An Essay On Being Creative (2010)

This is an essay of sorts, initially composed around 2010 which I recently rediscovered upon importing an old blog from the Internet past before Social Media ruined the internet. 

At this time (2022) I don’t want to overly edit the words of my younger self. I still stand by the roots of the philosophy and I would like to expand and refine this at some point in the future. 

This is purely my thoughts on techniques and maybe how to bring drawing back into your life.

I can only share my personal thoughts on this, I’m no expert & I don’t think anyone should have the audacity to give themselves expert status on this subject. You can only get better, there is no top of the mountain, just wee ledges where you might rest or stop. Depends on the view, supplies, and time.

So first off this statement, I formulated late one night while I had a wee exhibition on. I must have been in a really good mood and speaking to nice people. This is how it went…

”as long as the base creative idea is solid, then regardless of skills that idea should be visible in the creation. If you can think it (visualize it), you can draw it.
Your skills will improve with time & technique development, and the ability to conceive grander ideas will come with that development but it’s the existence of that basic creative flame we ALL hold that makes everyone an artist. Flame Development is the key.”

So that was the thinking, over time you create a mental toolbox of ideas & techniques, this starts from the first time you scribble crayons on paper when you are a kid. But you have to keep that box open or it closes and locks up but I think it’s always there to be re-opened.
I totally think it’s our base human nature to want to create (in whatever way) but the social ‘system’ we seem to have globally perused makes that option not so easy to follow.

Tapping into the inner creativity?  I think there is nothing more than a positive force & a negative force. My friend had an idea about a third being a ‘random’ force that is a kind of spanner in the works but that’s another story.
I’ll stick to my 2 forces just now, I think these are rivers and as an artist you can tap into the river and it flows through you. The artist is merely the transmitter for the positive, or negative, energy.
Sometimes you hit it (or I guess it hits you), but strangely you never realize until you come out of it, the ”I was totally zoned just there” moment.
I’m not sure you can be aware of or deliberately tap this force, it just happens more frequently the more time you spend creating.

Well enough of the spacey thoughts. This post is my ideas on the concept of how to draw.
Where to start?

1 – The Fear. Number one, that’s the first problem. So you can only draw a stick man, badly. Yeah that’s because the last time you had fun being creative was when you were 3yrs old before school labeled you as a ‘cant draw’.
Well, what age are you now? it’s been a while eh?

You can draw. Everyone can draw. I still get locked by the fear, well sometimes you just gotta know when to walk away. If it ain’t the time it ain’t the time, you can’t force it. You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. But sometimes you gotta get your finger out and just do something. I generally find feeling creative comes with feeling good, go see a band. Feel good. Eat something healthy.

2 – So you need some paper to draw on. This is mistake number one I think I made, maybe folk would back me up? You go into the art shop….so many things. Well, ill get a sketchbook. This is such a prison creator. Until you are at a certain level, I think the sketchbook is a negative item. You open it up, it’s all fresh and new. You are on page one…there are so many pages. You don’t want to make a mess, you make a mess…do you rip that page out? you wanna do something ‘good’.
Balls to sketchbooks I say. Use the cheapest paper you can get. Buy a pack of printer paper from a stationary shop. If you don’t like what you drew, screw it up and burn it. You make some nice marks and stick it in a wee folder, that’s an idea for later. As I said before everything you do, good or bad, goes into a mental toolbox of ideas. Ways to make marks and how to do things. This is built up over a long time and this is how you find and develop a style I guess.

When your feeling confident get a canvas. They are sooo cheap these days just go for it. Hell if it’s a disaster BURN IT. no loss really. Don’t be precious about it, I know that’s hard to say if you’re short on cash but when you pull something magic out of the bag, it’s worth all those fires.

3 – So you got some paper, what’s next? The tools. I think it takes some time to find what you will enjoy using to create and there are heaps of choices.
Well tool number one is your hand. It’s asleep. You first try learn the guitar, that first chord getting your fingers in that funny position.
It’s hard but that’s because your hand is asleep and stiff, after a while it’s a piece of cake to be honest & you move naturally from G to D and ..fffff damn that’s hard. F.
You get there basically. It’s just time.
So don’t worry your hand will wake up, this is just a problem of time and becoming familiar with the pencil or the brush. Its weight, the desired angle all little things you will subconsciously take on & learn.

So your hand is tool number one, other tools well best to start with a pencil. Why not.

