Creativity means making a mess… and then cleaning it up. I don’t know when or where I first heard those words, but I’ve always recognized them as true. There’s a definite connection between messiness and creativity. A quick search pulls up lots of links in support of the belief that creative people — including artists — are messy and disorganized.
Read these articles if you want. I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t bother reading any of them. I know that creativity and clutter go hand in hand. I know that art is messy. I don’t need any psychologist explaining it to me. Chances are you already know these things, too.
I find fault with articles like this, though, because they focus on the wrong side of this creative coin. Time and again making a mess is lauded as a sign of creativity, but the necessary directive to clean it up is ignored. To put it in a slightly different way — from my point of view — messes are not creative; messes are only a breeding ground, a place where seeds of creativity are planted. The actual creativity comes later during the cleaning-up phase of the process.
Making a mess involves getting out dozens of different things, scattering tools everywhere, playing with dozens of different ideas — which may or may not work. It’s fine. It’s fun. But to be truly creative, we have to put things in the right places. We have to pick up the pieces, figure out what to do with them, and throw away things that don’t work.
But that’s all a bit beside the point right now. I’m not here to expound on the creative process. I’m just here today to say, hey, I cleaned up my studio! Yes, the mess had gotten totally out of hand. I was tripping over things. I couldn’t find what I wanted or needed when I wanted or needed it. I was spilling things, knocking things over, ruining things around me, and it was all making me… not creative, just crazy.
And so, yesterday morning instead of making art — and a bigger mess — I set about cleaning up the mess I’ve already made.
I started with my art supplies, sorting out my different “art areas”. Now, all my acrylics and acrylic pouring supplies are gathered together in one storage area. Alcohol inks and tools have their own area. I have a “drawing” area that includes graphite, charcoal, and ink, with each medium separated. I have a watercolor supply storage area, complete with paints, brushes, palettes, and miscellaneous implements. Of course I have an oil painting area. My newest area is my “mixed media” and crafts storage. Washi tape, collage paper, art crayons, string, varnish… everything but the proverbial kitchen sink!
Speaking of the sink, I’ve cleaned it up a bit, too. I’ve also swept the floor and added a nice rug to stand on. I’ve sorted through my canvases, and I’ve stacked my sketchbooks and drawing pads neatly. I also have a “scrap bin” now where I can add bits and pieces of this and that — things that might look like trash to somebody else but which might become part of a mixed media project one day.
I put my new organization to the test this morning when I put my art journal page together. It was easy to go to my “mixed media” area and take out just what I needed. I was able to quickly find and choose the precise colors of acrylic paints I wanted for the page. I enjoyed making the page, and once finished, I quickly washed up my brushes and put my supplies away again.
I like having an organized studio. It will never be clean, and it will never be neat. Every day I will be coming here to mess things up as I create art, but the most important part of that process for me will always be cleaning it all up afterward. That’s where it all comes together. That’s where imagination, ideas, and inspiration come together.
Anyone can make a mess; only a truly creative individual can clean it up and turn it into art.