Sunday, June 07, 2009

Creative People Generate Many Ideas

Over the next few weeks, I plan to discuss how sketchbooks can be used to foster each of the "10 Traits of Creative People." In each segment I'll offer a few thoughts and activities for a particular trait. I hope you'll take a moment to try the activities or encourage someone else to do them. Then, please feel free to leave a comment regarding the experience.

Trait #1: Creative People Generate Many Ideas

Currently I am working with my good friend and talented author, Julie Wright, on a book project. This story is not the result of any one super idea. It is something that has evolved from numerous ideas over the past 16 years. It began in my early years of college. The school paper put out an open call for cartoonists to develop and publish their own strip. To me, this sounded like a lot of fun. I began by sketching numerous characters, ranging from an over-friendly St. Bernard to a set of bungling Aliens. The ideas were diverse and I tried not to make any decisions about which were best, at least not at first. Unfortunately, school and work precluded me from pursuing the project further. About that time, I had another, totally separate idea about a boy and his adventures in space. In my spare time, I would write notes about him and his friends and the predicaments they would get into. These notes and the comic strips found themselves filed away, waiting for the time when I could develop them into something more substantial. Over the years, I sketched more characters and noted their traits and added them to my file, never really knowing what would become of them. Years later, as I was thumbing through these old files, I had the thought, what if I combined the bungling aliens from my comic strip with the young boy from my notes? Suddenly, the possibilities for a really cool story began to unfold. I later had the opportunity to present this idea to Julie, who was willing to take these ideas and characters, add her own touch to them, and create a wonderful manuscript.

The future of this book remains to be seen, but the project demonstrates the importance of creating many ideas. As you face a problem or challenge in any facet of life, it can be valuable to take the time to look for multiple solutions. The seeds you plant will provide an orchard of ideas that will grow and cross-pollinate until something new and wonderful emerges.

Suggested Sketchbook Activities:

1. Create a file system for your sketches and ideas.

For some, this may simply be a shelf where you can file your sketchbooks. As for me, I rarely leave my sketchbooks intact and most often tear out pages and file them. I use manilla folders and label them with broad terms, such as Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Costume Design, Gallery Art, etc. The important thing is to find a way to save your ideas so that you can go back to them later for inspiration.

2. Concepts.

In college, I took a class called Basic Illustration: Concepts. It was one of my favorite classes ever. The instructor would present us with a weekly homework assignment that usually involved sketching 10 ideas for a specific concept. For example, he once asked us to draw 10 animals that Noah left behind. In one image we had to show the animal and explain why it didn't make it onto the ark. Another assignment was to draw something to represent each day of the week.

Taking a general concept and creating several sketches is a great way to practice generating many ideas. It can be treated as a game, with one person presenting a concept challenge to the other and vice versa. I would suggest that you draw no less than three ideas for any concept. Concepts can be as simple as "draw three things that are blue" or they can be more complex such as "draw three aliens that could live on the moons of Jupiter." Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy the challenge.

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