Do you sometimes find it hard to get motivated to do creative work?

Try one minute drawings!

Here is a very simple and (I find) extremely effective activity you can use to unlock your creativity.

I have used it a number of times and always end up with an inspiring starting point for new prints. It generates a feeling of prolific energy as well as creative focus. I hope it will restore your faith in your own creativity and give you a boost to get going again.

The best ten minutes of your day

The little piece of coral with one minute drawings

The little piece of coral with one minute drawings

The beauty of it is that you only need 10 minutes, but you will probably want to go on for longer as it is so absorbing.

Ignore your intellect

The trick is to by-pass your ‘intellectual’ brain that criticises and questions your creative activities. With this exercise you dive straight into that magic link between hand and eye that happens when you are just present in the moment and going with the flow.

This activity came from the book ‘Art from Intuition’ by Dean Nimmer which is full of great ideas for getting started, and ways to inspire creativity.

Ten drawings in ten minutes

Ten charcoal sketches of a pear, each done in 1 minute

Ten charcoal sketches of a pear, each done in one minute

You will make lots of drawings of an object, one after another with no time to reflect or ponder along the way.

Dean Nimmer suggests making 30 drawings in 30 minutes, but after doing just 10 in ten minutes I find my state of mind has changed for the better.

Prepare your kit

As you will be producing a lot of work quite intensely, a little bit of preparation is needed to make sure nothing stops your creative flow;

A pile of paper; at least ten sheets of newsprint, old newspaper, or any cheap and cheerful stuff you have around.

Something to make spontaneous marks; I like charcoal and also runny acrylic paint with big brushes. Try out different things but make sure your materials are easy to use with no faffing around.

Select an object to draw

The pear that inspired the one minute drawings

The pear that inspired the one minute drawings

Usually I find something 3d that I can easily turn around in my hand to see different angles.

The broken shell that inspired the one-minute paintings

The broken shell that inspired the one minute paintings

It can be anything you have lying around, a coffee mug or a pair of glasses for instance.

The coral pebble that inspired the one minute drawings

The coral pebble that inspired the one minute drawings

You could also choose something that has particular meaning for you, or that relates to a theme you are working on at present.

Timing one minute drawings

A timer is helpful, at least to begin with, so you can judge when the minute is up. Find one that is easy to re-set each time you start a new drawing.

One minute egg timer with coral and charcoal drawings

One minute egg timer with coral and charcoal drawings

I have a big one minute egg timer  which is great as you can easily see the progress of sand and it makes no noise to disturb you, if you want to ignore it you can.

The giant egg timer is also good for working with people in groups as  it can be seen from a distance.

One minute is elastic

With your timer, paper, drawing materials and object you are ready to go.

Start the timer and, concentrating on your object, start to draw it. Take a new sheet of paper and begin another drawing each time the timer is done.

You can choose to be strict with yourself and stop drawing as soon as the timer runs out. Alternatively you can allow yourself flexibility and keep going for a bit longer than a minute. The main thing is to keep you hand and eye moving, don’t look back, just focus on your object and the marks on paper.

When I start I often feel rushed – the sense that drawing something in one minute means you must work fast can produce scrappy sketches. Interestingly slowing down seems to extend the minute and give time to think; the result is drawings that take the same time but have more presence and focus.

Track your progress

Ten one minute shell paintings

Ten one minute shell paintings

If you number your one minute drawings it is easy to track your progress.

The first few will probably be a bit clunky as your creative gears grind into action.

There is usually a particular point when you can observe things start to flow and your drawings become interesting and lively.

What next?

When you have finished your allotted time, (or used up all your paper) spread all the one minute drawings out and observe your progress.

The book suggests sorting them out in to ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ to help develop critical awareness.

Some of the one minute charcoal pear drawings with mono prints

Some of the one minute charcoal pear drawings with mono prints

As with many printmaking activities, producing a lot and then editing down to select the best is a liberating way to work.

I choose one or two drawings to develop into something more; the example here shows sketches of a pear and then a series of simple mono prints made from one of the drawings immediately afterwards.

Calm energy

One minute shell painting

One minute shell painting

The sense of calm energy generated after making one minute drawings for as little as 10 minutes can stay with you for the whole day and inform the rest of your work.

It is quite a revelation to realise that you can set yourself up so easily to produce a series of lively and spontaneous drawings.

Even if you use them all for fire lighters afterwards, the effect on your creative focus will be profound.

Now there is no need for a coffee to unlock your creativity in the morning!