The simple everyday habits of creative people
The one thing I’ve cherished about following a creative path is the people I’ve met along the way – at art college and university, in the workplace and as a freelancer. The extraordinary souls who have inspired me to choose the creative coaching work I do today. So, I thought it would be insightful to ask a few of my professional creative friends (+ my sister) how they approach their work and nurture their creativity, uncovering the simple working habits that enable their ideas and creativity to thrive.
Rebecca Gerlings, Children’s Writer-Illustrator
I work from my office in our back garden writing and illustrating children’s books. The peace, variety of work, and flexible hours are great, but the isolation and sporadic pay not so much. I plan in regular meet-ups with friends and fellow writers and illustrators, as well as attending workshops and seminars to hone my skills. These replace office life for me, providing social contact, personal and professional development, information exchange, and industry perspective. I also volunteer in our local library, reading picture books and doing craft, which is a brilliant way to connect with and get inspired by my end consumers.
Doing the school run forces me to take two regular breaks per working day. When the weather’s good we cycle or walk, so that gets me out in the fresh air. I also try to go for a run a couple of mornings a week (I am an early bird), which I find great for dislodging creative blocks. I find inspiration literally anywhere and everywhere. Everything I absorb percolates in my cranium and influences what I create. I record notes for future use in a variety of ways: smartphone, sketchbooks, notebooks, Post-Its, Instagram and Pinterest. I’m always on!
For more delightful children’s illustrations head over to Rebecca’s website.
Laura Loveridge, Textile Designer at Boden
I’ve been employed as a Boden childrenswear designer for 15 years. My role includes research, ideas development and print design, from providing drawings to creating repeated patterns. I draw conversational prints – lots of animals, dinosaurs, pirates, vehicles, fairies and unicorns. I also have to come up with new ways to incorporate the same subject matter, so for this, I experiment with new colourways and layouts.
When I can, I draw and sketch directly from real life. I also organise team drawing sessions to support the work we do. This could be anything from working in a print studio to sketching reptiles. I spend most of my working week split between my home and the Boden head office. Working alone can be lonely so I value the time with my colleagues and being part of a team. When I’m designing, I always work on a few designs at once to keep things moving forward. I also divide my time between designing, planning and research.
I’m inspired by everything in the world around me, from people to nature. I also flip through children’s books, visit exhibitions, art galleries, museums and flea markets and I browse Pinterest and the high street for current trends – it’s helpful for me to see what’s going on outside of Boden!
The adorable animal print can be found on the Boden animal jersey romper.
Robin Danely, Artist
I like to get started working first thing in the morning when I’ve got the most energy and focus. I have a small studio at home, and I paint either on a drafting table or an easel. I am fastidious about setting up my workspace for the easiest access to the materials: paints, palette, oil medium, brushes, wipe cloths – all go in the same place every time.
For me, creative inspiration is a natural by-product of doing creative work. I get ideas about what to do and how to do it while I’m working – so the discipline of a regular practice is what generates inspiration and momentum. The trick is to get started and to keep showing up, even while in the throes of self-doubt or when things don’t seem to flow. If I’m stuck or frustrated, it’s usually because I am tired and hungry and comparing my work to someone else’s. Knowing when to take a break is essential – a ten-minute walk will clear my mind, as will several days away from social media.
I also switch gears between painting, drawing, and collage, which can shake me out of a rut. Making art can be solitary and lonely, so having an art community or just a few artist friends is essential, both to share ideas and to stay accountable. Lastly, the book Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland has saved me more times than I can count. It’s full of brilliant observations about making art and feels like a rousing pep-talk to stay committed.
You’ll find more of Robin’s beautiful portraits on her website.
Anna Proctor, Printed Textile Designer at Jericho Design House
I’m most comfortable in my own space at my desk, which overlooks the slightly wild garden with all my paints/inks and comforting chaotic mess around me. I don’t need things to be just so to get started, I usually just push my paperwork and laptop to one side and start painting – though I love an occasional purge and tidy up with a fresh sketchbook. I am at my most productive from about 10.30pm until I can’t keep my eyes open. I’ve always worked best at night; I feel most awake and relaxed then and it’s so peaceful!
