So, I have a confession. I’m an illustrator and drawing is my life’s passion, but… sometimes I don’t want to draw.
I know, I know, basically every artist on the internet preaches that you should draw every day. Even I talk about the importance of drawing consistently, and how it’s the best way to grow and improve our art.
But the thing is, we’re all human. And humans don’t work like machines. There will be days when we feel low, exhausted, and empty. Days where we just don’t want to draw.
And that’s ok!
But what should we do if we still have that slow burn desire to be creative during those off times? What if we don’t want to draw, but we kinda want to do… something?
Well, for that, I turn to Albert Einstein, perhaps the most well known scientist in the world.
Einstein had an incredible work ethic and obviously achieved a lot during his life. But he didn’t just bang out equations and groundbreaking theories all the time.
He also took breaks. As Einstein said,
“Keep in mind that besides the eight hours of work, each day also has eight hours for fooling around, and then there’s also Sunday.”-Albert Einstein
Einstein knew the importance of letting ideas marinate, allowing the mind to rest, and the power of what he called, Combinatory Play, which he described as:
“…the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another.”–Albert Einstein
Basically, it’s the concept of combining two unrelated things to see what happens. Einstein often chose to combine music and physics. When he was feeling stuck on a physics problem, he would step away from his work and play the violin.
More often than not, as his music-mind took over and his physics-mind was left alone to roam free—that’s when he would have a breakthrough. A new idea he hadn’t thought of before would suddenly spring to his mind.
I’ve actually been experimenting with this concept myself. I’ve been feeling a little sluggish in my sketchbook lately, probably because I have a bajillion things on my plate right now (don’t we all?).
But instead of letting myself burnout on drawing, I’m experimenting with this idea of Combinatory Play and turning to a somewhat different realm— Punch Needling.
Punch Needling is a form of embroidery that I’ve just started exploring. The above mushroom is my very first punch needle piece, which I created with a template kit from Urban Acres! I find the needling process very freeing, meditative, and fun.
I’ve also been painting little things for Butterbean’s room, but I’ve decided these pieces are just for me and her and I’m choosing not to share them outside that intimate space. I’ve learned that creating art just for us and for no other reason is also helpful during a creative off-period.
These needling and painting activities have been wonderful ways for me to keep up my creativity outside drawing and I just ordered a bunch of new punch needle supplies so I can create more. I also have plans to paint the wooden slats next to our driveway fun pastel colors!
This whole process has led me to realize how combinatory play can help me get out of a creative rut. When I’m on a deadline, I still have the urge to create something non-work-related as a release at the end of the day, but since I’ve already been drawing all day, my sketchbook isn’t very enticing at that moment.
Combinatory Play gives me the break I need today to lead me back to drawing tomorrow.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that our creativity is not a self-sustaining, ever-burning fire. It can flare up into a blaze, and it can die back to smoldering embers. We have to adapt to that ebb and flow and learn to feed it ourselves or it will burn out. Sometimes we need to throw something new onto the fire to stoke the flames and bring back our original spark.
Thanks for reading!