that you use. If you use tape, stick a piece of tape down. If you notice that you often use dots in your work, draw a bunch of dots. We'll make a list of all of the visuals down one side, and then we can write next to it what those mean. I want you to keep this going, as your work evolves and you start to realize different things that you're bringing in. This will eventually become your Bible. Imagine how happy the art historians will be when they find this document. Huge. It's going straight to the Smithsonian. Why not get mine started too. Here we go. This is just a teeny-tiny start on mine, but one of the things I realized was that I use pink all the time. It never occurred to me why, an issue with pink is very often people think, "Oh, it's girly, it's barbie, it's bubblegum, and that's why you're using pink." But it's not at all why I use pink. My grandmother, Blanche, I was very close with her, and when she was dying of cancer, she was in and out of consciousness, and her last lucid moment, she very clearly said, "I just saw my spirit, and it's pink." My mom tried to calm her down and she said, "No, you have to hear me." She said, "I just saw it and my spirit is pink. Watch for me in pink". That was 25 years ago, and a lot of weird pink things have happened since. Slowly over time, pink started coming into my work, and it'd never occurred to me that this was probably the seed that had been planted in my mind about this color. Now, after talking to Kirstin and having this aha moment about actually paying attention to why I do what I do in my artwork, this pink means so much more so I use all sorts of shades of pink. She was an Avon lady, when I was a kid. So pink plays in because of the makeup, so I use a lot of powdery pinks. So this could apply to you, think about why you use whatever color or shape. You might not even realize until you give yourself the time to think. The other reason I use the Queen is, again, my grandmother, I was using her all the time. She's a pop icon, people know when you put the Queen in there. I call her Liz, which makes it funnier. Then, again, after this conversation with Kirstin, I thought about, why do I actually use her? Is it because I'm Canadian and she's on all of my money? But I started to realize, looking back through my grandmother's photographs, she looked so much like Queen Elizabeth through her teens, or twenties, and even into her senior years. So now, by placing Liz in my work, I feel like my grandmother is there without actually having to use family photos. So that was all super personal, as artwork always is. So hopefully you can take this lesson, think about why you do the things you do, harness them, and really own them in your own artwork. 9. Share Your Work: This next aha moment was another really personal one for me. This involves Sarah Gee Miller. She's an artist from Vancouver, and she makes beautiful cut paper works. Well, I had known her as an artist and she knew me as the gels curator. She actually had no idea that I made my own work because I didn't tell anybody. So I was trying to work on a new series and I felt like a deer in headlights. I had no idea what I was doing. I had way too many ideas that I was trying to fit in. A friend of mine who isn't an artist said, "Don't you have any art friends you can talk to you about this?" I thought, "Talk to art people about my art? No, thank you." It suddenly took me right back to that critique in art school. The last thing I wanted to do was put art that I wasn't sure about in front of other human beings. That sounded like a nightmare to me. But Sarah is kind and generous, and I felt like maybe this would be okay. So I called her and said, "If I bring you chocolate pastries, will you make coffee and talk to me about some art?" She said, "Sure." Because who's going to say no to chocolate pastries and coffee? So Sarah and Jessica Bell, another artist in Vancouver, we all got together. They thought I was there to talk about gels curator stuff, but I showed up with all of my own artwork, and they said, "Whose is this?" I said, "It's mine." We ended up talking for four or five hours that afternoon. This was the first time in 20 years that I had shown my work to other artists and actually asked for feedback. I can tell you there were light bulbs going off that entire afternoon. I felt so excited. Their feedback was exactly what I needed. Sharing my work was the best thing I could have done for myself. I know it's terrifying. It is not something people like to do, but what you need to do is find a Sarah, find even just one person whose opinion you trust that you can show your work to and be open to what it is they're going to tell you. There are also people that you shouldn't share with. If you know that your family or friends are going to be negative about it and bring you down, don't go there. It's only going to stop you. Find people who are going to give you actual feedback that's going to help move you forward. It doesn't mean that they have to tell you everything you do is perfect. It means that they're going to give you actual constructive criticism to get you moving forward. Don't share with the entire world either until you're ready. In our world of social media, you feel like you need to be posting on Instagram every five minutes and you don't need to. If you're not ready to post something, don't feel you have to. I started in really small little bites. I would show a work in progress. I would show just the things I'd cut out. I would show just a corner that I was really happy with. As my confidence grew and I started to be really happy with the work I was making, then I felt like I could start sharing with the world. You do not need an Internet troll giving