5 Reasons Art is Play
Sometimes when I’m painting it’s like there’s no room – no walls, no floor – no boundaries. Just paint, canvas and me. Together, the 3 of us synchronize without construct or delineation. Like an ancient dance, scraping the brush on the canvas. dipping a palette knife into a tub of paint, doling out color. That satisfied feeling when the color mix reaches perfection.
Art is play. It’s also work – but we’ll wait for the next post to get into that. For today, it’s all about play. And the joy of art making.
It’s a trip to hammer a chisel into marble, chipping stone away until it slowly begins to form the sculpture that’s been patiently waiting in your mind’s eye. It’s calming to manipulate moist, smooth clay as it softly forms in your hands. It’s soothing to watch watercolors drip and spread on thick, soft paper. It’s exciting to make multiple, mixed-chromatic prints after gouging into linoleum to create a new printing plate.
There are many reasons to think of art as play. Here are five…
5 Reasons Art is Play
1. Making art will set you free. There are about as many ways to start an art piece as there are art pieces. One way is to have a playful attitude.
I’ve noticed through my years of teaching that people can have a hard time getting started. Sometimes even getting into the studio is hard. Art making is risk taking. Sometimes voices in our head question our ability or right to create. A playful attitude can quiet those voices.
That sense of play allows us the looseness to move a pencil with a certain lightness, or to be brave enough to use color that’s bold and sure.
Looking at art as play can help us get started, and, when the going gets tough, that sense of play can remind us to relax and be present. As Picasso famously said, “It took me a lifetime to draw like a child.” Looking at art as play offers us the freedom and joyfulness to create like a child. Plus you can also make a really cool watch.
2. You get to get dirty! In college my ceramics teacher, Toby Buonogorio, always said that clay is not dirt. That may be true but it’s definitely as much fun – or more – than playing in the dirt when you were a kid. It feels good to get dirty. I wear my paint like a badge of freedom. Feeling carefree is something we could all use a little more of.
Try air-drying clay. It’s not the same as ceramic clay but it’s nice to work with, dries pretty hard and can be painted and embellished.
3. There are NO rules!! It depends on how you want to play, but you get to make the rules and you get to break them. It’s your game!
You can play with one media or you can play with lots at once. Mixed-media is putting together pretty much anything you want. It’s very freeing and expressive. You can start with collage. Kurt Schwitters is known as the father of collage. Have a look at his work. Collage or decoupage (French for cutting out paper) is a nice way to get mixed-media going.
Get yourself a bottle of mod-podge and a cheap brush. Some paper – newspaper, magazine, tissue, wrapping – any kind of paper. Brush the mod-podge like glue, under the paper, and then right over the paper if you want it to have a gloss. Play with words, letters, color, shape. Cut and tear – try both – they’re very different – and enjoy. Layer. Watch as translucent papers reveal the colors of the papers under them. See how the layers combine to create new colors – just like paint.
As my wonderful students love to say, “There’s nothing like the smell of mod-podge in the morning.” Try collaging with your morning coffee, but be warned – it’s totally addictive.
4. It’s fun! Making art is about the most rewarding thing there is. Some people look at a blank canvas and get scared. I look at a blank canvas and get excited. Whoopie!! Playtime!
If you want to paint, then paint. I love acrylics. I can give you a color mixing lesson – feel free to ask questions in the comments – but in the meantime, start with a few paint colors that call your name and play. You can even paint on thick paper. Let the paint dry between the layers so your work won’t get muddy. There’s lots to learn – it’s true – but the learning will begin straight away – even without a teacher.
To ease in, try starting with a light shade of yellow – mix white with just a touch of yellow. Add the yellow slowly and see how much it takes to change the white. Be mesmerized. Slowly add more colors. Mix. Explore. Play. And remember: acrylics can be painted over and over each other – layers are freedom.
5. What else can you do that feeds your soul while pumpin’ up the music and dancing around the room? Making art is one of those win-wins. You can do it alone, you can do it with others. You can do it at home, you can do it at Starbucks. You can make art you show or you can keep it private. Creating is whatever you want it to be. So grab your pen, your brush, your chisel, your pastel, your mod-podge, your wire, your stencils, your clay… and play!
Let us know it goes! I can’t wait to hear!
In my next post, I’ll share 5 Reasons Art is Work! See you then!
To all you are,
Thanks so much for reading! Stay tuned for more about my upcoming book The Power of Creativity!!