In a recent post, we talked about experiencing lulls in creativity as artists and what we could do to counteract those times of creative downturn. Today let’s delve into one of the things we can do to break that creativity rut—ditching our usual medium and doing something completely different instead. Sometimes, things that used to bring great joy and really got the old adrenaline flowing just don’t cut it anymore. Good news: it happens to everyone, yup, even folks who don’t consider themselves “creatives,” and everyone can find it within themselves to make the changes necessary to move forward and grow.
So what is it like to switch mediums? It’s like a change in workout routine: sometimes your body and your mind get burned out or become weary of the same old, same old. Our spirits are refreshed and renewed by doing something different. It’s the same as when you get tired of staring at the same four walls; you think, “I need a change of scenery!” It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. The power of creativity is fueled by the same things that rejuvenate us in every other aspect of life. Think about it—what is the typical advice like when you talk to a close friend or therapist about your relationship becoming stale? It usually involves someone suggesting that you should change things up, add some spice, do something you normally wouldn’t, explore, push boundaries. Notice a pattern here?
There can be subtle medium changes like switching from painting on canvas to painting interior walls. Or there can be larger changes like switching from canvas to painting huge murals on buildings. Now we’ve changed not only the medium but the scale. That’s a Big Change. The same can be said for downsizing: maybe you typically work in life-size sculpture or giant abstract works meant to have an incredible presence just with their sheer size…and you switch up completely to working in miniature. What about a change in the tactility of your art? Perhaps you knit or crochet. You’re used to the medium of yarn and turning it into fabric. What if you went from that sort of tactile feel to something like sculpting, where there’s still a sense of tactility but in a completely different way? Maybe you only sculpt in clay. Think about giving metalwork a chance. Or, perhaps you’re a traditional bench jeweler who works exclusively with precious metals. Try having fun with sterling silver or argentum instead.
Does all of that sound exciting, perturbing, disturbing? Any of it in a good way? We hope so. Think about it: as infants and toddlers, we are constantly learning and being shaped by giving our attention to things that look, smell, taste, feel, and sound unlike anything we’ve ever known. It makes sense that as adults we’d find things that excite us due to their unfamiliarity to feed into our creativity and art.
Challenging ourselves and learning something new or changing the way we do something definitely expands us in a lot of ways. If you’re feeling the lethargic and apathetic effects of being stuck in a rut, consider changing things up a bit. Put down the paintbrushes for a few days and pick up the clay, or simply paint with your fingers. Find other outlets for your creativity that bring you joy, such as dance or gardening. Volunteer your time showing local kids or seniors how to make the kind of art YOU make and watch how others’ creativity unfolds and manifests. Not only will you be back to your usual work in a refreshed and enlightened way, you will have perhaps learned more about art, your peers, your community, and yourself in the process of breaking out and getting into other media. That’s some Big Growth.