The Toothbrush Approach to Daily Creativity | Catherine Jennifer Charnock | Skillshare

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The Toothbrush Approach to Daily Creativity

teacher avatar Catherine Jennifer Charnock, Artist, Surface Pattern Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Project

    • 3. Materials

    • 4. Subjects and Projects Brainstorm

    • 5. Subjects and Projects Sorted

    • 6. Working Spaces

    • 7. Materials for Different Spaces

    • 8. Energy and Emotions

    • 9. Using a Timer

    • 10. Multiple Drawings

    • 11. Self Talk and Boundaries for the Inner Critic

    • 12. Summary

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About This Class

This class teaches a teeny-weeny mindshift that has massive implications for your relationship with art: take ‘Art’ off its pedestal. Instead of seeing art as a tantalising-but-difficult creative act, why not view it like you would view brushing your teeth: a daily task that has to happen, no matter what. If you’re tired, you still brush your teeth, right? If you’re in a bad mood, or you just don’t have time… you still brush your teeth. So put your daily creativity on the same task level. It's no biggie, but it has to happen.

Ok, great idea! Now what?

Now, you need a strategy. This class teaches the strategy that worked for me. At the start of 2020, I embarked on a 100-day challenge. I decided to spend 20 minutes every day practising drawing. January… fine. February… fine. March… LOCKDOWN. Ohhh dear. So now I had all four kids at home ALL the time. No childcare, no grandparents/aunts/friends. Day 100 in my challenge arrived but, instead of stopping, I decided to keep going. For the whole year.

Over the course of the year I developed strategies. I noticed that when I was too tired to sit at my desk, I could still draw on the sofa. When it was too late to draw on the sofa, I could still draw in bed. I noticed that when I simplified my materials to match my location, it was easier to get it done. And I noticed that when I tuned in to my physical and emotional energy and matched these to my choice of materials and subject matter, I usually stopped fighting the process, instead, getting into a state of flow - and feeling better for it afterwards.


This class is for anyone who wants to be creative on a daily/regular basis. You don’t have be to an ‘artist’. You will learn to think about where you create, what materials you use, and what you choose as your subject matter, and consider how to match these to your physical and emotional energy. By thinking about 'Art' on the same level you think about brushing your teeth, and supporting this with a practical strategy,  you will learn how to keep turning up, day after day.

When the purpose of making art every day is not to create a masterpiece, but to tune in to your own physical and emotional needs and find quiet headspace, or an expressive outlet for your emotions, that’s when art stops being that thing that you intend to do but often don’t get round to, and starts being the thing you do every day, no matter what. Like brushing your teeth.  



