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The joy of art: How to get your creative juices flowing

Elise Stephens blogs about relationships, life, and inspiration at She received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. Her novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-final...

Taking steps toward creative expression

Have you always wanted to be creative but weren’t sure where to start? No matter your level of skill or practice, you can experience the pleasure of artistic expression through shape, color and small projects that set you up for success.

Taking steps toward creative expression

Taking your first
steps toward creativity

Have you always wanted to be creative but weren't sure where to start? No matter your level of skill or practice, you can experience the pleasure of artistic expression through shape, color and small projects that set you up for success.

The idea of "making art" can be intimidating. We might psyche ourselves out of it by imagining ourselves trying to create a masterpiece fit for gallery walls. Or maybe we'd rather die than have a wildly talented friend see our work. Whatever your insecurities might be, reset them with this: Art is first for your personal enjoyment. You don't have to please anyone else with it.

This gives you the freedom to enjoy the creative process without worrying about the end results. Have you always wanted to paint? Draw with oil pastels? Sculpt? You can adjust the following steps based on the medium you choose:

Equip yourself

Take yourself on a date to the local art supply store. Buy some supplies that are better than the basic set made for kindergartners but not something your pocketbook will regret. Having the right tools is a great way to get your juices primed.

Begin with a shape you can handle

Whether you trace something and cut it out of paper, stencil it onto your canvas (you could use cardboard if you want to practice) or freehand something, start with something doable for you. If you need ideas, you can flip through magazines or browse the internet, but select something simple.

Decorate with color

There are a million things you can do with color alone. Experiment with pale colors and bright colors. Try combining a bright color with a softer color, and then make something else in only bright tones. Try using only three colors to create your entire piece.

Add texture

You could press beads into wet clay or place a ribbon through your paint before it dries. Snip a scrap of fabric from that old shirt you can't wear anymore. The ideas will flow faster and faster as you play with them.

Keep it small

Give yourself the relief of finishing something by keeping your scope small. This will increase your chances of completion and give you a sense of success when you reach it. You might paint a matchbox or draw something the size of a bookmark. As your confidence grows, you can increase your project size.

Have no expectations

The worst thing you can tell your fledgling project is, "It just doesn't look like I want it to." Have fun with your experiments in shape, color and texture. Give your fingers a chance to try new things before judging them. Have patience as your eye decides what it likes.

Want to know a secret? The way to get better is to make a lot of really awful attempts first. If you ever find yourself frustrated with a particular piece, set it aside and come back the next day. You'll see it with a totally new perspective.

Above all, do your best to enjoy the process itself and have fun. Your courage will open you to freedom and delight in this new journey.

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