Cleaning Up Your Act (and Creativity)

A few weeks ago, when the studio was still a paper dump, the big decision was not to clean it, or even how to clean,  but what to keep and what to scrap.

Cleaning out the bookcase was a choice-struggle, but it worked. And then the hard work began. Here’s what I did:


“Inspiration,” collage © Quinn McDonald, 2014. Monsoon Papers on mixed media paper.

For three days, I worked on projects that spoke to me. Carefully chosen, they were the result of a lot of thinking about expressing my creativity in ways that resonate with who I am and who I would like to become.

The next two days were spent in listing the materials needed to make the artwork. Another list for teaching materials. Everything else was considered and put in boxes to give away.

One of my big realizations was that I often buy an art supply thinking it will make my art better: “If I have this glaze, I will be a better painter,” or “If I have this tool, it will make me more creative.” Neither is true. But that “hope in a tube” belief is the foundation of a lot of art and craft supply companies.

Out went the rubber stamps I never used, the watercolors I hoped to get good at, and single-use tools. Out went a lot of brand-name toys I rarely use and bought to make myself feel better. A lot of my purchases fell into the emotional-eating equivalent of chocolate.

I kept everything I use to create collage–papers, inks, paints, watercolor pencils, watercolor markers, different glues, and rulers, cutters, and corner rounders.

My studio is now much airier, brighter, and less cluttered. The equipment I use is at hand, and a school is going to be a lot happier with the art supplies that fill up my trunk.

Creativity needs some good tools, but emotional supply buying is much like emotional eating. It feels good, but it’s not supportive of growth and health.

–Quinn McDonald is a collage artist, writer and creativity coach who lives her belief in creativity.