Related Class: Drawing Without Fear

Meet Your Teacher

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Catherine Jennifer Charnock

Artist, Surface Pattern Designer


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1. Introduction: What if being creative could be as easy and as regular and as emotionally unburden as brushing your teeth? What if you could start drawing or painting, or sewing or writing and not have to be in the right mood or have the right idea? What if you could make ugly work and still feel good about it? Welcome to the toothbrush approach to daily creativity. This class takes you through a practical strategy that takes the resistance and emotional roller coaster out of your creative practice. By looking at practical things like where you create and what materials you use, and then matching these to your energy and emotions on a day, you start to develop a conscious creativity so that your daily practice meets your physical and emotional needs and makes you feel better rather than taking you on a downward spiral and making you feel worse. The benefits: your creativity becomes your go-to place when you need to connect with yourself. When the world throws a pandemic at you and you lose work opportunities, you find that you're suddenly a full-time teacher as well as a parent, and your anxiety is off the scale, the toothbrush approach lets you cling on to that tiny part of yourself that says, I'm still here, I'm still me. I'm Catherine Jennifer, an artist and surface designer living in Oxford, UK. This year we've had two lockdowns, four months of homeschooling our four boys, but through it all, I have spent 20 minutes or more everyday working on my creative practice. I've gathered together the strategies I've used. I hope you find it helpful. 2. Project: The project for this class is to use the worksheets and follow the step-by-step process to set up your strategy. The worksheets are in the resources section for you to download. Just go to the Projects and Resources tab and you will see them on the right-hand side before you watch the rest of the class, print out the worksheets so that they are ready for you to use as you go along. It's important to write on the worksheets and then stick them on your wall for those days when you can't think of what to draw and you can't remember your strategy. I'll tell you at each stage, when to stop and complete a worksheet. Each section builds on the one before, so you will get the most out of the class if you complete the worksheets as you go along. I hope that you will see the worksheets as a narration exercise, a chance for you to pause, take a breath, and ready yourself for the next stage in your creative journey. I chose this project because data creativity is hard. The worksheets will help you to develop conscious creativity. In other words, self-awareness of your emotional and physical needs so that your creative practice can meet those needs and make you feel better rather than worse. To set yourself up for a successful project, please see the worksheets as working documents. Feel free to scribble on them, add things, cross things out. The worksheets do not have to look beautiful. It's about finding your unique set of ideas and becoming aware of your daily needs. As you use the strategy, the notes you make on the worksheets are likely to change and grow as your final project, please upload at least one of your worksheets and let me know any feedback or thoughts you might have about the class. By sharing your worksheets, you may help somebody else with an idea they hadn't thought of and also, you will contribute to our creative community and help other people feel less alone. By the end of the class, you should have a solid set of tools to see you through an ongoing daily creative practice that meets your needs. I can't wait to see what you share. 3. Materials: All you need in terms of materials are the worksheets printed out and a pen, and you might want some felt tips to add some color to your worksheets. You might also find it useful to have a look at Pinterest when you're gathering ideas for subjects to draw. Go ahead and print out the worksheets, and I'll see you in the next section for our first strategy, which is projects and subjects. 4. Subjects and Projects Brainstorm: The toothbrush approach is based on the idea that you want to be creative every day. It covers seven key strategies which are: projects and subject matter, working places, materials to suit different working places, energy, emotions and mindset, using a timer, making multiple drawings, and finally self-talk and boundaries for the inner critic. We'll start with strategy 1, projects and subject matter. If you decide that you want to be creative every day, then the first step is to make a list of all the projects and subjects that you want to work on for the next few months or even the whole year. The best way to do this is simply to look at what work you've already made and note down what the subjects are and any groupings that you can see. Or if you're at the beginning of your creative journey, simply do a brain dump and note down any ideas that come to you. If you need inspiration, you can go on Pinterest and make a subject inspiration board, spend 20 minutes randomly pinning subjects that appeal to you and then note these down on the first worksheet. If you do this, just try to keep your focus on the subject and don't be beguiled by materials or techniques, which could take you a little bit off track. This was my list for this year. As you can see, it's nothing special, just notes to remind me