their opinion until you feel really ready to defend your work. If you haven't found your Sarah and Jessica yet, I have a few tips for you to help find that crew that will help you. Again, the crew only needs to be one person, it could end up being 3, 4, 10, whatever it is, you need to actually share your work. You can't create work in a vacuum. It's just dusty and dark in there. So let's get that work out into the light and let's set about to try and find this crew for you. So the exercise for this lesson is a three partner. You can just do one or you can do all the three if you like. So the first thing you need to do is make a list of the people that you think you might be able to share with. Again, get some chocolate pastries. It might just be one person that you invite for coffee. If there's nobody in your area that you feel like you can meet with face-to-face, is there someone you can Skype? Set up a Skype meeting and go and talk to them online. You just need to find that one person. So get yourself a little list. I bet you'll have quite a few people that you can put on there and make yourself a coffee, and get talking. Ask those people after your chat if they can write down three positive things that they like about your work. Take that, put it on your fridge, put it in your studio, and when your inner critic starts getting a little bit feisty, go back and have a look at what this person actually thinks of your work, so that you can try and reinforce that and kick your inner critic out, and replace those thoughts with the positive thoughts. The second way that you can do this is once you've got these people, this crew, even again, if it's just a couple of people, start meeting in person. One of my absolutely favorite things to do is a bad art night. Have you ever done a bad art night? It is your best. So what you do is everybody gets together and you bring all of the worst materials that you have, you know that brown yarn you have. Why do you have that? Bring that, bring the old crusty paint that's not working anymore, old wallpaper samples that for some reason are still in the back of your closet, clear it out of your house. That's one positive to this exercise. Then everybody gets together with the goal of making the worst art that you have ever made in your entire life. That way, anything you make after that will only be up. So I did this in LA with a group of about 40 women. It was so much fun. We got pizza, and wine, and we had a huge table of junk that nobody wanted. I set some rules and I played within them. So the rules I made for myself on this bad art night in LA was a, to use yellow because I hate yellow. I'm sorry for those people who love yellow. I don't like yellow, and I love portraits of women, but I am really bad at doing portraits of women. So I thought, okay, I know it'll be terrible because it's not my strength and I am going to use yellow. So I went through my pile of stuff and found a scrap painting that hadn't worked and began assembling the worst piece of art I could imagine. I've brought it here for you to see. Are you ready? Brace yourselves. It's this. This was a scrap of a painting where I did not like the colors I used. That was two pastel, some lips, I applied some nice yellow lipstick. I could not hate this more, but for a bad art night piece, I did exactly what I was supposed to do and I got pizza and wine out of the art too. So I highly recommend doing this, again, even if you do it with one friend, it is hilarious. It's a great night and anything I do after this is going to be so much better. Once you've worked your way out from sharing with one person to possibly a group of people, then you can venture out into the world and start sharing with everybody. Instagram, of course, is a great place to do that. Now I had the gels curator as my Instagram, and I rarely put my own artwork up there. Then somebody said to me, "Why don't you have your own daniellekrysaart feed?" I said, "I don't know." That was another aha moment. So I started daniellekrysaart, and I just started by showing a little bit at a time. I would only show pieces I was really happy with. I started getting more courageous and actually showing what I was doing. Because of that, I now have a crew of thousands who are part of my art journey. It's been really amazing. There's the occasion of troll, but you can delete those comments. So I can put a video of the paintbrush. I can put in progress shots, what's going on in the studio. If I'm packing up art, just letting people know what's happening in your practice. People love behind the scenes. They want to know what you're up to. That's a really good way to start before you're really ready to start showing the final pieces. I'm going to wrap this up by challenging you to do all three of these things. Write that list, invite somebody to coffee. Plan a bad art night, even if it's just for you and your mom. Start your own Instagram account, if you don't have one yet. Start small, just show in progress shots. Then, if you'd like to, you can even upload the things that we've been talking about throughout this class to the project gallery, so that everybody can have a look, and everyone that's doing this class could end up being your future crew. 10. Give Yourself a Break: When you think about being a full-time artist, does that mean you think you need to quit your daily job and only do art in order to be a successful artist? So many people that I've talked to think that. Even if they're producing a lot of art work and they're showing and they're selling, but they're still working in a cafe or they still have a daily job, they feel like they're not an artist with a capital A. Well I'm going to call bullshit on that, because