South Coast Register

Creative awakening: 7 exercises to boost your artistic side

Here are some exercises to boost your creativity and give you a running start in one of humanity's greatest pastimes. Picture Shutterstock
Here are some exercises to boost your creativity and give you a running start in one of humanity's greatest pastimes. Picture Shutterstock

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"And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."

-John Keating, Dead Poets Society.

The arts are everywhere we look. They exist alongside us, within every culture social consciousness is permeated by the attempts of painters, movie makers, musicians, actors, writers, and more that give us our entertainment and a significant part of our cultural identity. Creativity is a unique pursuit in that anyone, of any skill level can pursue it.

With "quality" being completely subjective, there is no need to be "professional" when it comes to art or even to know what you're doing. And where once hobbyist tutelage was relegated to Bob Ross specials, now there are a myriad of online courses where people can learn how to engage any creative desire they may have.

However, you don't need a course or education to be an artist. You don't even need to be an artist to be creative. All you need is an idea, and the desire to bring that idea to life. Just in case you have any fears or apprehension about starting down your creative journey, here are some exercises to boost your creativity and give you a running start in one of humanity's greatest pastimes.

1 - The sphere

If you're looking at drawing and illustration as your medium, there is little that can't be learned from drawing from life, but one of the most common beginner's exercises in drawing is the simple sphere.

Most everything that a person needs to know about drawing can be learned through the sphere. Line placement, control of your medium, and most importantly, shading. Shading is what elevates a simple piece of line art to a masterpiece, and learning how to apply it and recognise the way light affects a form in three-dimensional space is not only interesting but a skill that will help any budding sketcher experiment with any medium. Once you've learned all you can from the sphere, try some basic work with faces, and see if you can notice how the lessons you've learned come into practice.

2 - MIDI

If you've ever wanted to make music, it's no longer a matter of needing a whole studio and years upon years of musical theory and expertise. Now all it requires is a laptop, some basic software, and tenacity.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. There's a whole bunch of techno-babble we could give you about the ins and outs of what MIDI is, but all you need to know is that MIDI is essentially a digitally produced sound that mimics an instrument.

An entire studio, installed onto a computer and at your fingertips. Drums, keyboards, horns, you name it, you can find a MIDI for it. When you're using a MIDI instrument to create music, you have the full musical spectrum available, meaning you can make whatever music you want, with whatever instrument(s) you want.

MIDI sounds are completely usable with pretty much any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and require only that the desired MIDI pack (collection of MIDI instruments) is installed on your computer. After that, you can just fiddle around with your keyboard and mouse, but if you find yourself adoring MIDI and want something less fiddly, you may enjoy using a MIDI controller.

Although MIDI is more of a medium than an exercise, we're including it in this list because it allows for limitless experimentation and learning. To us, that's what art is all about.

3 - Taking pictures

No, this is no joke. Taking photos in and of itself is the best way to exercise your photographic muscles. We all tend to have some idea of what looks nice. Photography captures the way things look in a moment, but it also has the unique ability to make the mundane look singularly interesting, even beautiful.

To familiarise yourself with both your camera, as well as mastering composition, mood, and lighting, we can't recommend taking black and white photos of everyday objects enough. Colour photos are beautiful, but shooting in black and white strips away the added pressure of colour theory, and allows budding photographers to focus on assembling a nice shot, rather than toying with extraneous details.

Something to remember about art is that there is no right or wrong way to do it, and if taking photos of normal things doesn't seem "artistic" enough, just remember that Van Gogh is famed for his still lifes. There is no reason that the ordinary can't hold its beauty.

4 - Story dice

Writing is hard. It demands concentration, time, and sustained effort. Oftentimes people just want the work to be finished. It can also be lonely. However, the composition of words into a compelling fiction is not only an artistic skill in its own right but allows for a unique form of creativity; where perspectives of people who have and will never exist are made our own.

If you're wanting to experiment in the realm of creative writing, a good starting place could be story dice. These dice feature a different symbol on every face. After you roll them, interpret the symbols on the dice however you wish, and use them to write a story. If a chair pops up, maybe your main character starts the story at work in an office, or the story opens on a dead body slumped over in a chair.

How you interpret the symbols is up to you, but once you have them, use them to fuel your ideas. After that, it's just one word after the other.

5 - Prompts and meters

Poetry can be a difficult medium to break into. After all, it always seems so ethereal and incorporeal. There is something transcendent about poetry, some beauty that feels completely hidden and yet all too familiar. This very mystique is both the draw and the challenge of poetry and can serve as a barrier to entry for beginners.

However, one of (if not the) most difficult aspects of poetry is working out what to write about, and while there are endless prompt generators online, the question then becomes how do you write about it? This is where the meter comes in. Meters are a range of syllable structures and emphasis patterns within poetry. For example, a limerick has 5 lines, the first with 8 syllables, the next with 9, the following two with 6 syllables, and the final with 9.

Once you choose a prompt, decide what meter sounds good to you, and experiment with it. Boundaries can sometimes paradoxically open up creativity.

6 - Play with clay

Sculpting is one of the oldest art forms ever done, and it can be singularly beautiful. Yet everyone starts somewhere, so where do we start when it comes to clay sculptures?

The simplest answer is to play! The great thing about sculpting is that you control when you're finished. Clay and similar mediums dry pretty slowly, so it's a very forgiving medium in terms of experimentation and working things out. The second great thing is that since it's a three-dimensional medium, it's simply a question of adding/removing material until the thing looks like whatever you're sculpting.

We would say that the best beginner's exercise to sculpting is to simply play with your material for a while. Enjoy how it feels, learn its textures, how it responds to pressure, and how it can be shaped, moulded, stuck together, or taken apart. Clay and similar media are unique, take your time and learn how to make basic things like spirals, balls, miniatures and more. This experimentation will turn to expertise before you know it.

7 - No pressure!

The biggest barrier to creativity is the belief that to be an artist or a creator, you need to produce or be profitable. Creativity isn't determined by success, success isn't determined by how much money you make. You can enjoy drawing without needing to be the next Picasso, you can sing without rivalling Beyonce. Art is for you, to make you happy. So relax, experiment, and create whatever you want.