of possible subjects to draw. You can see that birds feature quite a lot to make into repeating patterns as well, as an A to Z of animals which is purely for illustration practice. Other particular animals I wanted to draw this year were dogs and elephants, and I've also got florals, particularly bouquets, which I want to draw with the greetings card marked in mind. I also noted down South African animals and landscape because that's where I grew up, and one of my goals is to create a collection that holds my memories of my childhood in South Africa. I've also got human figures on the list as well. So pause the video now and do worksheet number 1. It doesn't have to be pretty, just jot down all your ideas, and then in the next section, we'll start to analyze and sort your ideas into categories that match the energy that you might bring to your session on any particular day. See you there. 5. Subjects and Projects Sorted: The next step, once you have your list of projects and subjects that you want to work on is to analyze the list and make sure there's enough range to cover all different types of energy that you might have on a particular day. Use worksheet number 2 to help you decide which of your subjects are easy, which are medium, and which are more challenging. Having easy things on your list is really important because there will be many days when you are exhausted and those are the days when you create just to keep the practice going. So it's important to have easy things that are fun and that will give you an easy win. The challenging ones need to be aspirational and intellectually stimulating. It could be a subject that you are little bit afraid of, but that you want to master. The three easy items on my list are vintage jars and jugs, butterflies, and textures. The vintage jars are there for those days when I'm really exhausted. I know that it could be as simple as just drawing the outline, but they are still very useful items to have in my drawing library for when I'm creating bouquets or roses of flowers digitally. I've got butterflies on there because that again, they're quite easy to draw, they're quite forgiving if you go a bit wonky, and they're very useful to have for when I'm designing greeting cards or repeating patterns. The other easy thing I've got on my list is textures. This gives me permission just to play with art materials in a non-representational way, and is for those days when I need to express some pent-up emotion. We'll look at energy, emotions, and mindset in strategy 4. Textures are useful for adding to illustrations. Here's an example of some of the handmade textures I've got in my drawing library. Now is the time to look at the ideas you've got on worksheet 1 and do worksheet number 2. Sort your ideas into the three columns, making sure you've got enough things in the easy column, a good range of things in medium, and some interesting and aspirational things in your challenging column. Don't stress about it because you can change it at anytime. Once you've done this, please share one or both of your worksheets in the class project gallery as it might help someone else to develop their ideas. Then stick your worksheets up on your wall where you can see them because it is so easy to forget about possible subjects and projects as the days go by. In the next video, we'll look at strategy 2, which was a game changer for me, it is identifying different working spaces. I'll see you there. 6. Working Spaces: It's possible. I should have realized this a long time ago, but it was a game changer for me when I realized I don't have to sit at my work table in order to be creative. I have a lovely art space with beautiful light, but when it comes to 9:30 at night, and I still haven't done my drawing, the last thing I want to do is sit down at my desk and work. It completely changed my practice when I realized I could flop on the couch and do my drawing there. This strategy is simply to give some thought to other possible places where you could sit comfortably and work. Is there a comfy chair somewhere where you could have some art materials ready and waiting? Can you create a quiet and comfortable spot that feels like a sanctuary? Focus particularly on comfort because this matters a lot when you're tired. Occasionally, I have even taken my drawing pad to bed when it was really late and I still hadn't done it. The point is to notice the importance of place and identify and set up possible places where you can work to soothe all levels of your energy. When I was homeschooling the boys earlier this year during lock-down, even though they all had quiet time after lunch, which could have been my drawing time, I found that I was actually just too tired to do any work at that time, so almost all my drawings during that period, in fact, almost all my drawings this year have happened late at night once the boys had gone to bed, and this happened mostly on the couch and this has affected the materials that I've used this year. We'll look at materials in the next section. Now is the time to do Worksheet 3, noting down different places that you could work. Just fill in the first column at this stage, the place column. In the next video, we'll look at how different places affect the materials that you use and we'll fill in Column 2 on Worksheet 3. See you there. 