you absolutely are. In fact, I spoke to an artist named Terrence Payne. He is an amazing artist. He does huge oil pastel drawings and he's based in Minneapolis. He also works at a bar. He has worked at this bar for years and he could quit. He makes enough money from his art, but he chooses not to for several reasons. One, a little extra cash never hurt anybody, but the main reason he does it is because it provides a break from the studio, because you cannot produce constantly, you just can't, it's burnout. That would happen in any job, so why would you do that to yourself? It gives them a break to get out of the studio, and also because of the job that he has at the bar that he works out, there is a lot of creative inspiration there. There are people doing crazy things, there are funny things that happen, and he harvests all of those and puts it back into his artwork. So if you have another job, and you're feeling down on yourself because you're not a full-time artist, don't think of it as a negative, think of it as a positive. Use it as a source of inspiration for all sorts of things. Did you overhear something weird, was somebody wearing a shirt with a crazy pattern on it that you love the colors and that possibly it could be incorporated. There's inspiration all around you, so give yourself a break literally and figuratively. I should point out, if you are a full-time artist and you don't have another job, you deserve a break too. Purposely put into your schedule a couple of hours a day where you get out of the studio and go look for inspiration somewhere else, and it just so happens I have an exercise for that. Now just before we get to the exercise, you may have learned by now that I love lists, so let's write another one. We're going to do one of two things. If you do have a job, I want you to write down three things that you can look for tomorrow at work that will serve as inspiration. So that might be color combinations, maybe it's overheard conversations in the coffee room, coffee talk, or whatever else you want to put on that list. If you don't have a job, but you need one, or you want to have a little extra income to help supplement your artwork, write down three places you could work that might feed into your artwork. You can find the same kind of inspiration that you need, whether it's a garden center, a cafe, it doesn't need to be a job job. There's an artist named Rebecca Louise Law who works with flowers, she does huge flower installations. So guess what? She went and got a job at a flower shop. Not only was she getting paid, but she was learning everything she needed to learn about flowers, and they would give her the days cut-offs so she could take them back and incorporate them into her work; win-win. Think about the kind of work that you're doing, where would you find the best inspiration, write that down and then you've got an action list for where you go and look for a little bit of extra money. If your artwork is bringing in a little bit of money right now, you also don't want to take up your full schedule by having a 9-5, so find something that you can do part-time that you know will actually help feed your creativity, like at a bar like Terrence or at a flower shop like Rebecca, and Here we are at the exercise. This is my favorite blockbusting, get outside, get some fresh air, get excited again, project. This was given to me by an artist named Mel Robson. She's in my first book, Creative Block, and I asked for a creative jump starter. So she suggested rolling the dice. So luckily I've got a couple of dice right here. So you roll them, and you hope you don't get two sixes. Oh look, a one and a three. So a one and a three would be 13 minutes or 31 minutes if you like, and what you're going to do is travel for that amount of time. So you could go on a bus, you could walk, you can roller skate, you can really do whatever you want for that amount of time. When your timer runs out at 13 minutes, stop wherever you are as long as it's safe, and spend one hour in that location. Now this might be something that you've walked by 5,000 times on your way to work, but because we are being conscious to stop there for one hour and pay attention to everything that's around you, you're going to see things you've never seen before. So you can take photographs, you could record sound, you could sketch, you could write everything that you see, whatever you like. Spend the entire hour just collecting information and inspiration, and then take that back to your studio and make something based on everything that you've gathered. Not only does this give you fresh air and a break from the studio, it makes you incredibly present and makes you really pay attention to the things that are around you, and hopefully brings you inspiration you never would have found otherwise. 11. Creativity is a Job: Here we are at our final aha moment. This one is brought to us by my good friend, Mark Bradley-Shoup. He is a painter, a collage artist, and a professor at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. I had him on my podcast, and we were talking about advice that he gives his students. Well, I didn't think this applied to me, I didn't expect an aha moment because I graduated 20 something years ago. However, this advice applies to all of us and we should listen carefully. Mark tells his senior students about to graduate, that they need to consider their creative pursuits as a job. Even though they will most likely be working in cafes or pizza shops or whatever they're going to do, they also need to schedule their creative time. Otherwise, it's going to slip right through their fingers. What he tells them is, look at your week and decide how many hours you can