I often paint when I'm trying to figure out a problem or get a breakthrough for a creative process. As I focus on the painting, my mind 'drops' the problem and focus on the painting project in front of me.
In reality, my mind hasn't discarded the problem at all; instead, the subconscious mind is working things through. If I will let something go and become more open to multiple options within a problem, I'll discover a solution.
Better yet, I might come up with multiple possibilities to a problem (which is what divergent thinking is all about).
I find that these type of de-stress painting projects helps the mind relax and solve problems more creatively. We need our right brain to help us process and solve many of life's problems. And therein lies a problem; most of us, after years of traditional schooling, know how to solve functional problems but we don't do well at divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to think a lot of different ways and come up with many different solutions for a problem. For problems like, "What do I do about this difficult relationship?" or "how can I pay off this debt?" or "where should I move," or any of the myriad of interpersonal, relational, vocational, and spiritual questions, our traditionally schooled way of thinking doesn't help us out very much.
We need to think in more divergent ways as opposed to left-brain ways- which come to the conclusion there is one right answer for every question. This works well in math (as a RN I did a lot of left brain thinking in the hospital when administering medication), but left braining thinking process don't help us in many of life's big decisions. This is where divergent thinking comes in play as being very handy.
Typically, there is not one right answer to many of life's decisions, but many choices to choose from. Often, people get stuck when they don't know how to think creatively. Being stuck is not fun; I write about my journey about being stuck in this blog post. I'm currently writing a short book about the art of getting unstuck: how to move past today's problems and create a lovely life.
I'll be talking/writing more about divergent thinking and how art helps us build up the right brained muscle in future posts. But for now......
Exercise Your Right Brain Muscle with a Simple Watercolor Exercise
Today's project is fun, easy, and designed to trigger the activity of your right brain to help you de-stress and hopefully open your mind to new ways of creative solutions to whatever is keeping you "stuck."
And if you don't find a solution today, it's fine. We've spent many years exercising our left brain way of thinking. Our right brains can get sleepy (and a bit flabby) without exercise. Just like you don't notice the effects of one day of exercise, it may take a few exercises to stimulate your right brain to activity.
First, sketch a simple picture. I've often done coffee cups on plates. It does NOT need to be correct proportions. My cups are usually a bit floaty and off centered.
Inspired by the spring around me, I chose to sketch two tulips in a vase.
After lightly sketching the picture, take the pencil and make wide, loose, loops all over the place. Here, I made the figure eight all over the flowers.
Pick three colors of paint for the painting. You won't need more than that (part of the fun problem solving is creating different colors and intensities with a limited palette of color).
Here are mine: lemon yellow, rose pink, and cobalt blue. (I would suggest an ultramarine blue instead of cobalt; the yellow and cobalt created some "interesting" combinations).
Ready for some fun? Let's make something pretty.
Take one of the areas and paint in some yellow. Don't go beyond the edges and keep it a little on the watery side. If you want an intense yellow, add more color. If you prefer a more pale color, add more water and use less paint.
Now, take a dab of another color and really fill the brush up with paint (move it around in the palette until the brush is saturated with color). Now, take it and dip it into the painting. Let the color blend itself.
Next, take the same brush and paint another area within the picture but not right next to the first one. Otherwise the colors will bleed in to each other.
Choose two colors for one object and another two or three colors for another object. The idea is to create a color-filled contrasting watercolor.
Sometimes I will paint a few squares at a time. Then I come back the next morning and do a few more. I leave everything out so I can keep working on it. It's a wonderful way to complete a project in a weekend.
Here is another stained glass watercolor I painted last week:
I got the idea from this project from the book, Art Escapes. This wonderful book by Dory Kanter is filled with exercises for art journaling and exploring your own creativity without the pressure to show anyone or produce for anyone other than yourself. Just like a written journal, an art journal is often artwork done just for yourself.
What do you do when you find yourself "stuck" and can't figure out a way to solve a problem or conflict? I'd love to hear what you do in the comments below.
Have fun creating!
This post was not only fascinating but such a great way to accomplish solutions -- I have never considered myself a creative person artistically but this makes so much sense. Can you feel my sense of wonder at the possibilities? My husband does oil paintings and I have watched him with the layers and realized he was solving problems. I am going to get this book -- Thank You Melissa -- you have changed my approach!
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I think every single one of us is creative- how we tap in to that creativity is different for all of us. I can sense your wonder Love it! Enjoy the book, there are so many different projects to choose from!
I enjoyed this Blog so much I just had to give it a go! I haven't picked up my art pencils or brushes for weeks, probably months if I'm totally honest. So, this was a really good exercise to get back into just doing it!
I feel like buying the book! Thank you.
Lynne, I'm so glad you picked them up again. It feels good to put the pencils and brushes to paper with a fun exercise. I've done this exercise many times and every time it is fun and new.
I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, thank you for stopping by!
Hello - back again, I've even painted another one, I enjoyed it so much, and was going to upload a pic of it on FB, but chickened out! Love the idea!
Lynne, oh do share! I would love to see your beautiful painting! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
I miss painting. I haven't done it in so long! This is a great idea for me and for my kiddos as they manage the "stresses" of childhood, like being bored!!!
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I love to paint too and I feel the same way- I don't do it enough. This is a fun project because your kids could take sketches of dragons or cats or whatever they are into right now, and make a multi-colored painting. Oh yes, the stress of childhood- more like the stress you go through finding ways to keep the kids busy all summer!
I love this post! I really need to tap into my creative side more to give my brain a break. I often find myself obsessing over a problem and trying to force a solution.
Painting just may be the answer I need to recieve my breakthrough! Beautiful pictures by the way!
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I'm so glad you liked this post; thank you for the kind words about the pictures! Yes, sometimes pulling out some paintbrushes and playing with paint is both relaxing and energizing. The cherry on top of the sundae is when we get those breakthrough ideas to move through problems and find solutions
This is really weird because I've been thinking of doing this exercise again the last two days and then there is another post about it in my inbox! Someone trying to tell me something?
Lynne, it sounds like this project is calling your name I love this one because you don't have to commit to several hours of work- I will sketch my drawing one day, then begin to add colors as my schedule allows, sometimes for 15 minutes a a time. The paint needs time to dry in between (so the the colors don't "swim" together) so it works well. Have fun!
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