When I wrote a series on art and management, or bringing creativity into organizations, I did mention a few exercises managers, or anyone else, can do. But I never really delineated my ideas on artistic activities clearly. Part of the reason is that art isn’t limited to conventional formats, such as painting or poetry, so the possibilities are limitless. Isn’t that the nature of creativity? However, I have been thinking about how some traditional art exercises can help. Since I live in a very active art community and happen to know a few artists, I thought I should tap into their knowledge.
So here are some ideas for tickling that creative inner child in you:
- Bring a painting or a picture, or any frame-able presentation, to a place where you can try on different frames. Framing is half of the creative outcome; different frames offer different effects.
- Similarly, cut into half an old mat board, straight cuts at the diagonal corners. Use these two ½ mats to resize your painting or photo. I had one painting that bothered me for years till my watercolor teacher helped me figure out the “right” sizing for my painting. All of a sudden, a so-so painting came alive. Before I completed the framing job, I used the painting and different sizes of mat to demonstrate to my students the different impacts from different sizes of framing. This was a course that touched on “the art of framing,” as in framing a question or a statement. When I contrasted the original whole landscape painting by the resized — reduced in height by ¼ – look that, paradoxically, hinted at a panoramic view, the students actually gasped.
The above exercises help us think about how we want to frame a situation, a challenge, or a question at work.
- Splash some bold colors on a board, and the same colors on different sizes of boards. You will see the various impacts different combinations of colors and different sizes can produce.
This may seem like manipulation of facts in real life. However, we do tend to look at certain facts at a time, and one combination of some facts can point in a different direction than other combinations of different facts. Perhaps the moral of the exercise is that not only we need to be aware of how we present data but also the need to incorporate many alternative perspectives when making a decision.
- “Drawing on the right side of your brain,” by Betty Edwards is a valuable book for many. I learned so much from it; it was like finding a treasure trove. The book helped me break away from the “straight-jacket” thinking and habit. For instance, pick any simple object and draw, without looking at your drawing, but just focus on the contours of the object. Or, draw a chair (or whatever that grabs your attention), but don’t think it’s a chair, just draw the outline and the shapes. Focusing on the shape of the object, without the influence of the name, is very powerful. Another revealing exercise for me is copying some drawing/painting upside down. It is immensely awkward, but oh so liberating after a while.
These particular exercises help me understand how perceived and preconceived notions, such as chairs, tables, vases, can become limiting.
- Thumb through some magazines and cut out words and pictures that “speak” to you. Once you gather all the cut-outs, assemble a story or a poem or whatever form you desire. What does the process of doing this inform you? Does your story surprise you?
But the unanimous chorus among my artist friends is: Set aside your recent creation; walk away. Don’t think about it for a while and then come back to it.
I wonder though, how many in today’s organizations can afford to take time to think and reflect?
The discussion I got from these artists, including a few who have never worked in big organizations, all emphasized: There are plenty of creative people in all organizations; they don’t need outside consultants to tell them how to create. Or, put it in another way, there is plenty of creativity in people all over the place. The ultimate issue is: How do we allow people’s creativity to shine? Do most organizations allow people to be creative? Remember, there are always risks involved in the creative process; it’s about exploring the unknown. If you can anticipate everything and every outcome, where is the creativity? If you want to be perfectly safe and secure, there won’t be any excitement and you won’t find or create anything new.
One of Moody Blues’ song has a line, “If I gave you every dream would they grow?”
Does your organizational structure allow people some freedom to be creative? What would you do differently to grow some creativity for you and your people?
Happy Halloween! Till November,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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- 4 Silly Sketching Exercises to Spark Your Creativity (psychcentral.com)
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