give to your studio practice. If you're working a 40-hour a week job, maybe that means you can only give five hours right now to your practice, one hour every week day. If you're only working a part-time job, maybe you can give 20-hours a week to your creative pursuits. So decide what that is and then actually schedule it into your calendar. Block off that time, like you would a job. You would never blow off your job if a friend called and asked you to go for pizza and the movies, you would say, ''No, I have to go to work." So if it's your studio time and someone calls and says, ''Hey, we're all going for pizza," you say, "No, I can't. I've got studio time." Creativity needs to be just as high on your priority list as everything else. So even if you haven't just graduated from school, this still applies. Give yourself that hour everyday before you make dinner, after you've gotten home from work. Maybe you decide that Saturday morning you've got two hours. So every Saturday morning, that is your studio time. It doesn't get interrupted by anything. Grab a calendar and actually put it on there, and that's what I had to do because I realized I was letting my creativity slip through my fingers if other things came up. Here's a calendar, I happened to have handy, when in New York. So grab your calendar, I'm a big fan of paper and New York City firefighters, actually mark it right in your calendar. If you know you're going to be doing four hours here, mark it in. Nobody can take that away. We're going from 1:00 until 5:00. Mark it on Saturday, this is studio time. Nothing can interrupt it, not even this guy. By actually having a schedule and having this time blocked off in your calendar, excuses can't sneak in as easily as they might have. If you've just got a wide-open schedule and you figure you'll fit this in wherever you can, things like, "The lighting is not quite right," or "Maybe I should make some coffee first, but I'm out of cream. So I'll just pop to the store quickly." That slowly eats away at your time and before you know it, you get home, it's too dark, your favorite show is on, and you haven't made anything that day. I will bet, it happens again the next day. However, if you blocked off a chunk of time and force yourself to be in there in that moment, you'll actually show up. The other nice thing about that is making sure that when you do show up, even if you're not in the mood to make art, procrastinate with purpose. For me, I'm a collage artist, so if I've blocked off time in my calendar but I'm not really feeling in the mood to be creative, it doesn't matter, that time is in my calendar. So I'll go into my studio and just cut stuff out, because eventually I'm going to need that stuff cut out. But as I start to do it, you can't help but get the creative juices flowing. If I cut out a doughnut and a cactus, I think, "I wonder what would happen in a collage," and suddenly I'm actually making things. For some reason, so many of us believe that creativity is frivolous, that it doesn't need to be at the top of your to-do list, it's not a priority. Maybe it's because we've been told it's a hobby, a nice to have. I don't believe that for a second. As creative people, this needs to be a priority and we need to make time for it. We need to train ourselves to work it into our schedules, to make it part of our life. It's like exercise. You need to do a little bit every day and the more you do, the more it just becomes the way that you live. So get it in that calendar and show up every single day. 12. Final Thoughts: "Congratulations! You made it to the end." That was eight aha moments. You're lucky I'm not keeping you here for 82 more because I very well could. The last aha moment, see I am going to sneak one in. The last one I really want to share with you was a huge one for me and I hope it will be huge for you too. When I was writing my first book, Creative Block, I interviewed an artist in Toronto named Amanda Happy. The question I asked her was, "How do you deal with negative criticism?" Her advice was the best. She said, "The thing is, you don't have to care. No one can wrestle the pencil out of your hand, you get to keep going in absolute defiance." When I read that answer, I burst into tears on my couch because I finally realized, after almost 20 years at that point, that that art professor didn't put my paintbrush down. I did. It was my responsibility to pick it up the next day and paint again, and again, and again, and I didn't. Picking up that paintbrush is the difference between being a successful creative person and a not successful creative person. You need to pick that up and keep on going. Coming out of this class, what I hope you'll learn to do is really pay attention, listen for those aha moments because they're out there. Sometimes they're really little. They might be in a passing conversation. But if you see that light bulb go on or you feel that little click in your chest, know that something important has just happened and give yourself some time to think about it and how you can apply it to, not only your creative life, but just your life. All of these things happen for a reason. So pay attention because they're out there waiting for you. We have talked a lot about exercises, jump-starting our creativity, sharing our work. So let's do exactly that. Share your aha moments, share the projects that you do, and you can do that as part of this little crew that we've created right here. Do that in the project gallery, and if you need the worksheets or anything that we've talked about, you can download those from the class resources. So let's all join forces. There's a zillion aha moments out there for all of us. Let's go find them and get to work.