So the act of completing the first 10 days inspired me for the next 10. Trying not to think – to just go with your instincts and make instant decisions was a lot tougher than I expected. But it is exactly what children do when they play. So for the last 10 days I took that process and transferred it to my sketchbook. Not thinking too much. Not worrying about what the finished piece will look like.
I went for small studies and a colour palette that I don’t usually choose – ice cream inspired.
One definition that struck home was: ‘play is the act of letting go of the need to produce something finished’. Instead it is about just allowing things to unfold in the moment. Responding to what is in front of you and really being in the present.
So Why Do I Find it so Hard Just to Play?
It got me thinking about why I struggle with play. At first I thought it was because of a fear that what I created would look ugly. But I think there is a lot more to it.
As a grown up, free time is such a luxury. The idea of play can feel like a frivolous waste of time. We’re expected to be either busy or doing something useful. I feel that pressure when I have a day free to work in my studio and just don’t feel inspired. I beat myself up when I get to the end and haven’t managed to create something I’m happy with. But everything I read is so positive about the act of play. It is how artists discover their creative voices. It’s how they acquire new skills, explore and develop. It’s also, and I’m envious of this one, how they achieve a state of fearlessness. This fearlessness allows them to push themselves. Above all else, according to all the books I’ve read, Play is a State of Mind.
I decided to write down all of my limiting beliefs about play along with a list of positive affirmations. Perhaps this will help me stick to my challenge.
- I simply don’t have time . The time I get to paint or draw is so precious I can’t waste it playing
- Play is distracting. I like shiny new things and the act of playing lets me indulge this so I start lots of things without finishing anything. Parents or teachers say “You’ll never be good at anything if you don’t stick to it.” But surely they were wrong? Through play I learn new things, it sparks ideas and teaches me new techniques.
- It is self-indulgent. There are a load of more useful things I could be doing with my time. Maybe this is partly true. There are a load of things I probably should get round to doing – but why are housework tasks more important? No one is coming to see us at the moment and play lets me experiment and have fun.
Positives of Play
Play helps me to….
- Discover new things. The texture created when washing away a luscious thick layer of paint with a water spray, revealing pops of colour from the layers beneath
- Decide what I like and don’t like. It’s a mini adventure that helps me to understand my own tastes.
- Connect. You become absorbed in what you’re doing, losing track of time.
- Acquire new skills. When you try something for the first time there is no pressure. So you play with materials or techniques to see what happens.
- Develop a habit of creative practice. Its fun so you want to do it each day
- Unwind. It is calming, almost meditative.
- Quieten down my inner critic. Let’s face it we all have one, some even sound like people we know! Every book I have read reaffirms that nothing stops you moving forward creatively more than the fear of making mistakes.
- Build my confidence – through experimenting and playing I gain a greater understanding of paint, brushes and other tools.