DO NOT buy a fancy tin of all the pencils. Balls to the tin of pencils. You want an HB, maybe a 5B. Light & dark. There are subtle differences in graphite grades and how they take on the paper & on top of each other. That’s something that is another time factor. Keep it simple. When you find yourself needing a tool then you go look for it. Until such times you don’t need it. Hell I remember mostly drawing with a biro pen first off, scribbles and sketches in the sides of my school books. Yeah start with a biro is amazingly versatile.
Get a Stanley knife to sharpen your pencils. A soft putty rubber, a hard rubber. The rubber is not just for erasing its a tool for smudging and dragging. Creating.
Get a cheap makeup blusher brush for dusting off your rubbings, it’s handy.

4 – Starting. Well, this is an ominous subject. I’ll tell you something. When i was a kid I would copy animals out of nature books. A squirrel’s eye, a wee bit of his face. Then working up to maybe more of his shape. The big breakthrough for me was getting a visual sense of filling the whole page. Putting him on a branch, putting in some leaves..pretty soon you have filled up the page.
It’s a picture. A big part of things is getting used to the size of the paper you are working on. Knowing the space and having a feeling for what you are wanting to do.

Once i had conquered the page it was easy. Then one day you buy a bigger bit of paper….
Start small, I mean if you are at the stick man stage just go slow. National geographic magazines are a fantastic source of visual info. You are looking at pictures taken by very talented photographers. This will open your mind to viewpoints and angles that will inspire you and you can apply them to your ideas.

The main thing I think is deciding. do not just go in making lines here and there. Stand back & look. You learn a sense of seeing the line, in some ways you have to have a general idea of the whole picture.
That usually changes as the picture progresses, a major element I believe is a picture presents itself.
You are the transmitter of something higher. That’s how I feel. So don’t be scared to change the direction of the picture.

I mean you can do a ‘beautiful’, technically, watercolour of a garden or whatever but you know what..? ITS GOT NO SOUL
If you want to do art, the things you will produce that really satisfy your heart are those pictures that come out of bloody nowhere.
And they don’t come from bloody nowhere…
It’s a combination of you perfecting your skills and your in-tune-ment with the universal river of positive energy that is flying around all the time. And sometimes you sit down and make some marks on a page with a wee idea in your head about a tree and bam you are away on some other journey. Be open and look for what it is trying to tell you.
Infact that so important you get that advice twice..look for what it is trying to tell you. The clues are there.

Rules. Ah well I’m not one for rules, that should be tips to remember.

The picture wants to be born. It wants to help you.
Listen to your voice and instinct. That’s another thing that is asleep/dormant. It will also wake up.
You are making a line and if you get the inclining I don’t like this…STOP. Stand back, look and asses. Maybe work on a separate area and come back to that part.

I do like to dot around working on different areas. This way the picture takes shape as a whole, if you plow on in one area the rest of the picture becomes undeveloped and makes it harder to do. If it builds up slowly you can make judgments easier.
The picture is layers. Very important. Don’t get distressed with a bit not quite looking like you want straight off. Allow yourself time to see. Work here, work there, stand, make decisions. LOOK.
Make Bold decisions. Bob Ross the painter is an excellent example of this rule. Be brave. Making good decisions comes with the experience of making bad choices. The skill is learning to notice when you are making a bad choice and rectifying it.

The artistic eye? why does something look nice, it’s all about balance and I think numbers. In a way its part trickery. I could put an ugly misplaced tree trunk in a forest picture but you can balance it out with something else over……. here maybe.
It becomes easy once you learn to see.

The picture is a journey. You can deliberately guide someone in by hinting directional clues. This is something I enjoy.
You want a favorite tip. Use a bit of glass, or clear plastic and draw your tree trunk on it. Just a bold black line a rough branch whatever. Standing back blur your eyes and hold the glass in front of the picture at whatever distance so it fits in. If you can focus on both a the same time you can move your trunk/branch around to see where it looks best, and at what angle. Then when you find that sweet spot you can put the tree in.

UPDATE – Another tip is before you remove the cellophane from a canvas you can draw on it in marker pen, gives you a chance to try out a loose sketch of your idea on the canvas before you really start. Gives you a chance to get used to the size and spaces. Take a photo if you come up with anything as a reference. And draw on a center vertical/horizontal line so you have a rough grid to help the reference.

Blurring your eyes, also on a separate note is a good thing to do at those decision moments. Stand back and really fuzz up your eyes, this allows you to see fewer details, emphasizes the dark areas, and in a way you can see shapes easier, what looks good, and what stands out in a bad way. What area looks a bit empty? That’s a very handy thing to practice.

Don’t always go with your first thought, maybe if you look a little longer you see what you are really wanting to do. It’s not a race.
You can paint bam bam fast and fluid but at a certain point you can take that too far. You learn when that fast period has passed, you need to stop and assess what you are working with.

This was meant to be a somewhat considered structured document but there are too many subjects and they all kind of cross over into each others it’s very disjointed I know.

