Get Rid of “Stuff”, Make Room for Creativity

Pick up any art magazine and you’ll find a story on an artist’s studio. There are even whole books dedicated to nothing else except showcasing well-designed art studios–from painting to sculpture, knitting and quilting, the studios are all well lit, painted in delightful colors and have coordinating blinds and throw pillows.

Jun 29th, 2009 Bachelor Pad: A Picture Perfect Art Studio by Steph Auteri in "Tools of Attraction"

Jun 29th, 2009 Bachelor Pad: A Picture Perfect Art Studio by Steph Auteri in "Tools of Attraction"

There’s more–the studios are all perfectly clean, and have tons of shelves and drawers, with organized tools and products.

I look at these studios and I wonder what happens in them. They seem to have every piece of equipment any artist could want, and many no artist really needs. There are templates and kits, paints in every color and materials in every shape.

What’s missing? Empty space. Time to think. A safe place to fail. Without those, you can’t discover, much less use, your own creativity. Your own creativity feeds on your ideas, your fears, your work. You can be creative on a flat board held up by two file cabinets. You can be creative in a comfortable chair with a good light. You can’t be creative using six new tools while following directions for a kit.

Creativity demands you. The part of you that is scared. The part of you that is funny. The part of you that wonders what happens if you try this instead of that. When we play with paper or fabric, clay or silver, we discover what our heart knows and our hands can do.

When we make a mistake in the privacy of our studio, it teaches us more than any success gained assembling someone else’s idea. When we are alone in our studio, and deal with our doubts and fight our negative self-talk, it is an accomplishment no pile of new tools can achieve–the joy of learning, the thrill of setting our creativity loose. And much more: the power of trusting your creative judgment.

I love to splurge on art supplies. But I know they don’t make me an artist. They are part of making my work easier, making it more exciting. The tools that I use the most are the ones I purchased after I figured out what I needed to do and couldn’t do on my own–watercolor pencils, fine quality paper, good cutting instruments, specials glues.

I am an artist if I’m standing naked in my simple studio with cardboard boxes for storage. I’m an artist if I’m sitting in a chair writing in my journal and wondering what to present to my students in the next class. Tools don’t make an artist. Studios don’t make an artist. Exploring your creativity makes you an artist because it lets fresh ideas in and gives you permission to play without fear.

Quinn McDonald is an artist and a creativity coach. She helps people re-invent themselves and discover meaning in their lives.