Collecting your thoughts

What would happen if you did a little sketch daily?  Or a little sentence?  And what if you didn’t hide them in a notebook, but PUT THEM UP on a wall, to see?

I found this artist’s video interview today – she is talking about her exhibition (on urban decay) but she could have been talking about the price of pickles in aisle nine – my whole attention was riveted on what was hanging on the wall – 190 tiny paintings, pegged up in lines.

There was rather a large amount of grey and greyed colour as her project was on urban decay – but even so, the variety!!  Brilliant framing in the video – and the screenshot I’ve chosen to attach to this blog post – makes it look as if those are all thoughts streaming out of her head.  Rather like in a cartoon strip, where the character has a thought bubble containing what’s in their mind.

Thoughts can appear in our minds with an initial ta-dish!, but tend to then slide away as other, new input arrives in our brain.  So most creative programs will urge you to begin recording your ideas and responses in exercise books or notebooks, or sketchbooks, so that you remember them. This is key – but once they’re in a book, they’re in a fixed order, unless you begin ripping out the pages and rearranging.  But with a set of cards… the possibilities of combinations is electrifying, staggering.

Creative Takeaway

  1.  Get the materials.  Buy yourself a HUGE set of cards blank on one side (the other side could be lined if you’re more into words). Cards are cheap to buy, so don’t stint.  Have your writing/drawing tools gathered: pens, markers, brushes, watercolours, whatever
  2. Set yourself a goal of at least one daily doodle or collection of words a day, for a month.  You could even write words on one side, put doodles on the other or sketches of a pattern you’ve noticed in the day, or take a photo on your phone – but resolve to print them out at the end.
  3. Set a reminder beep on your phone or a prompt in your diary so you remember to do this each day.
  4. At the end of each day, put the cards where you don’t see them.
  5. Be willing to note things which are not apparently significant.  Just whatever you notice.  That could be as fleeting as the colours someone is wearing, or a piece of architecture, or a cloud, an advertising line on a hoarding, or the pattern of umbrellas against the sky – whatever.  Your phone-camera can be handy here.  The less important the thing seems, probably the better.  If you don’t know why you’re drawn to that particular shape or word, best of all, you’re learning to listen to your instincts and responses.
  6. Do this for at least a month, or as long as you can stand the suspense of not knowing what’s collecting in the cards.
  7. Finally, when you’ve been doing this for at least a month – or a set number of cards (the artist set a goal of 200), set aside a few hours to see what’s there.  Put on favourite music, sip a favourite drink, be undisturbed.  Lay out the cards.
  8. At first, you may be unimpressed, it all seems random.  See if there’s a few cards which are interesting because they’re together.  Let those stay together, pick up the remaining cards, like it’s a cardgame, shuffle and deal out again on the table.  Pick out the interesting groups.  Shuffle, deal again.  Repeat a few times.
  9. As you do this process, you’re getting familiar with the cards and may begin to see patterns.  Or not.
  10. Pin up string, small paper pegs and pin up the cards you’ve grouped somewhere you can see them, near your creative making or thinking space.
  11. If you’re intrigued by a few of the pieces, develop them into larger pieces of work: poems, pictures.
  12. If you’ve got a creative really good friend who you trust – consider both doing this together and swopping cards for a while – say a day or two, to muse over.  What do you see of interest in their cards to take into your own practice?  Probably very little, and you’ll be glad to get your own cards back because they’ll have a higher rate of interest.  But you will certainly have both expanded the area of what influences you, will have a mutual talking point and possibly will find ways to collaborate.  And a spark from their noticings may just light a fire under a few of your own.
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