3 Exercises to Keep Creative Imagery Flowing

Question: What exercise should I do on a constant basis to keep my work interesting?

Interesting? To keep yourself interesting to your clients you must show them work that is new. I believe that most creators are interested in many things. Do not be afraid to explore them. The concept of doing one thing and only one thing for an entire career is anathema to creative people. As a creative director, one of my most interesting food assignments came from someone who loved to photograph corporate subjects. He used to prepare delicious home-cooked luncheons for clients and crew at this studio. I knew he loved food, so I suggested that he stretch and get out of his comfort zone. He photographed a cookbook. Through diversity we get better and more imaginative at whatever we do.

The Creative Lab Keep Creative Imagery Flowing Photographer Michael West 01 resized 600

© 1998 Michael West

Creative people believe there is always more – more ways to see, more ways to tell stories, more techniques and more ways to apply them. If you are bored with what you are creating and the way that you create it, it is time to try something new. If you don’t find it interesting, the likelihood is that others will agree with you.

I want to offer readers of The Lab three generic stretches or exercises. I call them “Idea Stimulators.”

The first two exercises are from my collection of over 2,000 quotes – which includes my 1001 Quotes Questions & Pondering on the Creative Process. Each of you will approach them differently. Perhaps you would like to post the results of your stretches in the comments section below this post.

Create a Giant Love Nest

I found this interview with author Ray Bradbury by Marilee Zdenek in her book titled The Right Brain Experience:

Zdenek: Do you keep any transitional objects around when you work, any particular things from your childhood that stir special memories?

Bradbury: Oh yeah. In the basement at home I’m surrounded by books and toys and paintings and maps from the age of three on up. And then in my office the Smithsonian people stuck their heads in my office four years ago, looked around and said, You’re hired. And I said, Why? And they said, It looks like our basement. So I’ve got all this junk and I have to tread a path through it. You see, I’d figured I didn’t ever want to have an office, I wanted a nest. And, it’s got to be packed ‘round with images of all the things I’ve loved, so I’m totally comfortable in there. A giant love nest. I always promise to clean it up someday, but it hasn’t been cleaned in years because I’ve got things on the floor everywhere.

If you were to create a giant love nest of childhood treasures, what would it contain? In what ways does it interest you? Show us.

Pick a Color, Any Color

Artist Anish Kapoor said, “Red, of course, is the color of the interior of our bodies. In a way it’s inside out, red.”

Take off on all the things related to the color red. Here are several examples:

Seeing red; redheads; red herrings; red coats; red cross; paint the town red; a communist; red clay; blood; maraschino cherries; red lobsters; bullfighter’s cape; red badge of courage; the Redcoats are coming; beets; fire; fire engines; stoplights; terracotta; lipstick; jelly; strawberries; Scarlett O’Hara; Red Square; Mars; sunsets; Blood on the Moon; Scarlet Letter; red tape; Little Red Riding Hood; cherries; firecrackers; blushing; red power neckties; red sky at night, a sailor’s delight; Red Sea; red tide.

What else?

Go West Young Man or Woman

I give this assignment to many of my clients to help them get off the point; to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. This is ideal for those of you with smart phones. It works for illustrators too. Commit to drive or walk west for two days. Make a photograph every ten minutes no matter where you are each time the alarm goes off. No matter where you are or what else you may be doing, point and shoot. Let go of all expectations. Trust the process. This work is not for exhibition, although it might be. The first photographer who did this stretch came back with images worthy of an exhibition. This work was the beginning of a major career change.

Isn’t it a touch of serendipity that the photographer’s name is Michael West. Here are his comments on this stretch:

“A photo every 10 minutes? Are you kidding me? When Ian gave me this assignment, I put away my “real” cameras, bought a Holga (before they were cool) and set out. Changed my life.

This process reminded me that all I needed was my eye and the world around me for inspiration. Since that little adventure I’ve transformed my career.”

The Creative Lab Keep Creative Imagery Flowing Photographer Michael West 02 resized 600

© 1998 Michael West

For your copy of 1001 Quotes Questions & Pondering on the Creative Process send me an email with “1,001 Quotes” in the subject line. iansummers@heartstorming.com

About Ian

Ian offers teleconferences, workshops and career coaching to a wide range of artists. He’s created a new 2-day offering called The Heartstorming Career Redirection Workshop, which is based on the concept that our passions remain more or less the same throughout our careers, however it is vital to take new actions to bring them into being. Heartstorming

Related Articles:

1. Shooting New Work: How to Stay Creative Without Confusing Clients

2. Eye-Catching Photographs: Humor, Emotion & Personal (Part 1)

3. Enhancing Commercial Assignments With Personal Work

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