Play and Fun as an Artist

Between my husband and I, we express our creativity and problem-solving skills differently. My boys can count on Daddy to allow them (and demonstrate) how to use a diaper and underwear as an astronaut helmet (a clean one of course!). I would google on Pinterest how to make a knight's helmet or a Lion Dance Head with cardboard and proceed to use one of the old diaper boxes, penknife and a glue gun to hold the pieces in place.

Being married and having kids, especially boys in my case, has made me loosen up. I'm also learning how valuable it is for a child's learning development, as well as my art and creativity. 

As someone who has shared my artwork, and is known for beautiful drawings, there is a certain pressure I often place on myself that what I share needs to look good and be of a certain standard. 

It's like how in school (especially growing up in Singapore), I always aim to get an 'A' for art, and playing and experimenting with things that are too different will increase the chance of lowering the score -- so listen to your teacher, you can throw in cool ideas, but stay within the lane, or else you will not score in the right places. 

This has kind of rubbed off in my life sometimes, even when these rules don't apply as much. I have painted many artworks that I am proud of, that which I would give myself an 'A' for, A+ or A- on rare occasions, but still a decent 'A'. I show this work online, and am proud I show and sell quality work --  This is me and I give it my best. 

When you have a creative streak, however, there is a need for experimentation, play, and fun. Sometimes in the cycle of making art for others, or being drowned in the systems of running the creative business instead of creating, I miss having fun and trying out something new. Artwork in the beginning stages IS UGLY, and it requires many drafts, tweaks, and practice. For me to support my family as an artist, I also need to do a fair share of non-creative work to keep things afloat. Space and time need to be carved out for this seemingly trivial but important step. Often a refreshing take on something ordinary springs out when you try to match things together. Who knew maple syrup and bacon would go so well together? 

How have I incorporated Play and Fun in my creative practice?

1. There is art I don't show you (haha)

From time to time, I take out my sketchbook, one which I don't try to film my process or have the pressure to have a pretty completed artwork at the end of it. I often have no agenda in these sessions -- sometimes I'm just mixing paint on the paper, drawing shapes, or writing out a bible verse in the mood I am feeling without the pressure for it to have a balanced composition. I could include a sticker my sons peeled from somewhere or part of a packaging I found pretty. Just collect the junk and dump it there. But it's my safe space with no judgment. 

2. There is art I show you that I'm just having fun! 

I give myself creative projects where there is no pressure for me to sell. In these passion projects, I pick a topic and medium I would like to explore and give it a try. In the past I had done '15 days of Pattern', Draw My Day, ABCs of Inspiration, Lent verses, and Hymn Lent Series. These projects allowed me to practice an art medium on a topic I was interested in, and committing to it for some time gave me structure, the momentum, and a goal to accomplish. Perhaps posting it on social media also gave me the pressure to show up, but it also allowed me to connect with others, loosen me up to be a bit vulnerable, and not mind sharing 'ugly art' sometimes. 

'Draw Your Day' - A 30 day project in June 2020 where I committed to draw what was happening in my life each day. 

Hymn Lent Series, Lent 2022 -- For the 40 days of Lent in 2022, I wrote out the title of a hymn and share the lyrics and my brief thoughts on how I found them meaningful. 

15 Days of Pattern -- in June 2022, I painted 'patterns' using watercolour in whatever style, based on a colour prompt each day. I didn't manage to complete this challenge as I gave birth to my second child on day 11! 

ABCs of Inspiration - In May 2020, I shared a word a day, following the letters of the alphabet, using colour pencil (just 1 colour) on paper, and shared a quote or bible verse, and sometimes a brief thought. Through it I practiced showing up consistently, creating consistently, as well as worked on my handlettering and shading skills. 

Is there a creative medium or idea that you've been itching to try? I challenge you to commit to a week (or more) of consistent practice. You'll surprise yourself with how much progress you have made! 

3. There is art I create and sell that I play and have fun in the creative process.

This is where 'the stars align'. I am grateful that 90% of my client work is in this category, and I am surrounded by people who have given me much trust and freedom in the creative process. For commission work, I will ask key questions, such as who the final artwork is for (the intended audience), and if it is a gift, I would ask my client to describe the recipient and what he or she likes, such as their colour preferences, plants or interests. These facts provide a good skeleton or structure for me to build upon. This also allows me to try out new things, such as book illustration (I'm generally scared of drawing figures and faces), or colours I do not normally choose, such as the orange artwork above (I tend to gravitate towards cool colours such as blue and green).

This is also evident when I cross-pollinate ideas, especially when I brainstorm ideas for the Botanical Calendar each year. In playing around with ideas of how the different themes, bible verses, and plant imagery come together, I have grown a deeper appreciation for our multi-dimensional, creative God. I marvel at how he is able to orchestrate His character with truths from the bible, along with His creation, and my own life's experiences. From reigniting childhood memories, to recalling a brief encounter on a walk that seemed inconsequential, I have had alot of fun in this process, alot of joy, leaving me in a state of wonder, and worship. 

Some examples from of artwork featured in the Botanical calendar over the years:

1. The cannonball Tree inspired by God is our Protector. (Psalm 91:1-2)
2. The 'Living Stones' remind us that God is our Rock. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
3. The Bleeding Heart Vine reminds us that He comforts the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:17-18)

Each artwork has a personal story with it, and I wish I could sit with you for a couple of hours over breakfast (and lunch, and coffee ... and maybe dinner as well) to share all these stories with you!  

So while there's a tad bit of pressure each year to 'come up with something' that is refreshing, thoughtful, biblically grounded, visually interesting (and not lame), it is a process I am currently going through as I prepare the 2025 Calendar for next year. 

Some food for thought:
Where can you 'loosen up' and play a bit more?

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