The other day I was writing a blog post about color schemes, and how starting a painting with a certain color palette in mind is one helpful way to eliminate the problem of indecision in creativity. You see, there is much to be said about the joys of freedom and “creativity knowing no bounds”, and I find myself attracted to that notion - that imagination is wild and free and being creative means always starting with a blank slate, having complete and utter free reign to let your genius fly! In fact, I’m very attracted to that idea.
The problem with that idea, however, is that it is mostly just that - an idea. Unless I have some kind of pre-determined plan to actually set foot in the studio, I probably will put it off in favor of one more episode of the Great British Baking Show, or that pile of laundry that has been sitting there for four days. I can be horribly inconsistent if I count on my inspiration being the only one to lead the way. Maybe this isn’t you, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone here. The other thing is, when I have zero structure at all, I usually sit down and can’t think of a single thing to paint. Has this ever happened to you? You’re loving the idea of doing something creative, you gather up your paints, lay them out all nicely on the table, take a seat, then… nothing. Suddenly your mind is blank, all those feelings of inspiration aren’t translating to anything visual, and you can’t settle on something to actually paint. I used to have this feeling all. the. time. But you know what? I haven’t had this struggle in years for a very specific reason. What’s that reason? Because now, I always employ some kind of creative trellis in my work.
“A CREATIVE TRELLIS IS ANY TYPE OF LIGHT STRUCTURE YOU PUT IN PLACE TO GIVE DIRECTION AND SUPPORT TO A CREATIVE ENDEAVOR.”
So, what exactly is a creative trellis? For starters, it’s a completely made up term (so if you’ve never heard of it, you’re in the vast majority here), but it applies the purpose trellises have in a garden, which is to support climbing plants, so they can continue to grow upward rather than flopping over on themselves. I have three tomato plants in pots on my front porch, each one with a simple metal trellis surrounding them - barely touching the plant at all, but keeping it from collapsing under its own weight. So in that same spirit, A creative trellis is any type of light structure you put in place to give direction and support to a creative endeavor. For example, choosing a color palette ahead of time can be an incredibly helpful trellis, because now when you sit down to paint, you have already decided to use specific colors and can open up those paint tubes and get started. Another trellis could be a prompt. I have a list of 15 Sketchbook Prompts that are a perfect way to add some direction to your creative practice. See how neither of these things take away any of your freedom or creativity, but rather add a bit of guidance? It’s the difference between bobbing in a lake and floating down the river. In both cases you get the joy of being in the water, but only one of them actually takes you somewhere. THAT is what a creative trellis does - it adds that little bit of motion to your already-inherent creativity so you aren’t stuck staring at your materials wondering what to do next.
Next I’ll share 6 Types of Trellises to help maximize your creative time.