If you’ve been following along in our discussions about play, both for children and as adults, maybe you’ve been wondering, as I have, about how artists incorporate play into their work. I had an idea of what people might say about this, and of course—as usual—I was wrong. Oh, sure, some people consciously switch into “play” mode, but most have other ways of working. Sandi summed it up what a lot of people had to say by asking “It’s all play, isn’t it?” and Susan said, “My work is play …….There is no other way. When I go into the studio I have no agenda other than I am going to play around/experiment and maybe come up with an inspiration for something to begin a creation. The only requirement I have is that I be surrounded by great junk meaning assorted found objects and materials. Then the fun begins putting things together, tearing them apart….. Experimenting until the creation takes on a life of its own and speaks out about what it wants to become….my favorite motto about this process is…… What you are to be you are now Becoming….. I feel this way about people too…. We are ever experimenting/changing… Becoming.” Dee adds, “I play in the studio because to me art is not work. I do occasionally sell, but I don’t have deadlines, etc. I think that is why I am not a professional artist. I have to have fun and experimentation.”
Sherry said, “My work is my play. I work with animals and learn so much from them! They live in the moment and always seem to enjoy themselves. They have the ability to make everything ‘fun.’ I try hard to follow their lead and find some fun in everything I do, from the most exciting to the most mundane.”
Binky agrees: “All my studio time is play time,” and so does Krishanna, who wrote, “When I’m in the studio.. work is play. =)”
Cynthia explains, “I don’t consider being in my studio work. I do work there but usually with music in the background and I’m playing with some new media or idea. I love to experiment with textures, mark making tools, etc. I never run out of inspiration…I pinterest!” Maybe you wouldn’t be surprised at how many of us use Pinterest the way kids use a cartoon break: you get to rest, it’s fun to look at, and you find yourself doing it a LOT.
Darlene says, “I consider all my work play, I usually have 3 or 4 projects going at one time, I generally don’t take breaks I just stay in the zone! I’m an intuitive artist so being in my studio is the most fun and joyous place to be and experience. New ideas are up to my muse for sure. I get out do this, that and the other in life so when I’m in my studio it all comes out in my art in a positive way, fun way, and awesome way!!!” Belinda adds, “Play=experimentation. Whenever I am working on my art, I am always thinking about the different possibilities. What if? I am always scrounging around for different scraps to press into something, a wipe to dab something up, a brayer to cover up, and masking tape to uncover. What can I do with it next? What textures didn’t I do yet? Playing/experimenting is always my state is mind. I think I spend more time creating textures and backgrounds for my artwork than finished pieces. That is what I do when I feel kinda stuck in a muck.”
Tammy wrote, “For me, doing art is the definition of play. Experimenting, looking for interesting juxtapositions, mixing things together to see what happens. Perhaps because I hop between mediums I never get into a rut!” And Ana summed it up for this group of artists when she wrote, “All of my work has some process of play in it, which is why it doesn’t feel like work to me and I fully enjoy what I do in a more stress-free environment. I learned a long time ago that listening to my instincts works better than trying to force someyhing to evolve in a direction it doesn’t want to. I always have a point A to B plan, but allowing myself to experiment and play gives me the chance to go into a project with the mind of an explorer. I sometimes have instrumental music that complements the project playing in the background so that I’m relaxed and able to focus out any white noise. I enjoy the creative process in general and use it as a time to push my comforts and feed my soul.”
Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
For more ideas about creative play, try The Zentangle Untangled Workbook by Kass Hall, where you can experiment with different tangle designs.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS