Art + Design

5 Easy Ways to Jump-Start Your Creativity

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come in countless forms—from the book you’re currently reading, a walk through an art gallery, or even a daydreaming session while staring at the clouds.

In the new book It’s Great to Create, artist Jon Burgerman offers many prompts to help get the creative juices flowing, all centered around the core value that creating, making, thinking, and dreaming make us happy.

It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

Read on for five easy ways from Burgerman to jump-start your imagination, and don’t forget the most important part—to have fun along the way.


First things first…loosen up!
It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

Find a happy spot to work in. Get comfortable, relax, put on some nice music, make yourself a snack and a beverage (tea for me), make sure you have ample light (natural is best), turn off your phone, take off your shoes, and sit in your favorite chair.

I like a space I can imagine making something good in. Feeling good can go a long way toward helping you make something good. But if you feel so good you can’t sit still or concentrate at all, then you’ve probably gone too far.

Take some long breaths, stretch out, replenish your snack bowl one last time if you’re still feeling a bit peckish, and go.

Now we’re ready to begin…

1. Sound Shapes

It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

What are your favorite sounds? Mine include the ping of a microwave, popcorn being made, crunching snow under my boots, and the noise the computer makes when I empty the desktop trash can.

When I draw, I’m always thinking of the sounds the lines and colors are making (in my head). Can you visually describe your favorite sounds without using any letter forms? Just use shapes, colors, and lines and see if you can make a cacophony on the page. Can anyone guess what your sounds are?


2. Blindfolded Self-Portrait

It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

You probably know what you look like, right? Draw a self-portrait, or something very familiar, but with your eyes closed. Blindfold yourself if you’re tempted to cheat.

How do the lines in your mind match up with what’s on the paper? Is creation an act that only exists as you witness it physically happening, or is it something that can happen as you simply think about it?


3. Shut It

It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

Try having a conversation using only drawings to communicate.

(I’ve had to do this a few times on my travels when I didn’t speak the local language and the locals didn’t speak mine. Funnily enough, I’ve also had to do this in the United States, where my English accent has occasionally proved too strange for some people to understand.)


4. Just Add Eyes

It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

This is as easy as pie and just as satisfying.

Add eyes to existing objects and see how they anthropomorphize into something with a personality.

5. Go Big

It's Great to Create by Jon Burgerman

Drawing large scale is quite different from when you’re scribbling in your intimate little sketchbook.

Instead of taking your pen for a walk with your wrist on a normal-size piece of paper, you have to stretch out with the pen, moving both your elbow and your shoulder. Your whole body is suddenly involved. Making art is a physical as well as mental activity.

It’s good to practice these movements and see how upping the scale changes how you draw and what you draw. If you don’t have a large roll of paper on hand, try flattening out something like a cereal box, taping it to a wall, and then drawing on it.

– – –

For many more wacky and easy-to-follow exercises, check out It’s Great to Create for yourself. And get those googly eyes ready.

Sarah Lin Go

Sarah handles marketing for art books and stationery at Chronicle Books. You will often find her buying too many stationery products, cracking up about everything, and snacking on Haribo gummies.
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