7. Materials for Different Spaces: Strategy 3 is to think about and prepare materials that work in the different spaces that you've identified. Think in particular about the quality of light at the time of day in the place that you might be working. When I'm drawing on the couch, it's usually late at night and I'm tired. I want to pair down my materials to the bare minimum to simplify everything. I usually just work with this Pitt Artist Pen, black pen, which is about as simple as it gets. The other thing is that the light in our lounge is very yellow and not very bright. This is a really bad place for me to try and work with color. If I want to work with color in the lounge late at night, then what I usually do is select a limited palette of Tombow pens and just work with those, or I'll work with dip pen and ink, where it's more about the flow of line and the feeling of the pen on the paper and you can't go wrong with the color. On the other hand, if I'm working at my drawing table, this is where I've got really good light. This is where I will do all my colorwork and work with squash and watercolor and whatever other materials I want. Now's the time to fill in the second column on Worksheet 3. Think about which materials could work in the different spaces you've identified and note them down, and remember to think about the light and the color. Again, don't stress about it because you can change it. But it's just useful to have some written down because it's so easy to forget about a particular medium, especially when you're tired. If you want to take it a bit further, you could even make up little art kits for the different places where you might work and store them at that place. The aim is to remove all barriers to starting work. If your materials are already there, then the barrier of finding what you need and getting all set up is removed. You might want to make a handbag kit, a couch kit, an outdoors kit, whatever fits in with your lifestyle. If you do this, I'd love it if you could share a photo or even a video of what's in your kit in the project gallery. Do Worksheet 3, column 2 now, and then in the next video, we'll look at tuning into your energy and your emotions. See you there. 8. Energy and Emotions: Strategy 4 is quite an important one, and there are two parts to it; energy and emotions. Let's first look at energy. Before you start your creative session, try to tune in to your energy levels, both physically and mentally. You need to match your physical energy to your place, and your mental energy to your subject. For example, are you feeling physically tired but mentally quite alert or physically tired but mentally bored? Then if it was me, I'd opt for drawing on the couch, but I'd choose one of my more challenging subject matters, like portraits. Alternatively, if I'm feeling physically energetic but mentally tired, then I might choose to sit at my drawing table and work with paints, but I'll choose a really easy subject like textures. Secondly, let's look at emotions. You need to tune in to your emotional state as this affects how you might nurture yourself during your session, and it plays into the mindset that you bring to the session. For creative satisfaction, you need to match your emotion to your materials. Let's think about nurture. The only way that you can make your creative practice happen every day is if you stop thinking about it as work and start to think about it as self-care time. I talk about this quite a lot in my other class, which is called Drawing Without Fear, so I won't repeat it, apart from saying that at the start of your session, make yourself a comforting drink, get yourself a nurturing snack, and also make sure that you are physically comfortable. Grab a cozy blanket, just make sure you're warm and you're comfortable in the space that you're working. An important part of nurturing yourself is choosing what you listen to while you work. Tuning into your emotional state will tell you what you need. For example, a certain type of music, or total silence to give space to your thoughts, or perhaps a podcast. Most of the time, I listen to podcasts because they are interesting and stimulating, and also, they help me feel connected to other creative people. I've put a list of my favorite podcasts in the resources section. If there are some that you know of that aren't on this list, please let me know and I'll add them to the list. The second thing to think about under emotions is to tune in to emotional state and match how you feel to the materials that you use on the day. I find that this can have a really big impact on my own drawing sessions. For example, the other night, I was tired, so I started drawing with this Pitt Artist Pen, but it wasn't working. I realized that emotionally, I needed to draw in a more expressive way. To put it simply, I felt like coloring in. Once I realized I wanted to be more expressive in my mark-making, I switched to Tombow markers and felt-tip pens, and I changed the subject matter from birds to a floral bouquet. Instantly, I got into the creative act of drawing and I got into a state of flow. If I had not stopped to consider my emotions, a bit agitated, and had continued plowing on with this Pitt Artist Pen, I would have felt dissatisfied with the session at the end. In this instance, it's not the best drawing in the world, but I felt satisfied because it had met my daily drawing requirement, and it had met my emotional needs through mark-making and material choice. The project for this section is just to look at worksheet 4, and add any emotions you can think of to the list. There's no right answer. It's just a place for you to note down how you feel on any given day. The more you do this, the better you will get at identifying how you feel and matching this to the subject, place, and materials that you choose. Stick worksheet 4 up on your wall and scribble on it whenever something new occurs to you. In the next session, we'll talk about timing your session. See you there. 