5 – Well where am I? We had starting. Well finishing, you gotta know when to stop. I think the picture reaches a point you can say Yes that is done.
Sometimes that doesn’t seem to come, maybe you went past it. Once the picture is taking shape, and this will probably not be on the path you had initially planned, you will be now formulating a finished vision.
Stop & look. The closer to the end the more you should be stopping & considering. Till your down to a wee mark here, a tiny just a wee smudge there.
Never make a mark if you don’t feel its right.
You know and the picture will tell you.

You can draw, there is a picture in your heart. There are thousands of pictures. They want to come out and the joy of sitting down when a picture is done and you look at this image that was previously a blank sheet of paper, the joy of that moment is quite something.

You dont want to be a boring artist? Have a vision, get better, plan things, and think of things. Think about pictures & build them up in your head. Work backwards, have an image and break it down into stages. What is your base, then you add some…. and this and that. Stages, layers.
Be open to a totally new plan. If you are lucky the river of magic positive energy will help you paint something you didn’t expect.

Say balls to your primary school and draw once more. Get some crayons. Make a right mess. Get your hands dirty.
Have fun. Go to a gallery and be inspired by ideas, be inspired by the lack of ideas.
All it should ever be about is feeling good, it’s a relaxing process, it’s exciting when it starts to flow. Take time every day & you can do it.
Put some music on.
And I guess separate from even putting anything onto paper, awaken your creative mind.
You need to stock up on visual food, and you can do that by walking to work, that part is free.

Take a walk in the woods. Have things at home set up, stroll around and maybe plan a picture. When you go home sit and look at the blank page. Stare at it, sometimes visualize your image onto it, or as I do just look at the page, wait for something to come. Because it does.

Keep your workspace clean & tidy, put your things away when you have done, and look after your tools. Look after your hands, your mind & your heart.

10 thoughts on “An Essay On Being Creative (2010)

  1. Rachel

    Hello, I talked to you today at the WASP studios when I discovered I had a small stain glass piece of yours in my window (actually its not heather set in the glass but something like a dandelion!).

    After rooting about a bit on the internet I found out who you are, I really like your work. And the question, is the world a better place for what I do? stays with me.

    Keep creating.

    Paying attention to mind, body and heart is important.

  2. thistlefur

    This is most excellent! I’m an art teacher and this is really good advice to everyone—whether they think they are artists or not! Yes, you can draw!

    I love your work and am excited to follow your blog. I discovered it via Scottish Stained Glass, but wonder if I didn’t see some of your work when I was in Edinburgh in March of 2010…

    Keep up the brilliant work!

    1. peterjgillies Post author

      Hi there, you probably most certainly did see me in Edinburgh. March 2010 I was street trading down at the mound beside the RSA gallery with my leaf hangers and at the time was doing a lot of drawing when I was out. Maybe I was up on the royal mile as-well, I’d need to check my diaries. Did we speak?

      Thanks for the comment, it was a bit of a ramble that one but I was trying to compile all the various ideas I have about drawing into one mega statement and maybe I can add to it and modify it over time. Getting that highlight on Scottish Stained Glass gave me the most blog views I’ve ever had in one day, let alone the video views went through the roof!!
      Glad you enjoy the blog, I don’t post that often it depends on work levels but hope you follow on.

  3. andygeddon

    Pete, this is great stuff. Applicable to life as much as drawing I think. I’ve very recently become reacquainted with drawing (thanks to Calum’s 30 days stuff on FB) and when I’m in the mood for it am enjoying it very much. Keep up the good work!

    1. peterjgillies Post author

      Thanks Andy, its a bit of a ramble as I has a ton of interjecting ideas as I was putting it together it was difficult to keep a structure and not miss out all the thoughts I wanted to put in.
      I think ultimately as long as you have something in your life, be it art / music playing or listening / sport fitness / gardening, whatever… its the time spent on that thing, that is essential for your mental well being. And through development of that ‘thing’ it ripples out to change other aspects of your outlook, personality and your life for the better.

      I suspect possibly more than me with my art, your training in your Martial Arts has brought you a certain level of ‘spiritual’ understanding, but its all the same in a way.
      We all climb the same mountain just from different sides & paths, that is if we choose to climb…..

  4. Ell

    Pete, very motivational and helpful stuff, I’m currently on the move with my family dragging them down to Cornwall from Manchester for a complete change of life, career and to find inspiration in setting up my Glass studio to produce fused glass artwork.I have found your blog and information totally inspirational and a help getting over the fear of making a big change. I always remember the quote “feel the fear and do it anyway” title of a book I think. Your work is excellent and I wish you every success with the venture, keep up the blog and advice it is appreciated…..Thanks

  5. Pingback: Scotsman Abroad | Gillies - Stained Glass & Art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *