ChatterTip of the Month March 2010

Creative Tips

© Louisa J. Curtis

As I was pondering some “tips” for the March bulletin, I thought I would switch it up and give some creative tips this month. Some of you may be familiar with a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. She suggests many useful exercises to unleash and regularly access your inner creativity, one of which is the “morning pages.” When you first wake up, you sit and write 3 full pages of whatever is in your head and you do that every single morning. It helps to unload all of the excess baggage we carry around in our heads. Don’t edit or think about it, simply write down whatever comes into your mind. It might be a dream or a shopping list – it doesn’t matter. Julia also suggests going on “artist dates.” You’d be surprised how, as artists, we forget to do the things we like. It might mean going to a thrift store and buying some cool prop, or to a museum to see an exhibition, or simply take a walk and see what you see. There is an extensive list of suggestions on her Blog –

Another great idea is to always have a “personal project” on the go. For photographers, I always encourage them to shoot personal work, because without that, they are not feeding their souls. And if they are not feeding their souls, then the work will suffer. A personal project can often lead us in a direction that we had not previously anticipated. Many successful commercial shooters are always honing their craft and topping up the creative juices by continuing to work on their personal projects. I grew up in a generation that made arts & crafts with paper and glue and I loved making collages and hand-made cards. But today, we have a generation that has grown up with video games and computers. Is staring at a screen all day creative?

When starting a personal project, perhaps start with something that is close to home, or easily accessible. A portrait study of a local seniors’ bowling group, for example, is a lot more doable than a portrait series of say South American basket-weavers! When I took a photography class some years ago, we had to compile a photo essay by going back to the same subject several weeks in a row and shooting new images each time. I chose my veterinarian Dr. Julie Butler, and our subsequent journey together was both hilarious and educational. I enjoyed the challenge tremendously and went up to Harlem each Saturday to photograph whatever happened that day. From there, she invited me to visit and photograph the Church ladies across the street, as well as her home, her family and even the kids’ violin recital. Although my end product consisted of 20 images of her solely at work, those extra sessions with her helped the project enormously and cemented our friendship. The image above was the title image from my photo essay.

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