9. Using a Timer: Session 5 is quick and simple. Always, always, always time your sessions. I've talked about this in my other class, Drawing Without Fear, so I won't go into detail. You can use your iPad, or a clock that's on your phone, set it to whatever your minimum time is, and as soon as you hit "Go" on the timer, make your first mark on the paper. This works because it takes the fear out of starting. You haven't got long. You just have to get on with it because the timer is already going. Once your time is up, I recommend giving yourself an overflow of about 15 minutes, so that if you are deep in the state of flow, you can keep going. I do find though that knowing how to stop is just as important as knowing how to start. You then get that satisfied feeling of job done, which is important when you need to keep this up day after day. Obviously, if you're working on a creative project all day, then using a timer doesn't apply. The timer comes in useful when you're trying to do a lot of different things in the day, and you're creative session tends to get squeezed out. In the next session, we'll look at multiple drawings. See you there. 10. Multiple Drawings: This strategy might not be useful to everyone, but I do find that making lots of small drawings is preferable to making one big one. This is because you'll probably take about five minutes to warm up. You might then have 10 minutes of really good concentration, and then your concentration might start to fall off. The first few drawings on this page were all rubbish, but here's a good one. In general, if I get one good drawing out of a 20-minute session, then I'm happy. On the other hand, if my only aim was to draw one portrait and it goes wrong, as can happen, then I'm more likely to feel discontented with my session, which brings me on to the final strategy, self-talk and boundaries for the inner critic. See you there. 11. Self Talk and Boundaries for the Inner Critic: You don't judge how beautifully you brushed your teeth. You don't start beating yourself up because you brushed too hard, or you missed a spot, or you used the wrong toothpaste. So don't judge your creative work. Drawing or being creative in whatever medium, is just something you do. In the toothbrush approach, the door is not open to the inner critic. So when you finish your creative work, just put it away and congratulate yourself on a job done. Actually, as I wrote this, I remembered about an awesome podcast, The Jealous Curator by Danielle Krysa, where she interviews artist Ashley Longshore, it's called Brush Your Fangs. In this podcast, Ashley basically describes how she gives herself a little cheer whenever she brushes her teeth. We should all be our own cheerleaders like this and carry this through to our creative practice, where we cheer for ourselves for a job done, not a job well-done or badly-done, just done. When you know that you'll be coming back day after day after day, the sting of a bad drawing is so much reduced. As you practice and practice, not only will these strategies become second nature, but you will find yourself actually looking forward to your creative sessions, regardless of the outcome. In the final session, we'll pull it altogether and remind ourselves what we've covered, See you there. 12. Summary: Once you've got the mindset that your creativity is just something you do every day like brushing your teeth, then it becomes so much easier to maintain it. The key parts of the strategy are to: have a list of projects and subjects you want to work on pinned to your wall to remind yourself when you can't think of what to draw, know which subjects are your easy ones and which are more challenging, identify comfortable places to work which can meet your physical needs even when you're tired, identify materials that work well in those places, considering ease of use and quality of light, tune into your energy, both physical and mental, and match this to your place and your subject matter, tune into your emotional state and match this to the materials that you use. This can cause a change in subject matter as well. Always use a timer to help you get started quickly and know when to stop. Try doing multiple drawings to allow for the ebb and flow in your concentration span. Finally, you don't judge your tooth brushing session, so don't judge your creative work. The door is not open to the inner critic. Give yourself a cheer for a job done regardless of the outcome. No matter what life throws at you, giving yourself permission to do your creative thing every day is a vital part of your self-care. In a world gone crazy, it allows you to cling on to your identity and gives space to your inner voice. If, like most of us, you get frustrated by the gap, which is the gap between your taste level and knowing what you want to create and what you actually produce, then I hope that having this strategy and mindset will help you with the only way to close that gap, which is daily practice. So please don't forget to share some of your worksheets in the project gallery and let me know any thoughts or feedback you have about the class. If you found this class helpful, I'd be really grateful if you could leave a review on Skillshare and also share it with friends on Instagram. You can use the hashtag #toothbrushapproachtocreativity. That's a mouthful. You can also say hello on Instagram, I am @CatherineJenniferDesigns. I hope you enjoyed this class. Thank you for watching.