Stretching Your Creativity with a Theme


Not Jupiter

Creating with a specific theme in mind can help give your creativity a stretch. Having a theme can require research which at times is invigorating. A bonus is learning something new. Usually when I have a themed piece to do I spend a lot of time in thought.  Then I start gathering information.

I have entered themed shows wanting work with only wildflowers or indigenous plants. One art show was a competition for a wine label.  Another art show was looking for western art only. Other themes I have seen had to do with music and dance.

I have to admit that sometimes I don’t want to do themed work.

Why? Because sometimes it seems like work.  I have to find out about something I have no knowledge of. I have to think too much. I can’t draw or paint what I happen to feel like. Like many artists, I get stuck in the mode of not doing unless I am inspired. So, working when you aren’t inspired is how your creativity gets a stretch.

The other day I found a blog that has themed creativity challenges.  Creative Every Day is written by Leah Piken Kolidas. Here is a little of what Leah has to say:

“The *totally optional* theme for the Creative Every Day Challenge in June will be Sound!
This theme may be a stretch for some of you, but I encourage you to play with it.

How can you use this theme in your creations? Well, you could use the previous themes to help you brainstorm by getting playful and writing all the ways you could interpret the theme. Perhaps you will dream in colorful song? Or perhaps you will begin exploring the sounds of your natural environment?”

A few years ago I challenged my junior high students to do a similar theme, but I got even more specific. I handed out lyrics to “Drops of Jupiter” by Train.  Some students recognized the words but did not realize how they knew them.

We read the lyrics out loud as a class. We talked about all the ways we could portray the song. We brainstormed. Then I had the students close their eyes and listen to the song. I asked them to write down anything they might have thought about or visualized as they listened. Then I handed out paper and let the students choose whatever medium they wanted to use. We listened to the song over and over for the rest of the class time.

I had never given an assignment to my students quite like this one. I had no idea how the students would do.  I was very pleased by their reaction and the finished work turned in was better than I had anticipated. I actually think that the students were a little intimidated by the assignment at first.  But it seemed to me that as the students started brainstorming, their ideas started flowing, and their energy was contagious.  The students were having fun. I was having fun.  Everyone was working. The assignment was a great success.

So, on occasion, give your creativity a stretch. Don’t wait to be inspired. Give yourself a theme. Make your theme as broad as Sound or as specific as portraying the lyrics from a popular song. Give yourself some options and a little leeway. Don’t stress out. Brainstorm. Get others to brainstorm with you.  But most of all have fun!

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