I tend to collect inspiration as it strikes rather than seeking it out. I absolutely love flea markets and antique shops but equally like looking at current fashion trends and catwalks for inspiration. Most recently, while renovating our house, we uncovered layers of beautiful old wallpaper that had sat behind a built-in cupboard. I was genuinely giddy when I found them and definitely want to create a little collection around them.
Creative block is a tough one, I find it often hits after a big high or success. Often I take a break from designing and switch my focus to another part of my business – creating content for social media, looking at product ideas for my existing prints or doing some freelance work for someone else. I also find creating a mood board is great for focusing on what you really want to create – basically a visual to-do list. Just having a blank piece of paper is far too daunting for me! I think it comes from years of working for other people and to a brief. A big part of the battle is accepting that creativity definitely comes in waves.
For gorgeous fabrics and homewares pop over to Jericho Design House.
Zeena Shah, Print Designer, Illustrator and Author
Sharing a studio space with like-minded creatives is a wonderful way to stay inspired and creative. Whilst having the occasional work from home day (which can be lovely) often staying in your pyjamas all day can get a little lonely and uninspiring. I find working in my East London studio space is super inspiring, not only is it a great way to make friends but also have people you can bounce ideas off and go for an after-work drink with.
I’m a self-confessed workaholic but I will always find time to escape my desk and go outside. Taking breaks can actually mean you’re much more productive and there isn’t the afternoon post-lunch slump! I often find inspiration for my work in nature and so it’s the perfect place to find new things to draw and collect.
My workspace is one of those in which everything is in its place. I work best when my desk space is tidy and clear of stuff – tidy desk, tidy mind. It really does help if you’re feeling overwhelmed with work to take five minutes to tidy things away. I’m an incredibly tidy person, though, so that does help!
If I’m having one of those days where I’m feeling stuck or a bit overwhelmed with where to begin on a project, I take myself away from it all. I’ll go for a walk or, for a change of scenery, I’ll work in a cafe, pop to the library, a market or a local antiques fair. I love vintage books and I have a collection of them for inspiration. I find pouring over something old is very therapeutic. That said, it’s often just a case of not overthinking things and keeping it super simple!
For more designs, illustrations, DIYs and workshop dates visit Zeena Shah.
Rachel Hudson, Illustrator
Walking my dog, Rosie, in the local woods is one of the first things I do to start my working day. It gives me a chance to clear my head and get some exercise. It’s also a brilliant reminder that I’m immersed in a much bigger world. If I’m lucky, I might spot something interesting that I can sketch and turn into a greetings card design or print.
My studio is at home, a cottage that was once the village stores. It is roughly split into two areas: a messy workbench with all my traditional materials including inks, rollers, brushes and cutting tools, and a clean area with my pc, scanner, printer and drawing tablet. I don’t travel light!
If I’m ever stuck, or finding an element of a project difficult, I’ll browse through my books for a break and for inspiration. I’m a big collector of books: natural history, children’s picture books, illustrated fiction and non-fiction. I’ll also draw lots of scruffy spider diagrams to try to focus on what I need to achieve with the illustration. More often than not, I tell myself to keep it simple.
For beautiful eco-friendly greetings cards, art prints and illustrated gifts head over to Rachel Hudson Illustration.
I’m pressing pause on my blog and monthly letter for the summer. I’m feeling the need for a break to gather my thoughts and focus on some personal projects – my painting being one of them. While I’m away, I’ll be working with my coaching clients and enjoying some mini-breaks (I’ll share my summer snapshots on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook). I’m looking forward to enjoying the extra space and seeing what unfolds.
If you’re seeking some coaching support this summer, I have some space in my diary to work with two new clients. And if you know of anyone who would benefit from some coaching, then please send them my way.
A huge thank you to the wonderful artists, illustrators and designers for sharing their wisdom. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a magical and inspiring summer.